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Memorial Day: How Australia Celebrated First Peace Day 100 Years Ago



Posted

November 11, 2018 05:00:00

As the gun stopped on the Western Front on the morning of November 11, 1918, Canada's first Canadian war correspondent, Charles Bean, noticed that "the gates for the future silently opened."

The ceasefire that secured the end of the First World War was signed at dawn, marking the completion of a four-year conflict that had claimed more than 60,000 Australian lives.

The confirmation took several hours to reach Australia, where crowds gathered in the streets with the first whispers of the news.

In every city and city, people rejoice at the end of "war to end all wars" – and at the beginning of a new chapter in Australian history.

Wild & # 39; scenes in Sydney and Melbourne

Sydney was prematurely celebrating the end of the war thanks to a false alarm on 9 November.

"There has been a great explosion of emotion and enthusiasm," said Ashley Ekins, head of military history at the Australian War Memorial.

"Again, just a few days later at 11, the news came true.

"It was a wild day and when a public celebrate for November 14, it meant they got two.

"They kept pubs and liquor stores closed during this time, so things did not really go by hand."

It was a different story in Melbourne, where crowded crowds could not be restricted.

"The news was accepted and ecclesiastical bells began to hit with chimney factories," said Ekins.

"The crowds rode wildly out of control in the city, derailing tram cars and crashing one from the front window of an office building.

"Many people [were] breaking into shops and stealing fireworks.

"There has also been a call for people not to explode fireworks for the benefit of disabled soldiers, especially those suffering from shock shocks."

Theatrical performances stopped in Adelaide

In Adelaide, people had gathered outside the newspapers and post offices awaiting news from the afternoon of November 11th.

Pauline Cockrill of South Australia's Trust History said it was around 7:30 pm. when the first newspaper reported that the battles had stopped.

"By 10:30 that night, all of Adelaide's streets were running with people waiting for the news to be announced," he said.

"The Prime Minister gave an informal announcement outside Parliament.

"As soon as the news came out, they were singing patriotic songs, going up [the streets] with flags. There was a band that was running out of the train station so they would join. "

Cinematographic and theatrical performances stopped as the news broke.

"There was only joy," said Mrs Cockrill.

"Everyone was very excited, singing and dancing – having a good time, relieved after four years of war."

The celebrations were followed by public holidays on November 14, including ecclesiastical services, victories and recordings of The Last Post.

The news traveled under the railway line

The parties continued in the rural towns as the news of the armistice reached them from the cities.

"The news fell in the mail or under the railways," said Cockrill.

"People had gone to sleep but when they heard the news that went out of bed and had these improvised bands – people just knocked kerosene boxes and walked up and down the streets singing patriotic songs."

On Mount Gambier, the official announcement came on November 12th.

Local historian Graham Roulstone wrote in 2016 that a crowd had gathered on the main street on the evening of 11th, as rumors began to arrive in the peripheral city with the Bush telegram.

"The mayor, Mr. Renfrey … gave orders to the bell of the City Hall but warned those who gathered there to approach the news with caution if it turned out to be false," he wrote.

"The crowd … started scattering around 11:00 pm, although others arrived later and so the city remained active until 4:00 am the following morning."

At noon on November 12, Mayor Renfrey read out an official announcement to 4,000 people gathered in front of the Town Hall that the war had ended.

The rural town of Canungra, in south-east Queensland, did not hold official holidays until 30 November.

However, the impromptu celebrations began as soon as the locals heard the news, according to Canungra resident Muriel Curtis who published a book on the history of the region in 1975.

"The news was telephoned at Canungra and that was the relief that people were celebrating then and there," Curtis writes.

"The mill's hands stopped work and the whole steam head was removed from the whistles, causing the spectacular view of the countryside for miles."

Funeral & # 39; for the Kaiser

The rural Victorian town of Kaniva chose to delay their official feasts until 1919, when most of their troops had returned to their homeland.

Residents Bruce Meyer said the small community was affected by the deaths of the locals.

"There are almost no families who did not have someone who went abroad," he said.

"I can see four relatives killed during the First World War and that's quite common.

"Probably the 20 different families who had people die in it, they still had to be together."

On July 19, 1919, the city organized a huge party that included organizing a funeral ceremony for Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The day was celebrated throughout the British Empire as a Day of Peace, in recognition of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles that had formally ended the war last month.

The parties were not the end of the problems

Celebrations, no matter how happy, could not compensate for the devastating effects of the war, according to Ashley Ekins.

"The losses, of course, were extreme – 60,000 men who really could not easily be replaced," he said.

"In many ways, Australia in the mid-year was a nation in mourning."

It is still the enormous task of bringing troops home – an exercise that would last for almost a year.

Once home, they will face the challenge of re-adjusting to political life.

"The fact was that these men came home, for the most part, changed completely from experience," said Ekins.

"It was out of sight – never out of the mind – on the other side of the world, fighting a war that was probably unthinkable for most Australians.

"People at home never really knew what these guys had done."

Topics:

history,

society and society,

World War 1,

adelaide-5000,

canungra-4275,

qld,

duntroon-2600,

act,

kempsey-2440,

mount-gambier-5290,

nsw,

north-sydney-2060,

SA,

townsville-4810,

kaniva-3419,

vic


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