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Here is a transcription of the Bexhill Chronicle’s report on the Peace Day Celebration in Bexhill on the 19th July 1919.
The Celebrations at Bexhill
The Town’s Enthusiasm: Record Scenes
Crowds! Enthusiasm! Merriment!
All were very much in evidence on Bexhill’s Joy Day last Saturday. Many there were who had made pessimistic utterances regarding the success (or rather the non-success) of our Peace celebrations, but Bexhill came up to the mark, almost at the eleventh hour perhaps, and the “day” turned out to be one of the most crowded with merriment that our town has seen for many a long day.
On Thursday the town looked bare, almost woefully bare for a Peace celebration, but on Friday it seemed as though everyone awakened to the full realisation of what it meant and did their level best to make a festive appearance with flags and bunting, shields and streamers so that by Saturday everything was in thorough order.
We are not early risers by habit and even Joy Day did not make any difference, and the first sounds which greeted our ears last Saturday was the mingled notes of those instruments of torture which rejoice in the title of “victory trumpets.” They were on sale up the street, and all the juveniles of the district seemed to have decided to “celebrate” by giving a prolonged fanfare in several different keys. That was enough – we decided to rise! Many a time have we heard the reverberations of distant firing from that same apartment, but the noise of peace seemed to be worse than the noise of war! The weather was fine, however, and the kiddies were out for enjoyment, so nothing mattered. A walk round the town on the way to Galley Hill, where the procession was to form up, amply demonstrated that Bexhill’s enthusiasm had been aroused at last. The Town Hall was all decked out in the scheme of red, white and blue, with the flags of the Allies flying, and the effect produced was decidedly good. The Devonshire Hotel had been decorated with bunting and evergreens in a very artistic and bright manner.
Other prominent tradesmen did well with their decorations, but we must not forget the two cinemas, which were thoroughly effective. The Cinema-de-Luxe, in Western Road, had a scheme all in Union Jacks with the patriotic colours worked in on standards on each side of the entrance. The St George’s Cinema added to the brightness of Town Hall Square with its lighting effects and flag display. Buckhurst Road had flags and streamers across the road, which made a very pretty picture. But we cannot mention every decoration and so one more must suffice and that was the one in the Old Town. Mr J. Threader had made Church Street very effective, and the central design was the motto “Remember the Fallen.”
On that bright Saturday morning it made one think. Our memory went back to the last time that Bexhill had such a celebration. The flags then went out in honour of the Coronation of our gracious King George V. Each school girl and boy received a medal on that day. Since then how many of the boys (schoolboys then) have won greater medals even than those distributed that day? How many of them have grown up and fought their last fight, never again to participate in such worldly celebrations? Ah, how many? That was why the Old Town motto – or rather appeal – was so strikingly apposite. We were in danger of forgetting our brave lads – at least some of us were who had received our loved ones back from the carnage unhurt – though in the crowd which watched the procession and cheered the returned boys on their way was many a figure in mourning which helped to keep in mind that inscription – “Remember the Fallen.” Our joy was tempered with the thought of those who had made such celebrations possible, who had gone never to return.
On the way down to the East Parade – and all roads led there on Saturday – we were accompanied by the light-hearted parties of sightseers all dressed in their brightest clothes – all intent on a good day’s fun. The crowd along the parade was exceedingly dense, and the assistant marshals had their hands full in getting the various units of the procession into position. Everyone connected with it was working hard, but although it was late in starting everything went off splendidly. Mr R. Povey, who has marshalled so many of Bexhill’s gala day processions, was once again officiating, and despite his four score years he sat his horse well and was a picturesque figure. The Band of the Artists’ Rifles, Q.T.C. followed under the direction of Mr A. J. Pearse. They were present by kind permission of Lieut.-Col. H. R. Eaton-Ostle, M. C. Martial music was dispensed by them all along the route.
Three gaily decorated motor-cars followed after which came the triumphal car. This was a delightfully decorated vehicle, the greenery making it very beautiful, and was drawn by five horses led by men wearing the good old Sussex smock. It was occupied by representatives of the Dominions, etc., and above them all was Miss Florence White as “Peace.” The young lady was excellent in the role and with white wings extended made an impressive picture.
