Friday, 9 November 2018

Great Rejoicings

Headline from the Shields Daily News, 7 November 1918 (British Newspaper Archive)
In early November some people knew that peace could be imminent. Reports were saying there would be a meeting of Allied and German representatives on 8 November 1918 to discuss the terms of an Armistice. Many of these reports appeared in newspapers of 7 November, but some papers also reported another story, emphasising that it was not confirmed by the Foreign Office. The Liverpool Echo’s late edition read:
‘At four o'clock this afternoon, Reuters issued a statement based, apparently, on an official American message, to the effect that Germany's representatives signed our armistice terms 2:30 this afternoon. This news was at once issued in stop press form, but about five minutes later, the message was cancelled.’

This became known as the False Armistice. Colonel Hubert Morant, originally commanding officer 10th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry, now 147th Brigade, received a letter from his wife, Helen, dated 7 November 1918 which suggests that she must have read one of these reports. While we don't have this letter, Morant's response on 12 November says, 'In your letter of the 7th you say you are 'thrilled at the signing of the Armistice', a bit previous wasn't it?'

For those in the army, the fighting would continue until they were told to stop. The war diary entries for 11 November 1918 vary in their acknowledgement of the Armistice. It had an immediate impact on those in the front lines, such as 20th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry in Belgium. Their diary entry reads:
‘Battalion continuing in pursuit of the enemy and formed an advance guard to the 124th Brigade. Message received about 10am that an Armistice was signed and that hostilities would cease at 11am; as a consequence, the battalion occupied billets in the vicinity of NEDERBRAKEL. An outpost line was formed east of Nederbrakel. One other rank accidentally wounded whilst on outpost duty.’

9th Battalion were in France, working on bomb craters. Their war diary entry says how the battalion was presented with a bouquet and address from civilians.

Colonel Morant wrote in a letter to his wife on 11 November, 'Peace! It sounds incredible and one can't now even believe it. I wonder what it will mean that we'll have to do, we know nothing so far.'
D/DLI 7/424/3(32) ‘Here is the photo, taken after [the theatrical] dinner. I [Captain PHB Lyon] am completely invisible, except for one ear and one eyebrow, on the floor at the back’, Graudenz, Germany, 18 November 1918
D/DLI 7/424/3(32) ‘Here is the photo, taken after [the theatrical] dinner. I [Captain PHB Lyon] am completely invisible, except for one ear and one eyebrow, on the floor at the back’, Graudenz, Germany, 18 November 1918
It was different for those in prisoner of war camps. Captain Percy Lyon of 6th Battalion, DLI, had been in a camp on the northern coast of Germany since May 1918. His personal diary entry reads:
‘Last night rumours grew more frequent and more ominous every hour. Most of them have since proved false, noticeably that which said that the people had revolted and among other things pinched 600 of our parcels! There certainly seems to have been disturbances, but none of them were serious, and this morning things are quiet again... The Armistice appears to have been at last signed, and all we know really about it is that it provides for the immediate return of allied prisoners. The feeling here is absolutely indescribable. It is like a dream come true. All our forebodings vanish at the appearance of about 500 [food] parcels early in the morning.’

For the family of Private James Hodgson of Lanchester, who served with 15 DLI, it was a different story. When British prisoners of war began to return home, James Hodgson was not amongst them. His aunt wrote to the War Office seeking news, eventually hearing that James had died in a German hospital near Aachen on 11 November 1918.

At Harperley camp, here in County Durham, where German military prisoners of war were held, 27 men died of Spanish Flu between the 7 and 23 November, including five on Armistice Day.

Also on the home front, a student at St Hild’s College wrote:
‘When the bells at last rang out there was a rush of about 10 staff, 129 students, 19 servants, and one dog (Kerry) to the Chapel. We sang oh! how we sang! Later peculiar noises were heard emanating from the dormitories and a procession of up-turned basins beaten by tooth-brushes and dustpans beaten by brooms, etc. passed my door. In the evening we had a dance in the Gymnasium with all the lights on and later we ate all the chocolate we had stored in the cellars for air-raids.’

Many local newspapers were published weekly, so when the Armistice was declared on Monday 11 November, the papers had several days to prepare reports on the local celebrations that occurred all over the county. The following are from the County Chronicle and Auckland Chronicle, both of 14 November.
Headline from the County Chronicle, 14 November 1918 (D/WP 4/42)
Headline from the County Chronicle, 14 November 1918 (D/WP 4/42)
In Durham City
‘The official message was made known to a vast concourse of people assembled in Durham Market Place in the early afternoon by the Mayor... Addresses appropriate to the occasion were made... cheers were raised, and re-echoed again and again round the old Market-square... and the Durham miners, and the Band of the 52nd Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers interspersed the memorable proceedings with patriotic and popular airs.’

