Those crowded along the Mall, were greatly impressed by
Lutyens' Cenotaph where the troops were to march past and salute the "glorious
|Standing in the centre of Whitehall, the memorial
was most impressive, with its summit crowned by a great laurel wreath, holding in place a
Union Jack that was draped loosely above the monument. The sides were adorned with the
White Ensign, the Red Ensign and the Union Jack representing the Navy, the Mercantile
Marine, and the Army.
On the steps
were a number of tiny home-made wreaths and humble garden flowers, placed there by loving
hands. A very pathetic instance occurred just before the arrival of the procession. A
lady, richly attired in the deepest mourning, emerged from the crowd. Silence immediately
fell upon the huge assemblage. Slowly advancing to the Cenotaph, she reverently laid a
beautiful wreath at its base. She remained for a few moments with head bowed in sorrow and
pride before again disappearing among the people.
from Sunday Times, 20
The Victory parade itself was a massive success. Nearly 15,000 troops took part in the march, led by
the victorious Allied commanders. The salutes of Pershing, Foch, Haig and Beatty to dead
comrades as they passed the Cenotaph were captured in unforgettable photographs which
appeared in newspapers throughout the country.
Later in the day there were entertainments put on by
the League of Arts in St James' Park; Shakespeare was performed by the National
Organisation of Girls' Clubs in Regent's Park. There was a concert in Green Park, and an
Imperial Choir of 10,000 voices with the massed bands of the Brigade of Guards, in Hyde
Park, to which the King and Queen paid a surprise visit during the afternoon.
A lavish firework display
followed at 9.45pm which led to a widely reported unfortunate accident for Lady Diana
Cooper, the society beauty whose recent marriage to the dashing young officer Duff Cooper
had been a media sensation.
In his memoirs Duff Cooper
|On 19th July we watched from
Carlton House Terrace the peace procession, in which I thought Foch was the most
impressive figure. That evening we went to dine with friends in a house in Mayfair in
order to see the firework display. On account of the crowds in the streets and the
impossibility of getting transport we arrived very late and dinner was finished. We were
helping ourselves to what remained of it when it was reported that the fireworks were
beginning and Diana, ever enthusiastic, led the procession to the roof. I was bringing up
the rear, had reached the top floor and was about to climb the ladder that led up from it,
when I heard the sound of shattered glass followed, after what seemed to me a long
interval, by the sound of a falling body.
I opened a door from behind which the noise seemed to come and
looked into a narrow box-room, on the floor of which Diana was lying. She had fallen
through a skylight about twenty-five feet from the floor. The opening was so narrow that
the large hat she was wearing remained on the roof. She had broken her thigh. ... This was
not an auspicious beginning to our married life.
from Old Men Forget,
Duff Cooper (1955)
Round the country celebrations took a host of
different forms: convicts at Parkhurst prison on the Isle of Wight were were given a holiday and extra rations including plum pudding. Birmingham laid on entertainment in its municipal
parks for all the city's children who were also presented with a commemorative medal.
In Tisbury, Wiltshire there was a children's procession (pictured above),
followed by a tea-party, and dancing.
Cakes and ale were added to the meals at some of the workhouses -
and at Shoreditch old married couples were allowed to sit together "if they wanted
to." In Reading the Lady Mayoress planted trees grown from seeds picked up on the
In Gillingham, Kent:
A grand parade
of the armed forces through gaily decorated streets, was followed in the afternoon by a
procession of schoolchildren ...Entertainment by St Luke's Gymnasts and the Salvation Army
band followed the Big Tea Party, concluding with evening fireworks arranged by the
military on the Great Lines.
received favourable comment, especially the Corporation's coloured display of its
arms, the High Street Conservative Club's illuminated crown, and A.F. Smith's (Duncan
Road) novel windmill with four revolving sweeps each studded with fairy lights. Balmoral
Road residents arranged a life-size representation of a British tar, rolling up his
sleeves ready for action.
The trams ran until
well after midnight, when an impromptu Barber's Shop Quartet assembled outside Dr
Aldrich's house, favouring all of Balmoral and Duncan Roads with patriotic and sentimental
songs until 2 am. The good doctor then joined them for The End of a Perfect Day and
the National Anthem.
from The Book of
Gillingham, Norman Tomlinson (1979)
Not everyone joined in with
the spirit of things: in Leamington ex-servicemen refused to take part in a procession but declined the
honour of being "ornaments for one day" and in Merthyr Tydfil, 25,000 people attended a thanksgiving service in
Penydarron Park, then passed a unanimous resolution calling for higher pensions for
ex-servicemen and their dependants. In the afternoon Manchester city centre saw a procession of unemployed and demobilised soldiers carrying
banners demanding "work not charity", and the Manchester Evening News remarked
"the printed invocation to the crowds to 'Honour the dead - remember the living' was
a depressing note to sound in the midst of the jubilation."
The most serious disruption
of the celebrations came in Luton, where there was already bad feeling over the town
council's refusal to allow discharged soldiers to hold their own memorial service in a
The town clerk's office was
broken into and a bonfire was made of papers and documents. The fire brigade was prevented
from approaching the fire, and police and special constables were driven hack. The Town
Hall was burnt out before a detachment of soldiers arrived, who dispersed the remaining
rioters who were by that time staging an impromptu sing-song on a stolen piano. For days,
Luton was under military occupation.
As one newspaper put it:
|Peace has brought disaster to Luton. They are now
without a town hall, half of the police force of the town is on the sick list, nearly all
the members of the fire brigade are down with injuries, more or less serious, and there is
a bill of damages estimated at more than £200,000.
in Daily Express, 21 July 1919
In the final analysis of course, the terms of
that Peace signed at Versailles were to prove even more disastrous for Europe, with the
festering resentment over reparations playing a large part in the rise of the Nazi party,
and the subsequent horrors of yet another war to end wars.
The Cenotaph referred to in this article was a temporary structure, which
quickly began to deteriorate. Lutyens designed its permanent replacement which was
the centrepiece of the ceremony on 11 November 1920 when the body of the Unknown Warrior was returned to Britain for a state funeral in