The other representatives in the car were: – Canada – “Cowboy,” Mr Bliss, who was in the “Princess Pats” C. L. I. from 1914-1919. He was wounded at Vimy Ridge and Lens. Australia – “Settler,” Mr F. E. Gunn, who was in the South African war with the 3rd. Grenadier Guards and worked in the recent war in an army canteen. India – “Rajah,” Mr J. E. Payne, who served with “Lowther’s Lambs” and had had 28 years service. Ireland: Mr Pat O’Dowd. Scotland, Master Donald Ponsford, son of Mr F. P. Ponsford, who carried out the decorations and arrangements for the car. The Army Major, Mr Harold Baker, M. M., who served from 1916-1918. The Naval Officer, Mr Franklin, who served on H. M. S. “Nelson,” and was also a prisoner of war. England was represented by a khaki officer (Mr Christian), who served from Aug. 14, 1914 to Feb. 1919. Mr Davies acted as coachman.
The men of the local Coastguards under the command of C. O. Simmons marched behind, while after them came the representatives of the “Comrades of the Great War” bearing their banner. Everyone reserved a cheer for the men who had fought and won, and then yet another for the Volunteers who followed under Lieut. J. R. de Lannoy. The men looked exceedingly smart and everyone remembered the hard work they had put in during the dark days of the war.
The other units of the procession were as follows: Holmwood School Cadets (under Mr A. F. Bryan); members of the women’s V. A. D.; the women Police; Red Cross Men’s Detachment; National Kitchen workers; several decorated bicycles; the “Springfield” Band; Sidley demobilised soldiers; the R. A. Oh. B.; The Ancient Order of Foresters; the Bexhill Fire Brigade with the engine; several troops of Girl guides, including those from the Private schools; Beacon School Band; “Fairway” School; St Peter’s Troop of Boy Scouts and Wolf Cubs; St Stephen’s Scouts; the Bexhill Sisterhood; the Salvation Army Band; more decorated motor-cars, and the Bexhill motor ambulance and horse bus.
The route of the procession was crowded most of the way, windows were opened and cheers sent it on its way. The route of the procession was by way of the East Parade, Marina, Devonshire Road, St Leonards Road, Sea Road, Station Road, Clifford Road, Buckhurst Road, Sackville Road, Western Road, Devonshire Road, Parkhurst Road, Sackville Road, and Egerton Road to the Park. Just after 1 o’clock it arrived at the Park where it was speedily formed up round the bandstand. Among those present in the stand were: His Worship the Mayor (Ald. G. H. Gray), the Mayoress, the Deputy Mayor and Mayoress (Councillor F. W. and Mrs Vane), Alderman J. Gibb, and J. B. Wall, Councillors S. Baker, R. C. Hampton, R. H. Burstow, E. James, W. Brown, and A. G. Wells, with the Town Clerk (Mr T. E. Rodgers, L.L.B.), Mr G. Ball (borough surveyor), Mr S. T. Hill (borough accountant), Dr G. H. Weston (M. O. H.), And Mr W. F. Giller.
The Mayor gave a short address in which he said that he addressed some of them on the day the Armistice was signed with expressions of the greatest joy, but at that time there were many absent, particularly those who had since returned demobilised, so that he rejoiced at the present time to have the opportunity of addressing them all. Since then (the Armistice) they had gone through still further anxious times, but now he hoped they felt assured that peace had come at last (applause). The peace which was assured by the acknowledged defeat of the enemy whom they now had no further cause to worry about. They might now look forward to the future in which they might reconstruct home affairs and bring about a contented and he hoped an everlasting peace. Their thoughts on that glorious day were turning to those who had defended their beloved country, and they who had fought for them in that terrible conflict had endeared themselves to them for ever (applause). Their Navy went out in the greatest jeopardy in the sea strewn with mines and did their duty and a noble manner. The Army did their duty in trench warfare in the early days of the war and then later on when it got to the open. They were however saddened with the memory of those men who had never returned and had made the supreme sacrifice. In their minds eye they could see them winning a Crown of Glory, while with they who were left behind their memory would never fade. “You have fought the good fight and God grant that you may never again be called in the defence of our country” (hear, hear). The women of England had also won their gratitude and to those who had helped in their pageant he also tendered thanks. They had nobly played their part in the war and had a greater opinion than ever before. What of the future? Was that day to be a mockery? He said, No. The future might be clouded and filled with great anxieties but out of it all he was convinced that it would be a glorious one. There were already great signs of improvement in the lives of the workers. They must work to make up the wastages of war. His Worship referred to the success of the great Victory Loan. The country had been called on to provide the means to carry on the work and the magnificent sum had been raised which would relieve them of further difficulties. He had watched the procession that day with pride and enthusiasm. It had done credit to dear old Bexhill and he thanked them. He appealed for a mutual spirit and a league of patriots. Let them stand together for “United we stand, divided we fall.”
