Although the guns fell silent on 11th November 1918, peace was not officially proclaimed until 28th June 1919. To mark the final end of the war, Saturday 19th July 1919 was designated a public holiday and Peace celebrations took place throughout the land.
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Lead-up to Peace Day
The Armistice of 11th November 1918 was initially signed for just one month and then renewed in December for a further month. The Paris Peace Conference did not begin until 18th January 1919 and, after months of negotiation, the Treaty of Versailles was signed on 28th June 1919. The British War Cabinet met two days later to discuss ‘Peace Celebrations’. They wanted to defer celebrations until August but King George V wanted them held on 6th July and he eventually got his wish. Thanksgiving Services were held throughout the Empire on that Sunday and a ‘National Celebration of Peace’ was held on 19th July 1919.
London Celebrations, 1919
In London a parade of 20,000 men and women began at 10 am on 19th July at Albert Gate, Hyde Park. It was led by US General Pershing, on a great brown horse, accompanied by his staff officers and companies of infantry. They entered Whitehall and passed the temporary simple white cenotaph. Belgian soldiers were next, followed by a small contingent of Chinese officers, then ‘Czecho-Slavs’. Next were a group of French lancers followed by General Foch, on a black charger, and so it went on – Greeks, Italians, Japanese, Poles, Portuguese, Rumanians, Serbs and Siamese.
It was then the turn of the British, led by Admiral Beatty and sailors of all ranks of the Royal Navy, along with Naval nurses and Wrens and members of the mercantile marine. After the sailors came the soldiers, led by Field-Marshal Haig and many of his generals, ahead of officers and men of ‘the Old Contemptibles’ of 1914 B.E.F. There then followed groups from every part of the British Army – the Guards, Regulars, Territorials and Yeomanry; artillery crews with field guns, engineers, infantry and machine-gunners. Then it was the turn of the Dominions, Australians and South Africans, the Indian Army, the Labour Corps, Women’s Legion, doctors, nurses, VADs, chaplains and WAACs. The parade was completed by the youngest service, the Royal Air Force and the whole procession took two hours to pass each point along the seven-mile route, which finished back at Hyde Park. In the River Thames, which the parade crossed several times, warships formed a Naval Pageant. The London event had been planned by a War Cabinet committee, chaired by Lord Curzon, who had organised the spectacular Delhi Durbar in 1903.
Badsey Celebrations, 1919
Unlike in London, no photos are known to exist of the celebrations in Badsey but, thanks to entries in the diary of Charles Binyon and a report in The Evesham Standard of 26th July 1919, we know how the event was celebrated.
In Badsey, a public meeting had been held on 10th July to decide how to celebrate Peace Day. It was decided to give a tea to the school children and to all those aged over 70. A committee was formed with Charles Binyon being one of the main organisers and subscriptions were collected.
Early in the morning of Peace Day, Charles Binyon went early to the Stockey to prepare the ground for the children’s sports that were to take place later in the day. He then repaired to St James’ Church at 10.30 to meet his fellow bell-ringers. The bells rang out until the start of the thanksgiving service at 11 am, which was attended by a large congregation. He noted in his diary that the service was marred by the absence of the organist, so the Vicar, Reverend Allsebrook, had to play. A short peal was rung again after the service, and at various times during the day.
At 2 pm, children and adults assembled at the Stockey with decorated bicycles and perambulators which were judged. The intention had been to have a procession through the village but, due to incessant rain which had begun at 11, this was aborted.
Instead of tea in the playground, the children had to have tea in their classrooms; the Vicar went to each room and said grace. The old folks, meanwhile, had tea in George Marshall’s barn.
The intended sports events were postponed as it was so very wet, but some informal sports were held. The villagers seem to have sought solace in the pub, because Mr Binyon concluded his entry for that day with the words:
I noticed one of the inns was still open at 10.15 so I called the landlord out. There had been too much drinking at this place all day. He closed at once.
