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1918: World’s Greatest War Over.

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The Armidale Chronicle, Wednesday, 13 November 1918


Ever since the premature announcement of peace last Friday, the world has been on the qui vive [on the alert]. It waited expectantly for the message that Germany, the last of the combination that menaced the liberty of the world, had surrendered. It was known that the memorable 72 hours allowed by Marshal Foch for the enemy, to accept or reject the terms of armistice delivered to the German Parliamentaires who visited the lines would expire at 11 o’clock on Monday morning. The difference between Sydney and Greenwich time made 9 o’clock on Monday night the fateful hour in New South Wales. All day on Monday there was an electric atmosphere in Armidale. The talk was of nothing else but peace. News of Germany’s internal troubles grew graver as the cables came to hand. State after State of the German Federation was reported to have joined the revolution. Republics were proclaimed here and there, and generally the indications were that the cast-iron autocracy of the Kaiser was crumbling. With the internal chaos added to the military situation, it was apparent that no course was open to Germany but surrender. It was the news of this that the whole world awaited. That it would come was a certainty; the exact minute was a matter for speculation.

How the News Came to Armidale.

The first intimation of the signing of the armistice was given to Armidale by the “Chronicle” message, which was delivered by arrangement to a representative of this paper a few minutes before 8 o’clock. The Mayor and a number of the principal citizens were present. The reading of the brief cablegram was greeted with uproarious cheering. The telephone was called into requisition, and in no time the news was from one boundary of the city to the other.

A Riot of Joy.

Within a minute or two of the receipt of the message by the “Chronicle,” the City Band appeared in Beardy-street, and the strains of the National Anthem blared forth. Soon pandemonium was set loose. All the streets were thronged with streams of people rushing towards Beardy-street. Men, women, and children helped to swell the crowds. Tottering, grey-bearded pensioners jostled the youthful and middle-aged. Sedate professional and business men threw dignity to the winds. Personal attire was a matter of small consideration. Ladies fled from their boudoirs, showing plainly that the excitement of the moment over-rode the details of the toilet. Hands were clasped in an ecstasy of joy. Castes, sects, politics, and everything that makes for dissension in normal times was swept aside by the irresistible tide of rejoicing. At any other time such deeds would have qualified the population to fill a lunatic asylum. The main street seemed to be filled with a crowd of savages executing a war dance. The half light provided by flares which commenced to burn, showed a weird spectacle. It reminded the onlooker who retained his faculties sufficiently to register any definite sense of observation, of the fantastic stories of novelists who describe savage rites. The strain of over four years of tension had snapped, and the spirits of the people rose with savage exultation by the release of the load that had borne them down. Those who have seen a steel hawser break and fly as its burden is taken off it will understand the behaviour of Armidalians on this historic night. Those who have stood by a powerful, heavily-loaded engine when the belt flew off will be able to imagine a simile while will describe the situation better than words. It was a riot, pure and simple, but a riot of joy, with no destructive impulse. No matter what the differences of opinion and action on any other subject, on this occasion there was unanimity. “Friendship divides grief, but multiplies joy.” Through the dark days of those four years of war we had shared our griefs. Friends have commiserated with other friends when the clergyman has arrived with the ominous tidings that a father, a husband, a brother, a son, or a sweetheart had fallen. Throughout the bad days when the German horde seemed invincible, we had been buoyed with the hope of just this day. The Germans had drunk to “Der Tag.” The day arrived—but not as they expected. Our boys had done their job. They had brought us victory. The fathers, mothers, sisters, and wives, who had given those men had fought the battle at home. Why should they not abandon themselves to rejoicing now that the struggle was over? The banging of tin-cans and the ringing of bells might seem ridiculous, were it not the only means that presented itself for the expression of the feeling within. The din and discord spoke of harmony. It told a story more moving to the spirit and more soothing to the senses than the immortal symphonies of the classic composers. Gratitude, relief, unity, and all the other characteristics that have sustained the Allies as one people during the war were symbolised by it.