The National Anthem was sung and Mr J. Bradford called for cheers for the King, Queen, and the Mayor, while Mr J. Threader called for the Navy and Army. All given with the greatest of enthusiasm and the procession and crowd dispersed.
The afternoon was mainly devoted to the children, and all went merrily although the weather became uncertain. There was not sufficient rain to interfere seriously with the proceedings all the afternoon and so everyone was satisfied. The bandstand was occupied by the military band and they played on and off during the whole time.
Just after three-thirty the children from the elementary schools commenced to arrive. Some came with song and noise – they were the boys; while the others made merry chatter as they filed in. There were about 1200 present and 600 went into the Pergola for an entertainment by the “Mad-Hatters.” What a din it was in the pavilion! How everyone talked and laughed and sang at the same time. Then came those paper “crackers.” Each child had one and the series of reports produced acted as a kind of applause after each act and occasionally as a mild obligato during the singing. The children were remarkably good, however. It did one good to hear their happy laughter. Mr Fred E. Wynne quickly became the favourite, and the call of “Yes, Uncle X” was to be heard afar. The kiddies joined in “K-K-K-Katy” with a will. That they knew the chorus was amply evident. And when it came to a singing competition, “girls v. boys,” everyone did their best. The competition was a draw, of that we are certain! There was no disorder, and when the first party left the Pergola the others and had their tea and went in, when the show was repeated.
Tea was taken on the grass outside the Pavilion. Here there were roped off enclosures where the kiddies sat down on the grass and the tea was brought round. The teachers and helpers had a rare busy time filling up cups and handing out bags of eatables, but the evident enjoyment on every little face was more than enough enjoyment.
We must now transfer our attention to the other end of the Park by the bandstand where Mr McGregor, assisted by several other gentlemen, presided over the open children’s sports. A good crowd assembled and cheered the little competitors on. Some of the events were most amusing, and the spectators got as much fun out of them as the participants. The results of the finals were as follows:
Girls’ flat race, for those over 10, 1. Doris Rains; 2. Audrey Evans; 3. Nancy Sewell.
Boys’ flat race, over 10, 1. Ivor Hampton; 2. E. Moody; 3. C. Goodsell;
Girls’ flat race, under 10, 1. Bessie Barker; 2. K. Webber; 3. Peggy Smith.
Boys’ flat race, under 10, 1. R. Sargent; 2. F. Vernon; 3. C. Lye.
Girls’ skipping race, under 10, 1. Violet Allen; 2. H. Dale; 3. Ruth Parker.
Girls’ skipping race, over 10, 1. Violet Chapman; 2. Winnie Webber; 3. Mabel Taylor.
Boys’ potato race, over 10 1. G.. Forcebury; 2. Leslie Pepper; 3.Robert Hampton.
Boys’ potato race, under 10. 1. Jack Hampton; 2. Ronald Sargent; 3. Norman French.
The prizes were distributed by the Mayoress (Mrs G. H. Gray) from the bandstand.
The rain came down in earnest just after tea. Our hearts sank as we thought of all that would have to be abandoned if the deluge continued. But fortunately later on it cleared up and all went with a go.
The first events of the evening were the free performances at the cinemas when demobbed men and men serving were invited with their wives, children or lady friends.
At the Cinema-de-Luxe there was a big house and Mr Tichborne had arranged a special prize scheme for the children present. A sum of money had been split up into over 80 prizes so that every child in the house got something. The winning numbers for the higher value prizes, viz.: 5s., 2s. 6d., 2s., and 1s., were selected promiscuously by Mr Jack W. Fowler of the “Bexhill Chronicle,” and during an interval they were distributed in the Hall by Mr Tichborne. The children who did not receive a prize then had one given them at the door as they left. Mr Tichborne is to be complemented on so pleasing a scheme.
At The Colonnade
As soon as the rain ceased everyone made their way down to the Colonnade. There were parties of cheerful masqueraders attired in weird and wonderful costumes. The first paraded the streets and then migrated to the Colonnade, which was a remarkable sight. As soon as it was dark all the lights were put on and a huge crown and “G. R.” was the central figure. Deck, garden, promenade, terrace, and towers were all packed. Not a seat was to be found very soon after opening. Owing to the unsettled weather the dancing in the Park was abandoned and the military band was present in consequence at the Colonnade. The programme was a long one, there being no fewer than two dozen items, which were added to as the selections by the military band were not included.
