Saturday, 8 November 2014

Prelude to Peace

The signing of the Armistice between Germany and the Allies on 11 November, 1918 signalled the end of the First World War and sparked a celebration in Townsville, the likes of which the city had never seen before. 
A float outside the Railway Station, ready to celebrate the Armistice signed between Germany and the Allies on 11 November 1918.  Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection
The first news about the signing of the Armistice reached Townsville on Friday, 8 November, and the Mayor, Alderman J E. Clegg, invited the public to gather together at the Town Hall at noon the next day. However, this news turned out to be premature, as the agreement hadn’t been signed yet. 

Considering that the events of the previous few days all pointed to the likely cessation of hostilities, Alderman Clegg felt it was only a question of hours before the German command gave way, so the celebration went ahead anyway. At the Mayor’s request, all businesses closed at 11.30 am, and a procession was organised by the Returned Soldiers’ Association which marched from the Post Office to the Railway Station and back to the Town Hall. 
Floats in Flinders Street, celebrating the signing of the Armistice, November 1918.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

The signing of the Armistice remained unconfirmed until the night of Monday, 11 November. The following day there were jubilant celebrations in Townsville. Most of the workers in the railway workshops, the waterside workers and employees of local traders, marched in Flinders Street from 9.30 am until noon. The City Council’s regular meeting was postponed. 

At 3 o’clock a crowd assembled in front of the Railway station, with all sections of the community eager to participate. The procession was made up of an estimated 55 motor vehicles, 36 motor and horse lorries and about 100 cabs, buggies and spring carts, all of which were elaborately decorated. 
Crowds assemble outside the Town Hall in Flinders Street, celebrating the signing of the Armistice, November 1918.
Photo:  CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
The procession stretched over a mile and a half and passed through Flinders Street three times. Celebrations went on into the evening and included a huge bonfire on top of Castle Hill, and a patriotic concert held on The Strand. 

The Cairns Post considered Townsville’s enthusiasm for the celebrations “unprecedented”, and described all the colour and noise of the celebrations on 12 November. 

“Early in the morning the whistles of vessels in the harbour were set going and continued for hours. The waterside workers took up the movement by ceasing all work, and headed by two motor lorries bedecked with flags and accompanied by a couple of pipers, marched into town and along Flinders Street.” 
Parade celebrating the Armistice in Flinders Street East, Burns Philp building on the left, 12 November 1918.
Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.
“One by one the business places closed and bevies of girls rushing into the street with flags of all sorts, commandeered whatever vehicles were available, delivery vans, motor and horse vehicles, and tradesmen’s carts, and within an hour the main street presented an unprecedented spectacle.” 

“All sorts of toy trumpets, bullock bells, kerosene tins, dinner gongs and anything that could produce a noise, was called into requisition, and the din was continuous, until lunch.” 

“An adjournment was then made until 4 pm, when the most remarkable procession ever seen in Townsville paraded the main street, accompanied by three bands, two orchestras, pipers and a bugle band. The decorations of all conceivable kinds of vehicles were brilliant, and the throngs lining the streets were immense.”
Women and children crowd on to a motor vehicle in the parade to celebrate the Armistice that ended World War I.
Photo: CityLibraries Townsville Local History Collection.

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