The Armistice – Ampthill, 1918

Monday, 11th November – the Armistice was signed at 5 o’clock where after the news rippled through Bedfordshire that firing would cease on all fronts at 11am.

In Bedford, immediately afterwards flags were flying all over the town, the church bells rang merry peals, and schools and most of the factories closed down. Soldiers were heartily cheered in the streets and jubilant crowds marched through the principal thoroughfares. The welcome news rippled throughout the County and there were many relieved and joyous scenes – read more.

How Ampthill received the news

News of the signing of the Armistice reached Ampthill about 10.20 a.m. on Monday, and instantly the flags of bygone days made their appearance one by one, until the town presented a festive appearance. About the largest flag in town was a huge one of the British colours, which hung outside the White Hart Hotel. Workshops and places of business closed and gave their attendants a holiday, and others took it. Those who could not have a flag had bows and enterprising shopkeepers did a good trade. The soldiers from the Camp had leave, and many of them crowded into the centre of the town, singing patriotic songs and making merry. A brewery dray, making its way from Bedford Street, met with an enthusiastic reception from the soldiers, who started to tug at the barrels of beer. The drayman was forced to return for shelter to the brewery premises. The scholars paraded the streets waving flags, singing songs and making an immense salute of noise. The flag on the church tower was hoisted, and the bells pealed out one of the most welcome peals ever heard in Ampthill.

The good old town clock in the market place, which had been silent for some years, took upon itself to send out its familiar chimes at 11 o’clock, causing the ears of the towns people to tingle at the well-remembered sound which had been lacking so long.

At the Parish Church a united public thanksgiving was held at which all classes and conditions were represented, and the Rector led the service. A solemn Te Deum was sung by a large congregation including Lady Ampthill and the Hon. Miss Russell and special thanksgiving hymns and Psalms were sung. Later on the school boys paraded for hours, fondly thumping kettles, pans and drums, and carrying flags, singing patriotic songs. In fact there never was such a commotion in the town, and such a feeling of thankfulness. There were mixed feelings of joy and sorrow in many hearts, especially those who had lost loved ones, but at the same time one and all were thanking that further sacrifice of life was now not necessary. Up to late hours the festive crowd occupied the market place, and the streets were alive with people. Several windows threw out the almost forgotten light.

On Tuesday a party of the Royal Engineers from Haynes Park on horseback, paraded the town making merriment. In the evening the drum and fife band of the Command Depot, assisted by a number of men from the Depot, held a torchlight tattoo through the town, and were loudly cheered wherever they went. All the main streets were paraded, whilst the band played lively airs and the torches threw a lurid glare over the whole scene. In conclusion the band, halted in the Market-place and played “He’s a jolly good fellow,” followed by “Rule Britannia” and, as a finale, “God save the King.”

On Sunday, 17th a special thanksgiving service for the victory of the Allies was held at St.Andrew’s Church, when a large congregation was present. Ampthill Urban and District Council, the V.A.D and the uniformed organisations were well-represented. The Rector, Rev Walter D. May, took the service. Afterwards the various bodies formed up outside the church, and marched off to their respective headquarters.

Source: The Bedfordshire Standard, 15th November 1918

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Text and images copyright S.Hartley (2015-)

Care is taken to ensure accuracy – please accept my apologies if the content contains any errors.

EXT038_18 Ampthill Armistice 1x3m PRESS.pdf

 

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