Last Sunday, 11 November, marked 100 years since the official end of World War I. Initially called Armistice Day, it became known as Remembrance Day after the end of World War II. An article in the Dictionary by Dr Neil Radford has described what that day was like back in 1918.
By the time the end of the war came, more than 60,000 Australians had been killed and 160,000 wounded, many suffering both physical and mental disabilities. Rumours of the end of the war came a few days before the actual signing of the Armistice and on 8 November (or ‘False Alarm Friday’), crowds filled the streets of Sydney and businesses closed as people celebrated well into the night.
Finally on the evening of 11 November official news was received that the Armistice had been signed. In response, church bells rang, trains and ferries sounded their horns, and cheering crowds once again assembled in the streets. By 9pm, the crowds in Martin Place, Pitt Street and George Street were so dense that transportation into the city had to be suspended.
The following day was declared a public holiday as the celebrations continued. The bell in the General Post Office tower rang for 10 minutes from 9am and then for five minutes every half hour until noon. Crowds filled the city once again, waving flags and throwing confetti. An effigy of the Kaiser, the German Emperor, was hanged and burned from the buildings of AMP and the Sydney Mail newspaper in the city, and in other Sydney suburbs. The Governor, Premier and Lord Mayor spoke in Martin Place and ‘God Save the King’ and ‘Rule Britannia’ were sung. The celebrations continued the following day, with a march of some 6,000 returned soldiers and sailors followed by a gathering in The Domain of an estimated 200,000 people.
Although overshadowed somewhat by ANZAC Day celebrations in Australia, Remembrance Day has been commemorated around the Commonwealth at 11am on 11 November every year since 1918. The significance behind this time relates to when the guns on the Western Front fell silent – at 11am on 11 November 1918 – and the Great War was finally over.
Dr Neil Radford, Celebraitng the end of World War I, Dictionary of Sydney https://dictionaryofsydney.org/entry/celebrating_the_end_of_world_war_i
Nicole Cama is a professional historian, writer and curator. She appears on 2SER on behalf of the Dictionary of Sydney in a voluntary capacity. Thanks Nicole!