They danced, they sang and they waved flags as Sunderland celebrated the end of the Great War

Britain is getting ready to remember its heroes.

Thursday, 10th November 2016, 10:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 3:37 pm
How the Echo reported the news.

On November 11, we commemorate the millions who gave their lives in the line of duty.

Many of them perished in the bloodiest of them all, the First World War.

Philip Curtis, from the Sunderland Antiquarian Society, has taken a trip into the archives to recall how Armistice Day was marked in the city in 1918.

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It was a typical November morning in Sunderland.

It was still, with mist preventing the sun from appearing.

The Armistice had been signed at 5 that morning.

Once the news reached the town, it did not take long for Wearsiders to begin to congregate in front of the Town Hall.

There were two focal points for the crowds. One was the Town Hall in Fawcett Street and the other was the Echo Office in Bridge Street (there was no radio or television then).

There was great excitement in Fawcett Street with a lot of flag-waving, singing and cheering.

The local shops, especially Josephs, in Union Street, was doing a roaring trade in Union Jacks at one shilling a time.

Bridge Street and West Wear Street were packed with hundreds of Wearsiders making their way to the Echo Office for the latest news.

At 10.40a.m. when the Armistice notice was put in the Echo office window and the flag hoisted on the building, there was a tremendous outburst of cheering from everyone.

Every newspaper boy was pounced upon as he left the building with his batch of Echoes (they cost one penny then).

One boy was so besieged that he ended up selling his papers on his knees. The pressure on the paper boys went on for some time, each managing to get a little further into the street until the crowds were served.

As the news spread into the town, flags began to be hoisted on buildings, the buzzers at the shipyards and on ships in the river began to be sounded and workmen began to leave the yards in hundreds.

Crowds continued to gather during the afternoon with many wearing patriotic colours and rows of soldiers and sailors could be seen walking arm-in-arm.

Someone in High Street West produced a fiddle and men and women began dancing in the street and there seemed to pandemonium in Crowtree Road with fireworks continually going off.

The East End Ragtime Band was out playing and at noon the Mayor, Alderman W.F. Vint, addressed the crowds outside the Town Hall.

He said that his heart went out to the people of the town and then declared the day a holiday asking tradesmen to close their shops.

Work in schools was interrupted with head teachers announcing the news and informing pupils that they had the rest of the day off as a holiday.

At 3.30pm the Police Band, which had been parading the streets, finally arrived outside the Town Hall and played the British and French national anthems as well as Rule Britannia.

By then the crowds were the densest ever seen in the city.

The streets were packed well into the evening. Owing to lighting difficulties the illuminations were on a very limited scale.

The best display was at Black’s Theatre in Crowtree Road (later the Kings) but many shops in town displayed lit candles inside coloured glass jars in their windows.

Appropriately that evening, the drama playing at the Theatre Royal in Bedford Street was ‘Home from the Trenches’.

The crowds eventually dispersed and, by 11pm, the streets were all but deserted with just a few groups left making their weary way home, exhausted after having a thoroughly enjoyable time.

Many Wearsiders did not return to work that week but, after a few days rejoicing, Sunderland gradually settled down.

The war to end all wars was finally over.