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Armistice 100: How the day so many had been longing for was reported on November 11, 1918

PUBLISHED: 11:00 11 November 2018

Women and children celebrating the end of the First World War at the Heath Street Peace Tea Party, c.1918. Pic: Courtesy of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House Museum

Women and children celebrating the end of the First World War at the Heath Street Peace Tea Party, c.1918. Pic: Courtesy of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House Museum

Archant

When the alarms sounded to let people know the war had ended many thought they were under attack.

Tthe First World War Memorial in Barking Park showing a military band and spectators. Pic: Courtesy of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House MuseumTthe First World War Memorial in Barking Park showing a military band and spectators. Pic: Courtesy of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House Museum

After neighbours across east London heard the report of the maroons – rockets which let off a loud bang and bright light of alarm – many feared another air raid was coming.

“But it was quickly realised that this time the “warnings” were those of joy and not of danger”, the East London Advertiser reported on November 16, 1918, the first edition after the war ended five days earlier.

Instead of running for shelter, men, women and children in the old boroughs of Poplar and Stepney rushed into the streets. Union Jacks appearing “as if by magic”.

In Barking the truce was celebrated with “an outburst of spontaneous enthusiasm” according to the Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser.

Children at a garden party for Armistice Day in the borough following the end of the First World War, 1918. Pic: Courtesy of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House MuseumChildren at a garden party for Armistice Day in the borough following the end of the First World War, 1918. Pic: Courtesy of Barking and Dagenham Archives, Valence House Museum

The sound of hooters heralding the end of the fighting could be heard travelling eastwards until it was taken up throughout Barking with “a deafening din”.

Workers downed tools and cheering schoolchildren spilled out of classrooms to join parades.

Strangers shook hands, bells were rung and revellers in the Mile End Road witnessed girls “dancing madly” round a street organ playing patriotic and popular tunes.

In Romford wounded soldiers joined arms with factory girls “cheering frantically” as they marched along.

By the afternoon of November 11, 1918, Barking’s street lamps were cleaned and the shades which had covered shop windows – to deny enemy pilots light to fly by on night sorties – had gone.

“The effect of this was seen in the evening and was almost startling in its contrast with what we have been accustomed to”, the Barking, East Ham & Ilford Advertiser reported.

Hundreds of bonfires were lit across the East End with boys letting off fireworks. “Places of amusement” were “filled to overflowing” and “happy lads and lasses” sang while they “perambulated the main thoroughfares”.

“It was a day which will not be easily forgotten by anyone,” one reporter wrote.

An old lady’s remark was perhaps typical of East End humour when she said: “Thank God, I shall be able to go to bed with my clothes off!”

But not everyone took to the streets. Some headed to church services including at St Margaret’s in Barking, St Edward the Confessor and St Andrew’s in Romford, as well as at Central Hall in Barking Road.

St Margaret’s vicar, Rev H. S. Pelham told the congregation the victory was God’s.

“The stakes were so great. We had been called to defend, not only our country, but principles which we knew were vital to the welfare of mankind. God enabled us to secure this great victory,” he said.

After a Te Deum and hymns were sung at Central Hall the Rev. R. Moffat Gautrey compared the armistice to an avalanche, “a judgment of God” upon the unholy group of men – the enemy – who had plunged the world into the agony of war.

But a more earthly judgement awaited three men whose “spree” in High Street North landed them in front of a judge at East Ham Police Court.

Kenneth Inglis, 50, of Stopford Road, Manor Park; George Husher, 48, of Tylney Road and Charles Woodward, 45, of Palmerston Road, Forest Gate, were charged with stealing a French polisher’s £3 flag.

When Pc Ford caught them the drunken trio denied it saying “it had gone to Ilford and it was for him to find it”.

Laying down the law, the magistrate was reported in the East Ham Echo saying the revellers were overjoyed at the glorious news but that was no excuse. Sobered up, they agreed to pay the polisher £1 4s. 4d. compensation.

And it didn’t take long for sober reflection to appear in the comment pages of the local press.

An East Ham Echo editorial published on November 15, 1918 was full of optimism.

“We have every reason to hope that we have seen the last of “grim visaged war”, at least for our time and our children’s time”.

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