How news spread of the end to hostilities in 1918
AS we mark 100 years since the end of the First World War, the Stockport Express takes a look back at what was happening and how we reported the armistice a century ago.
There were reports of jubilation in the streets, flags flown from every house, workers downing their tools to join in, and even trams coming to a halt for the afternoon.
The mayor Thomas Rowbotham wrote a letter to one of our two newspapers of the time, the Stockport Advertiser, asking ‘every working man and woman in Stockport to give a silver thanks offering’ to help ‘disabled soldiers to a new start in life.’
Soldiers who had lost their lives were honoured in the Advertiser and our other paper, the Stockport County Borough Express, including Corporal Derrick Pearson, who died in action after three years’ service. Stockport Lads’ Club offered ‘hearty greetings, congratulations and thanks to all members who have so worthily upheld the honour of Old England’ and a reader even wrote in with a poem celebrating the end of the ‘Great War.’
Peace on Earth by Walter Burgess, of Bramhall Lane, Stockport, included the words: “It is over! All is over! Home may troop each tired rover.”
●●HOW we reported the end of the war in 1918
THE STOCKPORT ADVERTISER (Echo) Friday, November 15
A special edition of the Echo announcing the great news of German surrender was on the streets at the very moment that hostilities ceased.
As the boys marched up the streets, the papers were snatched from them by eager purchasers, and as soon as it was read that the armistice had been signed and thus peace had arrived at last loud cheers were raised.
The streets rapidly filled with joyous and excited crowds, shopkeepers and householders put out their flags, and over the mills and workshops, Union Jacks fluttered in the breeze, signalling the great triumph for our nation.
At the same time an aeroplane bearing a large flag flew over the town.
Everywhere the mighty event was discussed with animation and people kept repeating ‘is it true? is it true?,’ as though fearing it might be another trick by the Germans to delude their enemies.
Even when it was shown that the announcement of the signing of the armistice had been made by the Prime Minister, there were still unbelievers who asked ‘is it official?.’
However, the great majority were ready to accept the news as authentic, and as it spread through the medium of the Echo among the workers of the town, work was immediately stopped, and lively and animated scenes of joy and enthusiasm were witnessed, the munition girls especially demonstrating their feelings in no uncertain manner.
In practically every workshop the work people at once downed tools, in the mills the machinery was stopped, and for some time there were scenes of jubilation.
The employers and managers well knowing there would be no more work for the day, quickly decided to close, and soon the work people were streaming on to the streets and joining in the happy throng.
Soldiers who were met with were cheered and warmly shaken by the hand, and the wounded men in blue especially came in for congratulation.
In every little street, bunting was displayed, and there was scarcely a house without a flag showing from the window.
The children had been waiting with great expectation the news, and crowds of them with their little flags and banners processioned along the streets, singing and cheering and making themselves very happy and very noisy.
Later in the day, the streets became more crowded and animated, singing groups and processions were met with everywhere, and one was reminded very much of the Mafeking night, although there was no suggestion of disorder or unruly conduct in any part of the town.
The scenes were simply an orderly expression of the joyful feelings of the people who had had the weight of over four years of awful tragedy lifted from them.
Concertinas and other musical instruments were heard on every hand.
The peace rejoicings were kept up until a late hour on Monday night in Stockport.
The streets were crowded with people and sounds of revelry were to be heard in every quarter of the town.
The tramway employees stopped work in the afternoon and consequently the tram service was suspended, and this caused a considerable amount of inconvenience, but under the circumstances people took it all in good part and walked considerable distances without complaint.
At many of the places of worship in the town, thanksgiving services were held on Monday night.
As evidence of the orderly manner in which the peace was celebrated in Stockport, there were n o ‘drunks’ to be dealt with at the police court on Tuesday morning.
The mayor of Stockport, in common with the rest of his fellow townsmen, read the news of peace in the special edition of the Echo with feelings of the deepest joy and satisfaction.
Mr Rowbotham immediately ordered the hoisting of all flags on municipal buildings, and on his own responsibility, previous to the arrival if the notice of withdrawal of restrictions, gave orders also that the bells of St Mary’s Parish Church should be rung during the afternoon in celebration of the happy day.
Interviewed by a representative of the Advertiser who asked if he would care to make a statement to the townspeople, Mr Rowbotham said: “I am of course more than delighted with the news, as we all are, and it does seem to me, looking back over the past four years, that a very real Providence has been watching over us.
“I think the prevailing note of our rejoicing should be one of gratitude to the Almighty God for this great national and European deliverance.
“The very fact that so many of our homes are darkened by bereavement will, I am sure, save us from any foolish ‘mafficking’ and that we shall celebrate the great tidings rather in a spirit of reverential thankfulness. ROLL of Honour
Corp D. Pearson, of Stockport (killed in action). Mr and Mrs James A. B. Pearson, Heathbank, Davenport Park, has received the distressing news that their younger son, Corp. Derrick Pearson, has fallen in action after three years’ service, having served both in France and Italy.
He joined when 19 the Earl of Chester’s Imperial Yeomanry, afterwards attached to the 20th Manchesters.
●●Armistice Day in Stockport in 1924
●●Unveiling the temporary war memorial in 1921