1918 Warrington’s Peace Celebrations

Today we have another blog by volunteer Carol Mayo. Carol has been looking into the peace celebrations which took place across Warrington following the end of the First World War.

In light of the recent WW1 Armistice Centenary I have decided to look at Warrington’s Peace celebrations. From the front of the Town Hall the Mayor Sir Peter Peacock announced the signing of the Armistice to a jubilant crowd of over 2000 people. The Examiner’s headline on 13th November reads “Rejoicing At The Death Of Kaiserism”, accompanied by photographs of the happy crowds. For over four years the war had dominated life inflicting pain and grief. In the 21st century breaking news is part of everyday life but in 1918 news coverage was very different.

In Lymm most people were oblivious to the announcement but “the firing of a cannon from a well – known tradesman’s garden” broke the news. The cannon was fired by a local soldier who was a guest in the village and people dashed over to discover that the Armistice had been signed. Alongside the outpouring of celebrations particularly around the Lymm Cross there were expressions of concern for their loved ones who were still overseas. Their fears would remain until they were all safely home.

Stockton Heath learnt of the news via a large meeting in the square. Mr Baguley the Captain of the Fire Brigade rang the fire bell to summon the people. He was assisted by some of the boys from the scout’s band which was playing at the time.  Mr John Hallows Chairman of the Parish Council addressed the crowd. He spoke of the happiness of the day but amongst the joy he remembered those who were bereaved and those who would not be returning home. He went on say that a “glorious victory” was thanks to God. The crowd went on to sing the hymn “Oh God Our Help In Ages Past”. Mr W McIntyre another member of the Parish Council spoke of the hopes for future peace, the fate of the Kaiser, Crown Prince, Hindenburg and “all other whelps”. His judgement was “We should have them by the throat so they do not rise to power and influence again”. He called for three cheers for “our brave lads, sick and wounded, our Allies, our gallant nurses and all who have assisted to win the war.” This was followed by the singing of the National Anthem.

Celebrations at Stockton Heath also followed on Tuesday. The report from The Examiner 16th November 1918 (p6) states that a Mr John Hallows had made an effigy of the Kaiser complete with helmet and moustache. The Kaiser was seated on a box mounted on a handcart and under the supervision of Mr Hallows. With lanterns, fireworks and shouting the procession went on their way. The procession stopped at the Square and they sang “God Save the King”, “Rule Britannia”, cheered for King George V and the gallant lads.  The Kaiser was wheeled to the bonfire on the wasteland on the corner of Alexandra Road and Fairfield Road where he was tied up high on a pole ready for burning. The Kaiser burnt well due to the large amount of pitch that Mr Hallows had applied. After the Kaiser had burnt away Mr Hallows thanked the scoutmaster and scouts, the police and all those who had helped. At the end of the evening   Mr Hallows said they had “given the children a treat of the style of the almost forgotten good old days”.

There were also workplace celebrations. At the Cockhedge and Rodney Mills an official committee was set up to celebrate the coming Peace. It was comprised of ten ladies with the Chairman Mr J T Watson and Secretary Mr John Smith. Through the committee they promoted celebrations and their contributions to the war effort. The Hippodrome Theatre and cinemas advertised the celebrations on their screens and sent out personal invitations to the Mayor, Mayoress, Lady Greenall and Mrs Harold Smith (Conservative MP’s wife). The weavers decorated the 2000 looms and work sheds with flags, streamers, mottos on the pillars and walls, and pictures of the King and Queen. There were queues stretching almost the length of Orford Street waiting to see the mill scenes of celebration. When news arrived of the Armistice on the Monday there were mass celebrations in the work sheds. There was so much joy that the all departments were closed for the week and all employees received a full week’s pay.  In the Examiner 16th November 1918 p6 there is a report and a photograph of the workers. The mill workers also had a collection which went to St Dunstan’s charity for blinded soldiers and sailors. With the assistance of contributions from local dignitaries £101 9s 6d was raised.

A news story from the Examiner (16th November 1918, p4) surprised and shocked me. It announced that there was a change in regulations regarding wounded military personnel. During the war wounded men were not allowed to attend places of entertainment. Now there was peace the wounded were allowed to attend the Hippodrome Theatre. The manager Mr W. A. Jackson thought it was an opportune time to entertain the wounded servicemen. In response to this change a matinee with the support of the Blighty Club was held.

There are many articles covering the extensive church services throughout Warrington. The sermon by the Bishop of Warrington at the Parish Church (St Elphins) exclaimed the triumph of right over might and he touched upon Warrington’s resilience. He emphasised that people and political institutions had concerns for the future e.g. a wish for a lasting peace and how the political upheavals in Europe would impact, the need for house building, jobs for the returning men and public health provision.

A final point to note is that there were letters and poems written by military personnel and civilians expressing their hopes and concerns. Perhaps these can be the subject of another blog at a later date.