This is a transcription of how the Armistice was reported in Bexhill by the Bexhill Chronicle 16th November 1918
“The Armistice – How Bexhill Received the News. Mayor Gray’s First Public Duty.
Bexhill was caught in a wave of national excitement last Monday morning. Folk were all agog to catch the first news of the signing of the armistice, but when the first intimation was received about half-past ten that this had been done, and that hostilities would cease immediately, it was met with some incredulity. The more optimistic at first foraged out their flags and before 11 o’clock bunting was displayed in many of our streets. The Coastguard Station was perhaps the first to be bedecked, and Chief Officer Simmons and his crew made a brave display.
By this time, all doubts which had existed among the more timorous had disappeared. Such shopkeepers as had the prescience to stock flags were quickly besieged, and to their credit there was no attempt at profiteering. Flags were on sale at reasonable prices, but there was not enough to meet the demands. Ladies and children proudly flaunted the Union Jack, and one young lady, in defiance of all laws, carried a Royal Standard. But who cared for laws or regulations o such an occasion? The tragedy of the past four and a quarter years had come to an end – the world’s travail was over.
As the moments slipped by the news spread that the Mayor would make a public announcement at noon from the Town Hall. How it spread, except from a prevailing conception of the fitness of things, it is hard to say, but people quickly congregated in Town Hall Square. At twelve o’clock the long discarded maroons, which were in pre-war days used as fire alarms, once more boomed out their tocsin message. From East and West, North and South, came the burghers and it was a large crowd which faced the Mayor and his colleagues as they appeared upon the balcony. The Mayor’s word were brief, but to the point. Vibrant with feeling, the crowd was in rejoicing mood. Cheer after cheer rent the air, and then the National Anthem closed the pregnant ceremony.
This was but the prelude to a more imposing demonstration in the afternoon, when the whole of the Canadian troops and their band, together with the Lake House Cadets, Girl Guides, and other schools paraded the town, the streets of which were now filled with bunting of all descriptions. On arrival at the Town Hall, the procession formed up, and again the Mayor made a speech of congratulation. The enthusiasm was great, and the National Anthem was followed by cheers, and then “Canada” was played by the C.T.S Band under Bandmaster Fish.
With the shades of evening falling, people vaguely awaited the reappearance of lights in the streets. They were rewarded just before five o’clock, when the lights were switched on after an absence of nearly four years. The Town Hall Square was brilliantly lighted, and with the numerous flags which were flying gave a pleasing colour effect, in which Mrs. Ash’s lavish scheme at the St George’s Cinema was predominant. Sackville Road also share in the glory of lights, but Devonshire Road remained in comparative darkness owing to the lights being out of working order. One tradesman, Mr Pratley, of the prominent corner shop, rose to the occasion, and put on all his shop lights full on, and as a result Devonshire Square was an oasis of light in the most important thoroughfare in the town. Western Road was favoured by the illumination of the Cinema de Luxe, where Mr Tichborne had transformed his front into a blaze of light.
With night came further celebrations. A service took place at St. Andrew’s Church, the two Cinemas did good business, as did those places where men mostly congregate. A pleasing feature was the general sobriety. Rejoicing there was, and hilarity, but on the whole the spirit of the great tidings was above any attempt at mafficking, and the memory of those who had suffered and died for the day which had arrived caused a softening of the feelings which were not without effect. Everyone had a sad and tender thought for the boys who will never see home, but have laid down their lives for their country, and it was well that such thoughts should be with us.
Scene at the Town Hall
Bexhill has played its part in this war, as all who have been in close touch with the town through the dark and stormy days know. We managed to bear up through the most difficult of days, however, many with an aching heart – but then we knew that the final victory would come to Britain and our Allies, so we sent out loved ones to the Great Cause with a smile that hid a tear. No wonder was it that Bexhillians were excited when the momentous information came to hand. Flags decked our buildings, and soon a crowd fathered in Town Hall Square to hear the announcement by our Mayor (Alderman G.H. Gray).