The sports events postponed from Peace Day took place two days later with a large crowd present. Charles Binyon’s diary provides an account of the day:
After tea we finished the children’s sports in the Stockey. There were a great many people there. The other sports were held at the same time. We had some excellent tussles. It is interesting to see how certain families shine on these occasions. The potato race was very popular, this was open to boys and girls, but although some of the girls got into the final, in the end the prize winners were all boys. The obstacle race was won by some quite small boys. In the high jump, the winner, Clarence Willis jumped 3’ 8”. We finished about 8.30. The slow bicycle race was then on. Philip Crisp won this well. Other races went on until nearly 10. Then I came home to illuminate this house, which I did with candles stuck in flowerpots behind coloured glasses. I had just time to join the torchlight procession which looked very pretty. We went all round the village. We got home about 10.30. After there were some most brilliant lights on Broadway Hill. I could see to read by it here.
Wickhamford Celebrations, 1919
A report in The Evesham Standard of 9th August 1919 gives details of the Peace Day celebrations in Wickhamford.
The Peace Day was celebrated in Wickhamford, initially by a special service in the Church of St John the Baptist at twelve noon. In the afternoon tea was provided in the Parish Room, which had been tastefully decorated. Those attending were meant to be children under 16 and the old people of the village. Over thirty children attended, but many of the older parishioners were kept away by bad weather. As a result, arrangements were made to deliver tea and a pie to those who could not get to the event.
In the evening, a supper was held for the returned soldiers, of whom about seventeen attended. The vicar, the Rev’d William C. Allesbrook, took the chair and an enjoyable evening ensued. The names of the soldiers who were at the supper is not known but those from the village who had been discharged from the Army earlier in 1919 included Frank Banner, Basil Griffin, Frederick Newman, George Hardiman, Norris Haines, George Pitts and Edgar Moss Poole. Although still serving, Capt. Thomas Mason, a son of John Mason of Elm Farm, had been married in Cheltenham of 2nd July, so could well have been around to be there.
Another supper was held on the following Monday evening, to finish the good food provided. On the following Saturday evening, sports, which had been postponed from Peace Day because of the rain, were held in the field opposite the Parish Room, by permission of John Mason. A number of races were run and a tug-of-war stubbornly contested. The children had an additional treat, as they were invited for tea by Mrs and Miss Banner of The Sandys Arms. They were also said to have been presented with ‘medals and wings’ bearing the emblem of peace. (No evidence has been found in Wickhamford of the medals that were reported to have been presented to the children. For example, Fred Mason was eight at the time and would have almost certainly attended the event, but he never appeared to have such a medal, only a Peace mug which was given several months later). It may be that the newspapers were reporting so many local celebrations that the description of a medal being given in Wickhamford was an error? Any information on this subject would be welcome.
The amount of money collected by subscription for the celebrations amounted to £33 12s 8d, of which £10 4s 4d was devoted to prizes at the sports and other expenses. Mr Eyres Monsell, M.P. contributed £1, with his good wishes. Presumably he was doing the same for many other celebrations in his Constituency. He was Member of Parliament for Evesham from 1910-1935.
Peace Day Mugs
With money left over from the Peace Day festivities, it was decided to purchase Peace Mugs for the children of the parishes. Charles Binyon wrote in his diary on 5th December 1919:
Meeting to arrange about spending the balance over from the Peace Festivities. We agreed to buy 34 dozen Peace Mugs to give to the children, to include all babies born during the war, also to have a supper for all those who had served in the army or navy.
An entry in the School Log Book for 23rd January 1920 reported as follows:
Since Christmas, every child attending the school from the parishes of Badsey and Aldington and those who have left and were under 15 on 28th June, as well as all children under school age born before 1920, have been presented with a mug in commemoration of the Signing of the Peace. The mugs were provided from public subscriptions.
The Wickhamford children each received a Peace mug from Frank Banner, landlord of The Sandys Arms.
There were three images on the mug:
- FROM WAR – a picture of men going off to war.
- TO COMMEMORATE “PEACE” 1919 – a picture of a dove with olive branch and flags.
- TO PEACE – a picture of a man ploughing a field with horses.
The mug was produced by Aynsley, a British producer of fine bone china, tableware and commemorative memorabilia, founded in 1775 by John Aynsley in Staffordshire.
Tom Locke and Maureen Spinks – May 2021