Today is the centenary of the signing of the Armistice which brought an end to the fighting of WW1. News arrived in the Western District between 8.30pm and 9.30pm on Monday 11 November 1918 while for other towns, it was the following morning. Everyone knew it was coming, the question was when. Hopes were high after the surrender of Austria and Turkey but there was still uncertainty and an unwillingness to celebrate until the official word came through.
Most towns had put in some preparation organising bands and ensuring bunting was at hand ready to decorate the streets. Early on 8 November, rumours spread around Hamilton, Coleraine and other Western District towns that the signing had taken place. But they were just rumours.
Let’s do a fly around the Western District and see how each town reacted. In most cases, the reaction was like nothing seen before.
In Ararat, official news came through at 8.30pm on 11 November. Bells started to ring and the two local brass bands swung into action.
Celebrations continued on into the morning of Tuesday 12 November.Then into Tuesday evening with an open-air concert at Alexandra Park.
In Penshurst, church bells rang and the Penshurst Brass Band played.
Just before 9pm, the Hamilton Spectator received a cable and immediately told those waiting in front of the offices in Gray Street. Bells rang, the bands played and people flooded into the streets. The Hamilton Brass Band was taken by motor car to Tarrington to tell residents there.
After a false start to celebrations, Coleraine took no time took to get in the spirit. On 12 November the children marched along the streets of the town.
At Casterton, the townsfolk were “delirious with joy”. There was fireworks, bands and dancing.
Tuesday 12 November was a holiday in Casterton as it was in most places.
Some towns like Sandford and Merino waited until official word was received the following morning. At Sandford, in a prearranged manoeuvre, the sight of the flag going up the pole of the Post Office signalled the end of the war.
At Merino, bells rang and guns fired.
Heywood held off with celebrations until official word came after 9am on Tuesday 12 November. Preparations were then quickly underway for a large demonstration at 3pm
At Portland, the Observer received an urgent wire from Reuters around 9.30pm on 11 November with the news and the celebrations began. People got out of the beds and rushed into the streets.
At Orford, a public picnic was planned for the following Friday.
At Port Fairy, there were a couple of hiccups but that did suppress the euphoria.
The official message arrived about 9pm on 11 November and the news spread around the town like wildfire.
Tuesday was a holiday and just as well because no one would have turned up for work anyway. Port Fairy’s celebrations continued all Tuesday and into Wednesday.
At Koroit the shops and school closed Tuesday and Wednesday. A large bonfire was built and on Tuesday night after a parade, it was lit.
In Warrnambool, people waited outside the Standard office for the news on the evening of 11 November. Fire bells started ringing as soon as the news was read out.
A torchlight parade was organised for Tuesday night with a massed tin-can band.
Buildings and streets across Warrnambool were decorated with flags and bunting.
Camperdown residents rushed into Manifold Street.
Cobden celebrated too.
In Colac, they went “wild”.
A torchlight parade took place on Tuesday night.
.Despite all the celebrations, the underlying feeling was summed up by the Warrnambool Standard.