Armistice 100: How peace was marked on November 11, 1918
- Credit: Archant
When the sound of rockets was heard across north London on November 11, 1918, some feared for their lives.
But the booming - often a warning of enemy attack - announced victory and peace.
“Islington and North London, hearing the succession of booms, soon forgot their startling effect in the noise of distant commotion that quickly distinguished itself in shouts of joy,” the Islington Gazette reported 24 hours after armistice day.
The news spread like fire rolling up from the West End carried by cheering and flag-waving passengers on trams, buses and lorries.
The news had a magical effect changing a drab November day into one of brightness everywhere, according to the Gazette.
Celebrations echoed round Islington’s music halls with the national anthem and Rule Britannia sung “heartily” by an Islington Empire audience.
And there were “scenes of animation” at Collins’s Music Hall where theatre-goers cheered the “boys” who “won the day”.
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‘“It doesn’t seem true” that the slaughter has ended; that loved ones who survived until that glad hour are no longer in deadly peril and will soon come marching home’, The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette reported on November 13, 1918.
There was disbelief that air raids had ended and men would no longer have to “rack their brains” to find excuses why they shouldn’t serve.
Music and light filled the streets, with pianos - out of tune after years of sitting idle - played and bonfires lit in celebration.
But joy was mixed with sadness with tributes paid to the scores of men and women who would not be coming home.
War, “Hun” domination, organised brutality, death, devastation and military tyrannies that would have made slaves of free peoples had come “toppling down”, the editor of the Willesden Chronicle commented.
“So we threw off the nightmare that had so long afflicted us, and forgot the pessimist and the pacifist”, the Chronicle told its readers.
The paper thanked King George V, prime minster David Lloyd George as well as the army, navy and airforce chiefs for bringing victory.
In Hampstead the armistice was announced by the bells of St. Stephen’s Church in Rosslyn Hill with anti-aircraft guns and maroons booming out from the summit of the Heath before a bugle sounded the “All clear”.
The Hampstead and Highgate Express of November 16, 1918 described streets filled with people adorned with “patriotic emblems”.
Pupils from University College School’s cadet corps band paraded through the streets cheered on by children let out of school early.
“Fireworks were discharged and everywhere there was jubilation”, the Ham and High reported.
But for Upper Clapton button buyer Thomas Denham there was perhaps too much jubilation.
A day after armistice he was in court facing a charge of being “incapably drunk” in Stamford Hill, according to the Hackney Gazette.
The judge, a Mr Symmons, quipped: “There was something on yesterday? Some celebration of some sort?”
The 53-year-old was let off with the warning: “You may go this time. Don’t do it again when peace is declared!”
A spirit of a different sort was on many people’s minds as congregations gathered to give thanks.
A service was held at St Andrew’s Church, High Road, Willesden Green where the vicar, Rev. E. A. Morgan, called on worshippers to offer tribute of “heart, mind and soul” to the soldiers, sailors and airmen who had won victory.
“In their country’s heart they would be for ever enshrined, those splendid fighting men,” he said.
And in the comment pages, the Islignton Gazette’s editor commented: “During a period of rejoicing let us not forget the sacrifice - the willing sacrifice - of the brave men who have given their all in order that Britain might be free”.
And in remarks full of irony for readers 100 years after they were published, the Willesden Chronicle’s editor wrote: “Let us trust [our war heroes] have prevented a recurrence of such a war”.