Celebrations greet end of four long years
HERE we reproduce a 1918 Observer report on how the news of peace reached the borough and the celebrations (and reflection) which ensued:
The end of hostilities Terms of the armistice a complete surrender German Army to retire behind the Rhine THE war is ended.
In the dawn of yesterday, Germany signed armistice which makes impossible the renewal of hostilities.
The terms amount to complete surrender.
At 10-20 yesterday morning, the Prime Minister made the following announcement through the Press Bureau:
The armistice was signed at 5 o’clock this morning, and hostilities are to cease on all fronts at 11am today.
Following swiftly on the foregoing a statement was issued by Marshal Foch and another by the German High Command, these being as follows: From Foch Hostilities will cease on the whole front as from November 11, at 11 o’clock (French time). The Allied troops will not, until a further order, go beyond a line reached on that date and at that hour. (Signed) Foch. German plenipotentiaries to the German High Command:
To be communicated to all the authorities interested.
Armistice was signed five o’clock in the morning, French time.
It comes in force at eleven o’clock in the morning, French time.
Delay for evacuation prolonged by 24 hours for the left bank of the Rhine besides the five days, therefore 31 days in all.
Modifications of the text compared with that brought by Helldorf will be transmitted by radio.
In an astonishingly short time after the receipt of the news, Accrington and district had, with common consent, put down work for the day and given itself up to rejoicing.
All over the town mill and workshop buzzers signalled the “cease fire” and soon men, women, and girls were trooping jauntily through the streets.
Flags and bunting appeared as if by wave of a magician’s wand, the children, let loose from school, waved tiny flags and shouted their ‘Hurrahs.’
Once more, the welcome sound of the Old Church bells were heard ringing a merry peal. The Joy Bells at last!
From somewhere, after being forbidden for many a long day, fireworks suddenly made their appearance and all day long the booms of exploding ‘cannon’ followed close upon each other.
Young Accrington, at least was ‘letting itself go; and who shall blame it?
By early afternoon, the main streets of Accrington presented a joyous spectacle such as they have not provided since the day the King and Queen came among us.
Even the weather clerk was smiling, the day was beautifully fine and comparatively mild, and people turned out in their thousands ready and eager to make the best of it.
They thronged Blackburn Road, a sea of happy faces, talking eagerly and gladly of the end of the war.
All else save the glorious news of the day was forgotten; the problems of tomorrow were left to take care of themselves.
They were shaking off some of the dull and deadening effects of the weariness and were absorbing some of the news and exhilarating atmosphere that has come with Victory and the end of the war.
By and by, a band appeared, led through the streets by a beribboned soldier, and the drums of the Boy Scouts lent their martial throb to the constant drone of the talk of the crowd.
It was a great day, and one that will long be remembered.
Yesterday’s holiday infection spread in at least one direction that had probably never been contemplated.
By the middle of the afternoon, the tramcars had ceased running.
The tramway employees felt, like everybody else, that they were entitled to a holiday, and while I cannot find in my heart to blame them too much, the result was certainly unfortunate from the point of view of the public convenience.
Suppose all those who carry on the public services - the railwaymen, the postal workers, the gas stokers, the electricity works staff - had done the same, where should we have been?
It was a mistake, the result of the exuberance of the moment.
I saw some amusing things the day wore on.
In one quarter of the town, some ingenious youths had rigged up quite a passable effigy of the uncrowned Kaiser, helmet, upturned moustache and all, and that unhappy arch-felon was being unceremoniously hauled about on a clothes line to be finally “burned at the stake” when the time came for the bonfire lighting.
The unhappy Kaiser died many deaths yesterday at the hands of youthful administrators of condign justice.
Amid all this rejoicing, our thoughts turned often to the absent ones, our sons and brothers and husbands and friends out yonder at the front.
One hoped that they too were celebrating the victory they so gallantly won.
What a sight that would be if we could have them all come marching home again, their honours and their triumphs thick upon them! But that cannot be.
Many a long day must elapse before some of us are reunited with those we sent forth to fight our battles.
But we may be sure that they are rejoicing with a zest that only those who have shared the victory may properly display.
I wish I could send every one of them a photograph of Accrington as it was yesterday afternoon when we were doing honour to them by celebrating the great achievements made possible by their sacrifice and their heroism.
And much as we long to see our boys again, the one consoling thought is that it will no longer be the detestation of war but the reorganisation of peace that will absorb their energies.
I asked a friend of mine yesterday afternoon how he proposed to celebrate the end of the war.
“I’ll light the gas tonight,” said he, “and I won’t pull the blind down.
“There’ll be about as much satisfaction in that as anything I can think of, after four years of compulsory blinddrawing on the edge of darkness.”
I was glad to see that the day was marked municipally as well as in other ways.
Having, in his first year of office, been “War Mayor,” it was particularly fitting that Ald. Dewhurst should at the very commencement of his second year of office, be able to announce in his official capacity the signing of the armistice and the cessation of hostilities and proclaim himself “Peace Mayor.”
Yesterday afternoon a hastily-arranged meeting was held on the Market ground, in the presence of thousands of people, at which the Mayor was able to express his pride and satisfaction that the day of victory had arrived and the war was at an end, adding to that the official announcement of the armistice.
A pleasing feature of this unique gathering was the presentation by the Mayor of the D.C.M. and the Medaille Militaire to Lieut. Harrison of Accrington, who has rendered gallant service in the war, both in Gallipoli and in France.
It was a pleasure to see Capt. Harwood taking part in yesterday afternoon’s celebration and to hear him declare, like the good patriot he is, “I’m proud to be a Britisher.”
It was good to hear from him that the “Pals” Battalion, which has played its part so worthily in the war-alas! at so heavy a cost - has again been distinguishing itself, and to hear, too, his appreciative reference to the Howitzer Brigade, and to all others who have heroically borne their part in the great struggle.
Accrington is proud of every one of its soldier sons.
One wondered where on earth all the fireworks that were “let off” yesterday could have come from.
From noon till late night it was “bang! bang! bang!” and the aroma of burning gunpowder pervaded the air. It was a pleasant and a striking change to see the main streets fully lighted as the first departure from war-time restrictions, and while Blackburn Road was last night decidedly ‘lively,’ it can, I think, be said that in the main the youth of the town kept itself pretty well within bounds.
Needless to say, the houses of entertainment did particularly good business and ‘house full’ was everywhere the rule.