The crowd itself was a study. Though there were intermittent showers the “joy day” spirit was maintained all the time. Everything was of interest on Saturday night. Every song was listened to with attention and then – the applause! It was a treat to hear the enthusiasm that was put into it. Encore after encore was demanded. The Colonnade Orchestra played such selections as: “The Liberty Bell,” “The Bing Boys on Broadway,” “A Life on the Ocean,” which introduces “Rule Britannia,” which was sung by the audience. All the popular “rags” were played by Messers Bor and Paikin’s Jazz Band. This is a rollicking combination with the usual startling Jazz effects. The items included: “Indianola,” “How’s every little thing in Dixie?”, “Hide and Seek,” “Are Big Jazz Band,” etc. The airs were sung and whistled by the crowd while the jazz effects were often added to by the notes of the “victory trumpets.”
Showers of confetti were being thrown about and it was indeed a joyful time. The soloists were all heartily received. Miss Louise Trenton (soprano) sang “Your England and Mine,” “Red Rose of England” and “When the Flag goes by with the Band.”
Mr Joseph Farrington (baritone) gave us “The Likes o’ They,” “The Company Sergt-Major” and with Miss Trenton the duet “In a Garden of Roses.” Miss Dorothy George (contralto) was in fine form with “Land of Hope and Glory,” “There’s a Land,” and others. The humorist of the evening was Mr Jack Cornelius who sang “I’m a Happy Married Man,” “The Military Representative,” “There’s a Ridiculous Question” and “Married v. Single.”. There were innumerable encores and the whole programme was a big success. The National Anthems of the Allies brought a remarkable performance to a close.
We must not overlook the fact that the Coastguards had made a fine display of flags from their mast above the Colonnade, which added greatly to the brightness.
The programme had been added to by coloured flares set off on the top of each tower, while the fireworks were under the direction of Chief Officer Simmons and men of H. M. Coastguards. They were lit from the beach and included displays and rockets and other pyrotechnic marvels.
We left the Colonnade’s glare and brilliance for a dark walk along the parade towards the West cliff where the bonfire was to be lighted. All was darkness as we proceeded, but away out West past the cliff we could discern one fire, and then to the North were two or three more, and at last – with a roar and hiss the first rocket went up from the darkness of the West Cliff and ended in a shower of red and white stars.
The stars brilliance faded and went out, and we could see the lights of Eastbourne Pier a-twinkling out of the darkness. Then slowly a brilliance grew on the cliff till a wonderful white light blotted out all subsidiary illuminations and then we could see the dense crowd on the cliff.
The Dover flare was working well and the site was a highly impressive one. Everything around was brilliantly thrown up and the long shadows made an eerie effect. And so ended our Joy Day. We walked home by the light of the combined flares on the West cliff and Galley Hill, after a day which will long be remembered by generations yet to come.
The Peace Celebrations Committee are deserving of the greatest praise for their hard work and for the excellent way in which everything went off. Mr J. Bradford, the Chairman, put his whole soul into the matter and with the able assistance of Mr A. B. Lawson, the Secretary, such a day as Bexhill enjoyed on Saturday was made possible. The bonfires were under the charge of Ald. J. Gibb, Mr E. Davey, and Mr Lawson.
The Infants’ Treat
On Friday afternoon the infants of all the elementary schools were entertained to tea at the Down Council School as a Peace treat, for they did not take further part in the celebrations. The schools represented were St Barnabas, St Peter’s, The Down School, and Sidley Infants’ School, St Mary Magdalen’s, and some from Nazareth House. The hall decorations were most prettily carried out by Miss Gwynne, assisted by the infant teachers of the Down School. Among those present were the Mayor (Ald G. H. Gray), Mr F. W. Giller, Dr Weston, Mr and Mrs A. B. Lawson, and teachers from the various schools. From some Barnabas school 112 out of 116 children attended, from St Peter’s, 97 out of a 100, from the Sidley School, 122 out of 122. The infants from this school had a very enjoyable ride down to the Down in one of Mr Carey’s army lorries.
The tea was greatly enjoyed by all, each child having a bag containing a cake and two buns.
After tea an entertainment was given in the Hall, before which the Mayor gave a short address, saying that he hoped they would have a very happy day. That was a day that would never come again, and they must be thankful that they had got people to take care of them, after this war. Three very hearty cheers were given for the Mayor, after which the children spent a very merry time with Mr Jack W. Fowler in his conjuring and ventriloquist acts with “Jimmy,” and Prof Blazier, of Hastings, with his Punch and Judy show.