Joy and cel­e­bra­tions as war ends

Hawke's Bay Today - - Opinion - Michael Fowler

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 (mfhis­tory@gmail.com) is a char­tered ac­coun­tant, con­tract re­searcher and writer of Hawke’s Bay’s his­tory.

CREDIT: COL­LEC­TION OF HAWKE’S BAY MU­SE­UMS TRUST, RUAWHARO TA¯-U¯-RANGI, 5156

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

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