In Crook
Lights were noticed on the fine tower of St. Cuthbert’s Church at night, each light said to represent a fallen hero identified with the church. 

In Stanhope
The bells and buzzers in the local quarries were all set going. The German prisoners at work in the quarries downed tools, as did lots of the quarrymen. 

In Wolsingham
Immediately flags, banners, and bunting, were floating from windows, and workmen taking “French leave” were soon streaming out of the works. Large numbers of Canadian soldiers were soon in the town from Shull Camp... a hastily arranged dance at the Parish Hall was kept swinging from 7 till 2 next morning.

In Frosterley
The children were supplied with fireworks free by a local shopkeeper.

In Willington
An effigy of the Kaiser was suspended from a clothes-line in one street.

In Coxhoe
Towards night, the inhabitants were delighted to display lights in their windows as in pre-war times.

In Horden
The rag-time band was out, and the streets lined with people. Rockets were sent up by the local soldiers and squibs, crackers, and fireworks of every description were going all day and night by the children. The pits were left open, but many failed to be present on Tuesday.

In Thornley
Unfortunately, the rejoicing over the Armistice was marred by the receipt of the news at the same time of the death in action of Second Lieutenant John Youll, Northumberland Fusiliers, the young Thornley officer who recently gained the Victoria Cross.

The County Chronicle editorial read:
The armistice terms are not terms of peace. The final treaty of peace may not be signed much before Christmas, but we know there is now an end in fighting and so we look forward to many new phases and to a vast amount of reconstruction. We shall need all the skill, the care and anxious thought of those upon whom will devolve the tasks that lie ahead, to bring order out of chaos. There is a tremendous responsibility in which we must share alike but we shall approach the problems with all the greater courage and fortitude for having gone through the fires of a devastating war.
Cover of the programme for the original Durham Hymns performance, July 2016
Cover of the programme for the original Durham Hymns performance, July 2016
Marking the centenary of the Armistice
Durham County Council have worked with the Northern Echo to produce a special supplement, on sale now, with part of the proceeds going to the British Legion. It features includes stories from the Durham at War project, and profiles some of our volunteers. 

Myself and Jo from Durham at War will attend The National Service of Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey on 11 November 2018, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armistice. Members of the Royal family, and religious and political leaders will be joined by members of the public who have contributed to the Centenary on a national, regional and local level. 

Recognising the huge contribution the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and its First World War projects have made to the Centenary, the Department for Digital, Media and Sport invited HLF to nominate people to attend the Service. As a result over 300 people who have been involved with HLF funded First World War projects across the UK will be attending the Service on Sunday. It will be broadcast live on BBC 1 and Radio 4. 

Durham at War was made possible by a grant of £475,100 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which distributes the heritage share of National Lottery funding, supporting a wide variety of projects across the UK. HLF has invested £97million in 2,200 First World War Centenary projects.

Durham Hymns
The Gala Theatre will be hosting two performances of Durham Hymns, at 2:30pm and 7:30pm on Sunday 11 November, tickets are still available. 

Millennium Place will feature a new art installation called Hope, by Aether and Hemera, from 9-15 November. Commissioned by the council, it features a large-scale text sculpture composed of hundreds of colour-changing LED tubes, along with speakers projecting voices retelling local people's experiences of the war.

Many of the stories are contained within letters, diaries and memoirs at Durham County Record Office. 

Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral will be hosting one of our life size Tommies with their own silhouettes for There But Not There

On Saturday evening, 10 November, a Festival of Remembrance will take place at the Cathedral,  and on Sunday morning a Remembrance Service will be held. 

Pages of the Sea
On selected beaches around the UK, over the course of several hours, a portrait of an individual from the First World War will emerge from the sand. And then, as the tide rises, be washed away as we take a moment to say a collective goodbye. 
In the North East, these are:
RedcarTheophilus Jones, 18th Durham Light Infantry, of Darlington, died in the Hartlepool Bombardment
Roker Beach - Hugh Carr, Royal Engineers, of Houghton-le-Spring
Seahouses - William Jonas, Middlesex Regiment, of New Washington

Beacons of Light
At 7pm on Sunday 11 November, over 1300 beacons around the United Kingdom and beyond will be lit. In County Durham, this includes Coxhoe, Ferryhill, Stanley, and many, many more. Page 47-48  of this pdf lists them all for County Durham, but please check locally for details. 

The Durham County Council website has a list of services and parades taking place around the county, and provides details of related road closures:

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