and cities went wild across the West Midlands on November 11
as the region let its hair down following the announcement by the
Prime Minister that the Great War was over. In Walsall the news
that the armistice had been signed was greeted by people packing
up work immediately and surging into the streets in an excited mass.
Cheering crowds paraded through the town's main thoroughfares.
In "an amazingly short space of time" shop windows were ablaze
with the colours of the allies and flags and bunting floated in
the breeze in "kaleidoscope profusion." Walsall's public buildings
and high points of the town were quickly decorated in a burst of
colour - and whistles at works and along the railway were shrilling
out the message. Sirens, originally intended for announcing approaching
air raids, were utilised for signalling the joyful news.
Thousands of townfolk, intent on celebration, sported tri-colours
in their buttonholes and traders, bestowing stock on the public as
"patriotic favours" had their premises continually besieged as they
tried to satisfy the clamouring public. At the Guildhall, the newly
elected mayor said it was a pleasure for him to sit for the first
time at a moment when hostilities had ceased. In several cases proceedings
against defendants were withdrawn to mark the occasion.
In Bilston the news was greeted with the same high degree
of excitement as workers again dropped their tools and crowded into
the streets to celebrate and give vent to their pent up feelings.
The announcement was barely over when flags and bunting began appearing
almost everywhere as if by magic - and there was a rush on shops
which had flags to sell. By mid-day there was scarcely a building
in the town which was not bedecked and people gleefully used the
flags to wave greetings to each other.
Bilston town hall offered an eye-catching array of colours and
church bells rang out the joyous news across the town. Civic dignitaries
appeared on the town hall steps where an announcement was read of
the signing of the armistice quoted from the Express & Star.
The National Anthem was sung and cheers given for King George, Britain's
war leaders and the troops on the ground and at sea. Thanksgiving
services were also organised for later in the day at churches in
Wolverhampton staged a thanksgiving service in the Market Place, attended
by thousands of people including representatives of every section
of civic and religious life in the town. The Police Special Band led
the procession and banners were borne high at the scene. Civic leaders
spoke of the town's heroes who had helped to bring liberty and freedom.
The crowd was also told they must not forget their responsibility
to those maimed and injured in the conflict. Mention was also made
of the hundreds of homes in the town which had suffered bereavement.
The story was the same in Brierley Hill, Stafford, Wednesbury
and other areas of the West Midlands.
Dudley was also in triumphant mood as it was revealed that the
total investments of the town in the "Feed The Guns" week amounted
to 1,002, 352. Thousands of people gathered round the guns to witness
An estimate of the total casualties suffered in the war on both
sides, according to the Daily Express, was 26,000,000. They also
said the total cost of the war was 30,000,000,00
Print worker recounts the horrors of enemy cruelty: Express
& Star employee, Isaiah Thomas, who was captured by the Germans
during the war, spoke on November 27 of enemy cruelty to the prisoners
Private Thomas, who worked in the publishing department of the
Wolverhampton newspaper before joining the forces, said that after
his capture in France, he and others were put to work emptying trainloads
of shells. "It was not a pleasant thought that these were to be
used to kill our comrades," he said in interview on his return home.
Private Thomas said that, under the noses of the German guards,
they managed to extract vital parts from the shells thus sending
"dud" shells to the German lines.
He said they couldn't get food and were reduced to eating potato
peelings. He and 283 others went to an internment camp. Hundreds
of their comrades had died of starvation or ill-treatment by the
Private Thomas spoke of the cruelty of his captors. "Many a rifle
butt was broken on our men's shoulders, he said. "I was struck several
times, though I escaped fairly well from the violence."
He said the Germans robbed the prisoners, taking watches, rings
and money. They even took treasured photographs.
The state of the parties as Britain goes to the
polls: From the Express & Star of Saturday. December 28,
1918 a full page of election returns, proclaiming "surprising
results" across the country and reporting the death of former
Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.
It was, the sub-headline tells us: "A bad day
for the lady candidates."
Prime Minister David Lloyd George, who had only a
few weeks earlier had conferred upon him the freedom of Wolverhampton,
was re-elected with a personal majority of 12,898.
The make-up of the parties makes interesting reading.
Among them were: Coalition Unionist - who swept to victory; Coalition
Liberal; National Party; Discharged Soldiers and Sailors Federation:
National Democratic and Labour Party ; Unofficial Coalition Unionist;
and Unofficial Coalition Liberal.
Victorious in Wolverhampton were Bird (Coalition Unionist)
with a vote of 13,329 in Wolverhampton West; GR Thorne (Liberal)
in Wolverhampton East, 7,660; and Hickman(Coalition Unionist) in
Wolverhampton Bilston with a vote of 10,343.