Church bells rang as war was finally over
THE fighting finally came to an end on a train in northern France.
At 11am on November 11, 1918 famously the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month - a ceasefire came into effect after an armistice was signed in a railway carriage in the forest of Compiegne, marking a victory for the Allies and a complete defeat for Germany.
The arrival of America into the war in 1917 after 128 Americans died when a German U-boat sank the passenger liner Lusitania, and a major shortage of food and supplies due to the ongoing blockade of German ports, were two major factors behind Germany’s defeat.
To celebrate, blowers were sounded at the British ThomsonHouston works in Rugby, train drivers blew their whistles, church bells rang out across Coventry and children were sent home from school.
In London, according to the Daily Mirror, people went “wild with delight” and “bells burst forth into joyous chimes.”
Nevertheless a formal state of war persisted for another seven months, until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919, forcing Germany to give up substantial areas of land, restrict its military and pay around £284 billion in today’s money in reparations.
To mark the formal end of war, Peace Day celebrations were held across the country on Saturday, July 19.
Around 10,000 people listened to bands in Rugby, and Alcester held a sports day.
In Coventry nearly 20,000 school children assembled at Pool Meadow before parading through the city streets.
In the afternoon, 4,000 people packed St Michael’s Cathedral for a service of prayer with another 4,000 outside.
Later, a meal was held at the National Kitchen in Ford Street for widows and orphans, and for those who had been disabled.
But the main event was the traditional Coventry Godiva procession, which left Barrack Square at 3pm for a tour of the city centre.
Around 150 historical characters were represented, including Lady Godiva, played by Gladys Mann.
Some people in the crowd complained that the procession was too short and passed so quickly that they had no time to work out who the historic figures were.
But a far more serious criticism was the omission from the procession of soldiers and factory workers who had been so crucial to the war effort
Tempers flared that night, sparking three days of rioting in the city centre.
Windows were smashed, shops were looted and more than 100 people were injured.
At the height of the trouble, 7,000 people were involved, with 100 baton-armed policemen trying to restore order.
Some people blamed factory workers who could no longer afford to pay their rent while others accused ex-servicemen, who were struggling to find work and who had been critical of the money being “wasted” on the festivities.
The aftermath of the war saw drastic political, cultural, and social change across Europe, Asia and Africa. Four empires collapsed, old countries were abolished, new ones were formed, boundaries were redrawn, and international organizations were established.
Near-universal voting was introduced in Britain and Germany, turning them into mass electoral democracies for the first time, but it all came at a very high price.
Ten million servicemen were dead, 20 million were injured and 7.5 million were missing.
Nearly 1,000 Coventry-born men died in the conflict, but there are nearly 2,600 names on the main war memorial, marking those who also lived or worked in the city and surrounding areas.
It was meant to be “the war to end all wars” but the concluding peace treaty actually set the stage for World War Two 20 years later as Nazi Germany sought to take back what it had lost, and more.