Peacetime Celebrations

In Berkhamsted decorated cars, cycles and characters paraded to the tunes played by the St. Peter’s Town Band. At 1 pm a lunch for demobilised men and men home on leave took place at the O.T.C. Mess Room, Bridge Street which was attended by over 600 people. Satisfied by the spoils of lunch a crowd of two to three thousand strong descended upon the cricket ground at 3 pm for an afternoon of sports. Races included a 120 yards Veterans Race, greasy pole climbing, and tilting the bucket.

Surrounding villages followed suit. Attendees at a Sports Day in Northchurch engaged in races which included a skipping competition, a three legged race, a ladies egg and spoon race, a potato picking race and a threading a needle race. Crowds in Aldbury had pillow fights, a flower pot race, a tug of war, and a married ladies against single ladies race.

While peace had been declared, the pain remained and such scenes of jubilance were for many tinged with sadness.  Those who survived brought with them the memories of those left behind.

The Armistice of November 11th 1918 marked the truce signed by the Allies and Germany, which finally ended all fighting on land, sea and air.

When news of the armistice reached Hemel Hempstead shortly after 11am the town burst into celebration.

Work at Apsley Mills and Kent’s Brush Works ground to a halt and men, women and children streamed into the streets.

The Gazette reported that ‘a great shout of relief went up … mingled with the tears of those who were overcome with emotion at the remembrance of the gallant lives sacrificed’.

Church bells cheerfully chimed the glad tidings and Dickinson’s Silver Band marched up the main street playing patriotic airs.

Flags of the Allies flew from all the flagpoles and windows in the borough.  They were also waved enthusiastically from thousands of hands. The towns were awash with colour as every person, place and thing, from motors, to carts, to prams, to horses and dogs were decorated with red, white and blue favours.

Summarising the day’s joyous events The Gazette reported

‘an appearance of festivity which has not been known for many years … as though the populace had awakened from some terrible dream’.

The Dacorum Heritage Trust Ltd.

The Museum Store, Clarence Road, Berkhamsted, Herts HP4 3YL

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