Soon after the Brass Band the Pipers struck up their fighting music. The sounds of the two bands were added to each moment by the advent of anything that would make a row. Girls and women appeared with gongs, iron trays, buckets, tubs—anything that would give out a metallic sound. The motor garages were raided for petrol tins by an enterprising gang of boys. They belted the tins until their shape was no evidence of their original purpose. Too tired to hammer them they let them fall to the ground in sheer exhaustion. There was a scrum for their possession reminiscent of the football line-out. Those who could find no other outlet for their ebullition kicked the tins along the roadway. Bells clanged and whistles hooted. Church bells rang, but the noise of these and the whistles was simply an undertone heard at rare intervals as the nearer noises rose and fell. There were shouts and cheers from thousands of throats that wore themselves hoarse as time went on.

Soon the firemen appeared in uniform, marshalled by Captain Webb. The Brigade threw themselves into the celebration with the vim which always characterises them. Torches were brought, but these proved insufficient. Bags were then procured, and laid at intervals along Beardy-street. The firemen brought tins of benzine and fed the flares with a prodigality that would have brought them under the ban of the War Precautions Act at any other time. Who paid for it? That was an aspect of the question that worried nobody, but we have the Captain’s word that this little detail of the celebrations cost the firemen £3 10s. Motor cars coming into the street were rushed. Men and girls filled the seating accommodation, hung on to the running boards, and even sat astride the radiators. Crackers spluttered everywhere, rockets soared, and “bungers” boomed with explosion like artillery. Confetti was thrown in all directions. Wherever a banner or piece of bunting could be procured, the bearer of it headed a procession. Dozens of these contingents paraded the whole city. Sleep there was none, even if anybody had been so disposed. The City Band paraded every street of the city. There was scarcely a lane that was not included in their patrol.

The Mayor’s Address.

At about 10 o’clock a suggestion was made that the Mayor should address a few words to the crowd. The Mayor saw the hopelessness of the task, but the demand was so persistent that he felt compelled to make the attempt. He took up a position on the balcony of Tattersall’s Hotel, from which he looked down upon the biggest audience that it will ever be his lot to address in Armidale. Several times he attempted to speak, but the crowd, unaware of his intention, maintained its uproar. As a last resort he called the Band up on to the balcony. The National Anthem was played, and immediately the noise ceased and everybody came to attention. The Mayor led in cheering for the boys who had brought us victory, and all hope of speaking was lost. “The Marseillaise” and the “Star Spangled Banner” followed by the Band, after which the Mayor snatched the opportunity to address a brief congratulatory speech to the assemblage. The riot of shouting then broke out afresh.

Duration of the Celebrations.

It was considerably past mid-night before there was any abatement in the tumult of joy. People seemed reluctant to leave the streets, and it was only when they almost dropped from sheer exhaustion that they turned their steps homewards, shouting with hoarse voices as they went. Revellers continued to parade the streets until daylight.

At the Telephone Exchange.

The work done at the Armidale Telephone Exchange on Thursday night will stand as a record, both for the amount of business and the expedition with which it was handled. In about an hour after the arrival of the peace cable, no less than 1500 local calls were dealt with. Special arrangements had been made by the Postmaster (Mr. H. E. Williams) and the operators, for the contingency, and within five minutes of the receipt of the message every board was double-staffed, and the heavy business was dealt with without the slightest hitch. Yesterday morning was nearly as busy, 1000 calls being dealt with between 10 and 11 o’clock. Subscribers everywhere appreciate the splendid service given, and we have to thank the operators for their courtesy and promptitude. Thanks to the assistance rendered, we were able to inform, first all the outlying centres, and then the local subscribers, immediately the wire came to hand.

A Good Natured Crowd.

Special police precautions were soon put into effect after the arrival of the news, but although the guardians of law and order were quite vigilant to see that no damage was done by the more ebullient spirits, no extreme measures were required to keep the crowd within bounds. “They’re doing no harm,” was the comment of Superintendent Banks to our reporter, after he had completed a patrol to see that all was in order.

A solitary drunk, who had celebrated not wisely but too well, had to be taken into custody for his own protection. He was brought before the Police Magistrate yesterday morning, but in view of the exceptional circumstances he was rebuked and discharged. This was the only arrest during the whole of the celebrations.

