Joy and celebrations as war ends
After almost four and a half years, World War I came to an end on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month on November 11, 1918.
An armistice — or an agreement to stop fighting — was signed by the Allies with Bulgaria on September 29, Turkey on October 30, Austria/ Hungary on November 3, and then Germany on November 11, 1918.
Interestingly, a false armistice had occurred some days before the official one was announced overseas on November 11. This arose when New Zealand newspapers carried a story from a cable from the United States about Germany surrendering on November 7. Celebrations broke out all over New Zealand despite there being no official word from the government.
Napier, however, decided to carry on with its “fun-making” despite hearing of the false armistice. After this, instructions were issued to Napierites that until mayor Henry Hill had received the official government notification of an armistice with Germany, the ringing of continuous fire bells and the parading of the “fire motor with its well-known siren, will not occur”.
The artillery in Napier fired volleys into the air to announce the armistice after Prime Minister William Massey had sent the message on the morning of November 12, “Armistice signed”, to every postal and telegraph office at 9am. The government had received the news late at night on November 11.
Napier was said to be ablaze with wild enthusiasm upon hearing of the armistice, and thousands of people celebrated on the streets.
The armistice was somewhat expected, and people had created bunting (decorations made from cloth), and these were quickly displayed on buildings and vehicles. A celebration programme had already been planned.
People grabbed tin cans and formed impromptu bands to march along the streets, while school children carried banners and flags.
Railway employees made a banner, “To hell with the Kaiser”, and had an impromptu parade with it through the central business district.
November 12 was a Tuesday, and the government had issued instructions it was to be a holiday to mark the armistice.
The next day crowds flocked to the Marine Parade beach to watch vessels from the Port of Napier sail past and perform manoeuvres. Covered in bunting, the boats sailed past the Marine Parade, with the lead boat Tangaroa containing the mayor and all the councillors.
At night no official proceedings were held. But another impromptu procession took place, ending with effigies of the Kaiser and Crown Prince Wilhelm hung from scaffolding.
An official parade took place at 2pm on November 14 in Napier, and it took 45 minutes to pass the Tribune office, and the town was described as a “seething mass of human forms”.
As they did at the end of the South African War in 1902, the Marine Parade bandstand in front of the Masonic Hotel was used as a podium for speeches.
After the speeches, a “monster lantern parade” was held ending up on Marine Parade, which was “brilliantly illuminated with hundreds of coloured electric lights”.
A structure resembling a ship was towed to the Marine Parade beach. On the masthead hung an effigy of the Kaiser. The ship was then exploded with dynamite and the flames “lighted up the whole neighbourhood”.
Over in Hastings, their celebrations had an absence of mock hangings and incinerations as seen in Napier but were described as “an ecstasy of peace”.
However, they were just as noisy. When the armistice was announced anything that could make a noise was put into action. Church bells rang, “the fire bell gave tongue”, fireworks were let off, dynamite detonated in the railway yards and the town “blossomed into blossoms and bunting”.
All the shops closed, and all the country folk poured into town.
While joy and celebrations abounded in Napier and Hastings after the November 11 armistice, there would be more loss of life of soldiers and civilians, not by warfare, but a deadly influenza strain.
■ I am taking pre-orders for my Historic Hawke’s Bay book due out in late November, which is a collection of my best HB Today articles from 2016-2018, with additional photos and story material. The book has 160 pages with 26 in colour. Cheque to Michael Fowler Publishing of $59.90 to PO Box 8947, Havelock North, or email below for bank details. Includes free delivery in Hawke’s Bay. Please state if you want it signed. It will not be available in bookshops.
■ Michael Fowler FCA (email@example.com) is a chartered accountant, contract researcher and writer of Hawke’s Bay’s history.
Armistice Day celebratory speeches on November 14, 1918 at the band stand in front of the Marine Parade’s Masonic Hotel.
Historic Hawke’s Bay