It is our happy lot to note that this was the first public appearance of MR Gray in his new office. A more glorious and happy occasion no one could wish for, and our Peace Mayor was obviously touched with emotion as he addresses the crowd from the balcony of the Town Hall. He said:
“Our day has come at last (hear, hear). I have the glory of announcing to you that the armistice is signed, and after all the years of desolation and misery we have at last experienced triumph (applause). At one time we saw our chances lessening, but at last we have triumphed, and now there are years of glory and progress for the nations of Europe and of the world. I congratulate the citizens of Bexhill on the magnificent day which at last has arrived.”
From the crowd below came cheer after cheer. The Square was crowded, and all present realised the occasion as one of the happiest for many years. The National Anthem was sung and the crowd then cleared away. The Mayor was supported by the Mayoress (Mrs Gray), Miss Gray, Alderman J. Greed, Alderman J.A. Paton, Councillor A.G. Wells, Councillor J.E. Stevens, Councillor R.C. Hampton, Councillor J. Rogers, Sapper Ernest Smith, R.E., Mr A. Flint, Mr G. Ball, and Mr T.E. Rogers (Town Clerk). Previous to the ceremony the fire maroon was fired three times. This was reminiscence of Bexhill before the war, when our Fire Brigade was called together by firing the maroon. We have got so used to bangs and explosions, however, that the maroon seemed quite tame. It served its purpose as a salvo of joy, and the occasion must be looked upon as a very historic one.
Great Military Parade
By the afternoon the streets were gay with flags, those of our allies being much to the fore. Some bright decorations were to be seen in our main streets, and the town bore a festive appearance, which it had not done for many a long day. A procession met in the Park, in which the whole of the Cadets of the C.T.S. were present, led by the Commandant and other staff officers. The C.T.W.S. were included as well as Lake House band and cadets, Elstree Lodge boys, St Ive Girl Guides, ancaster House Guides and many others. It was one of the finest processions Bexhill has seen since the war. Starting from the Park, it made its way along the Marina, up Sea Rod, and round to the Town Hall, where another huge crowd gathered. The occasion of which this gathering reminded one was first of the War Bond appeals, when aeroplanes circles overhead. At that time we expressed the hope that the next big crowd in the Square would be when Peace had come, and that hope has been fulfilled. It was a crowd worthy of the occasion. Upon the arrival of the procession the Cadets and other members were formed up facing the Town Hall. The streets round about were thick with people. Some enthusiastic lads had climbed up one of the trees in order to obtain a good view, windows near by overlooking the Square were used as vantage points, and the scene with the gay flags carried by nearly all in the crowd made a brilliant spectacle.
The Mayoral party took up a position on the steps of the Town Hall, and the officers of the C.T.S. formed up immediately opposite. The Mayor and Mayoress was introduced to the Commanding Officer, and the Mayor then addressed the men. He said that with them rested the honour and glory of that day. It was a glorious day to which they had looked forward for the past four years (hear, hear). It was with intense emotion that he addressed them, and on behalf of the Aldermen, Councillors and burgesses of Bexhill he thanked those who had been with our brave fellows at the Front and with our Allies who fought the glorious battle and won the victory of honour from autocracy. From that day the world was free and the peoples of Europe would follow their own way. They were free from the influence and forces which had been at work for so long. When they returned to their homes so many thousand mile away and took up their work they in Bexhill would think of them with feelings of love, for they had been with them in the darkest hours, but their bright smiles and cheery optimism had always brightened them up. They had gone forward with every determination and won the battle to which that glorious day was the end. On behalf of Bexhill he thanked them from the bottom of his heart, and hoped that it would be many, many years before they forget Bexhill, and he hoped they would visit them and spend happy times such as they had done in the past. The band of the C.T.S. struck up the National Anthem, which was followed by “O Canada.” Cheers of a very hearty nature were given, and the large crowd watched with the utmost interest the marching off of the troops, cheering all the time. The procession made its way back to Egerton Park, where a march past and salute was given.”