100 years on: How Blackpool marked the end of the First World War
'˜On the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, we will remember them.'
Words we are all familiar with, as every year, we commemorate the end of the First World War on Armistice Day.
This Sunday, the occasion is even more poignant as it marks 100 years since the so-called Great War finished.
Here we take a look back at a century ago, at how The Gazette broke the news the next day – once “the ruin and destruction of war has come to an end”.
Under the headline ‘Peace Day’, the newspaper told how Blackpool ‘rejoiced’.
“Blackpool received the good news soon after 10.30 yesterday morning. Germany had conceded to all the drastic demands of the Allies and signed the armistice at 5 o’clock.
“All fighting ceased at 11am. The war was over. Great Britain, aided by her Dominions across the seas, and by her gallant Allies, had won the greatest victory for freedom in all the world’s history.
“The glorious news came into the town quietly. It first reached a local newspaper office. But it flew apace.
“In a few minutes, flags fluttered in the breeze of a fresh, sweet, sunny morning. They quickly told their message.
“Streamers were stretched across the streets. The great Union Jack was hoisted on the summit of the Tower at 11.30.
“Then the whole town knew.
“From every quarter, people streamed out of their houses and flocked to the centre of the town to make doubly sure. They quickly had confirmation.
“The news was officially conveyed to the Town Hall and given to the Mayor by the acting provost marshal, Major Troup, to whom it had been transmitted from the headquarters at Chester of the Western Command.
“The flags were at once hoisted above the municipal buildings and people made for Talbot Square.
“At about 20 minutes to 12, the Mayor, accompanied by the Town Clerk, appeared at the front entrance to the Town Hall. Instantly, there was a rush. It was amazing where the people came from. In a little more than a few seconds Talbot Square was filled with people.
“The Mayor then announced that the armistice was signed at 5 o’clock in the morning and that at 11 o’clock fighting had ceased. Cheer after cheer went up ‘til the Mayor asked for silence again.
“He told people that at noon he would attend a special thanksgiving service at St John’s Parish Church and he asked them to accompany him. He also asked that all the shops of the town should be closed at one o’clock.
“There were three cheers for the boys at the front and then the Mayor and town clerk returned into the town hall.
“Meanwhile, excitement grew and the whole town began to flutter with flags, streamers and pennants. Every child was soon carrying a Union Jack, every grown-up was wearing some patriotic favour. At Messrs Ripley’s in Lytham Street, thousands of loyal emblems were given away to all who cared to go for them. The pent-up feelings of more than four anxious years were let loose in a burst of joy. It was good to be able to go a little mad.
“By one o’clock the shops and offices were beginning to close.
“The thanksgiving service at the Parish Church was crowded. But the people wanted something more. Some outlet for their feeling had to be found. The Mayor quickly recognised this and after making hurried arrangements for the attendance of bands, announced on a placard outside the Town Hall there would be music in the square at three o’clock.”
Blackpool’s great Peace Day demonstration took place in Talbot Square that afternoon.
The Gazette reported there were 30,000 people – including around 10,000 soldiers.
“Never in all history of the town has there been such a scene in the square. In one solid block, they stood from the sea to Clifton Street and Talbot Road, from the Old Bank to the walls of the Town Hall.
“And everyone had but one idea – to cheer and let loose the smothered feeling of nearly four-and-a-half years war. How they cheered! In one vast volume, the cheers roared and crashed.”
The bands from the King’s Lancashire Military Convalescent Hospital and the RAMC played and veteran Pipe-Major Martin – in the “picturesque kilted uniform of the Sydney Scottish Rifles”, his old regiment – played his bagpipes.
For the national anthem, every person removed their hat or cap and every solider stood to attention.
The Gazette said: “An impressive minute was when, following upon a deafening volley of cheers, the people stood in silence, at the call of the Mayor and thought of those gallant boys who have fought and died, the heroes whom we will never see again. It was wonderful to see that immense crowd stand silent in thought.
“Then the Mayor made a speech, in which he said: “This... This day is the Day – our Day” (to loud cheers).”