Circus Tricks.

All kinds of antics were indulged in by the crowd to relieve their pent up enthusiasm. But during a night of medley tricks a man who paraded with a concertina and endeavored to do a cake-walk was conspicuous. Needless to say neither the music nor the dance were up to professional standard. But they had their effect in amusing the crowd and satisfying the conscience of the performer that he was “doing his bit.” Another patriot could not be convinced that he was unable to stand on his head, and it took an hour of persevering effort to convince him that his centre of gravity had shifted. Probably he had not allowed for “the load” which he had imbibed.

A group of horsewomen and men who dashed into the crowd on sweating horses showing signs of hard riding attracted considerable interest. It was learned that they had galloped in from Kelly’s Plains as soon as they heard the news. They raced about the street until the police gave them the hint to seek some more open space, on account of the danger to other people by their movements amongst the crowd.

Heard from Afar.

On previous occasions when the celebrations of lesser victories have been limited to bell-ringing and whistle-blowing, the noise has told residents ten miles from Armidale that something untoward was afoot. On Monday night, however, a resident whose property is 15 miles distant, assures us that he could hear the noise quite distinctly.

Meeting Abandoned.

At the time of receipt of the news the committee of the Literary Institute had just assembled for the business of the monthly meeting. It broke up in disorder, and upon reassembling about an hour afterwards the committee was in no mood for business. Instead, the Mayor, who was in the chair, moved a resolution that the committee place on record its thanksgiving for the good news that had come through that night, their appreciation of the good work done by the men who had represented us at the front and helped us on to victory.

Dr. Ritchie seconded the motion, which was carried with enthusiastic cheers. The meeting then adjourned.

Interrupted Examinations.

Mr. T. F. Mills, Hon. Secretary to the Supervisory Committee of the Leaving Certificate and Qualifying Certificate Examinations, received the following telegram from the Director of Education:—In the event of a public holiday being proclaimed for peace, leaving certificate examination must proceed according to time-table. Another urgent wire stated:—On account of holiday, suspend leaving certificate examinations to-morrow (Wednesday) ; put all succeeding duties one day ahead.

The excitement of the night before considerably upset the balance of the students, who were in no frame for answering examination questions. One boy was so disturbed that he found it impossible to proceed with his work, and abandoned the task.

A Happy Coincidence.

Rev. H. S. Buntine had good cause to feel happy on Thursday night. He had received a cable from his son at the front, Lieut. Murray Buntine, to say that he was well. Shortly after he entered the School of Arts the message stating that the armistice had been signed arrived.

The Morning After.

Yesterday morning people were able soberly to contemplate the far-reaching effect of the good news. There was not the boisterousness of the night before, but there was a continuation of the rejoicing in a quiet way. All business places were closed, but not till they had given out almost their entire stock of ribbon. Those fortunate enough to gain possession of this shared it with their friends until soon there was scarcely man, woman, or child who was not displaying favours. Flags waved everywhere. Nobody worked; to suggest the idea even was treasonable. The Band paraded in the morning.

This Is “The Day.”

The following proclamation was issued yesterday morning, under the hand of the Town Clerk (Mr. F. W. Milner), who organised the peace celebrations, under the direction of the Council:—This day (Tuesday) is a public holiday. The Council requests that all branches of the military, patriotic, educational, business, and political life of our city, together with all civil societies and organisations, and the general public, will form in procession, starting from the gasworks, Beardy-street, this glorious day, at 2.30 p.m. Captain Webb will be the marshal in charge. The procession will proceed to the Central Park for a monster patriotic meeting of joy and thanksgiving at 3 p.m. Three minute speeches. This is “the day.”

No more historic document has ever been, or probably ever will be published in Armidale, and no record of the proceedings would be complete without it. Hence our reason for publishing it, even though the celebrations to which it refers are over.

The Religious Aspect.

Throughout the whole of the rejoicings there was a fitting feeling of thankfulness to the Almighty apparent on all sides. All the churches gave their congregations the opportunity of offering thanks to God for the deliverance of the Allies, at special services.

Written by macalba

November 11, 2018 at 11:11 am

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