Remembrance Day will be commemorated widely and respectfully right across our region on Sunday.
It will be 100 years since the guns finally fell silent on the blood-saturated battlefields of Europe.
Down The Mall has taken a slightly different look at Remembrance Day. Was it a time of boisterous jubilation in Bendigo? How did we mark the end of World War 1 in our streets and home?
We found some insights in The Advertiser’s letters to the editor, the news that greeted Bendigonians on that day.
First, one letter-writer raised a sobering issue of what the celebrations might mean.
“Influenza” noted that the public outpouring of joy had started the previous Friday (November 11 was on a Monday in 1918) and had featured very long, very loud blasts from all the mines across the city. He urged those planning the Armistice Day to be a little more sensitive to those who lost so much in the war.
“We all rejoice, but let us remember those of whom the too exuberant expression of our joy must cause suffering.”
While the signing of the Armistice was fully expected in Bendigo, and there had been a lot of celebrations in the days leading up to it, The Addy’s readers also woke to the news on that Monday that it was not yet a done deal.
The November 11, 1918 edition carried short reports from all over, from Quambatook to Ultima, detailing how, on the Friday before it had been announced that peace had been negotiated.
“During the afternoon business was suspended and a meeting held in the hall when addresses were delivered by the councillors and others. The school children paraded the streets, singing patriotic songs. A combined thanks-giving service is to be held on Monday night.” Ultima.
“A message was received here on Friday morning announcing that, an armistice had been signed by German delegates, and that fighting had .stopped. The news spread like wild fire. and the townspeople simply went mad. Business places were closed., bells were ringing, guns were fired, patriotic songs were sung, and processions were formed and paraded the streets all the morning, accompanied by martial music. The house were beflagged and bunting was hung across the streets. Motor cars were despatched into the country to spread the good tidings. ... Later in the day a damper was thrown over the proceeding by the receipt of a wire announcing that, the report was premature.” Quambatook.
One letter-writer urged caution, pointing out that the enemy was not known for keeping its word and war could resume at any time.
The Addy carried a special edition at 9pm on the 11th, but its report of how the (now verified) news was received as fairly down-key, under the heading “ARMISTICE SIGNED. The news in Bendigo. RESERVED REJOICINGS”
It said that about 1000 people gathered outside the Town Hall, quietly and without fanfare. They cheered when the Mayor, Cr A. Dunstan, finally came out to announced that the peace deal had finally been signed. He remarked he had been inside the hall waiting for hours as it would have been unfair to announce a peace breakthrough based on rumour.
The Advertiser’s editorial of November 12 soberly noted: “Even in countries such as Australia, where material destruction has been felt, it has been the cause of much human suffering which only the healing hands of time can lessen. May the people of the nations involved in the titanic struggle turn to the Giver of all mercies with a thankful heart of prayer that peace is coming once more over the world.”
Hardly triumphant chest-thumping.
Meanwhile, the rest of the November 11 edition showed life went on, with notices such as that Mr W. White (Returned Soldier) of 27 Booth Street, Golden Square had resumed his business of tuning and restoring pianos and organs.
Humme and Iser, opposite the town hall, had just received a new shipment of Canadian wall papers. Jas. Friswell had a sale on prime meat.
Dr Scott had resumed his private hospital in Rowan Street.
W.S. Dunstan on the corner of Pall Mall and Mitchell Street had big discounts on meat “on account of the peace terms”, and the Federal Government, sitting in Melbourne, had declared a public holiday.