Local Historian, Jim Bell unearths this extensive coverage of Wokingham’s Armistice Celebrations:
“On Saturday, Wokingham duly celebrated the peace. The proceedings commenced at 7 a.m., when peals were rung on the church bells. At 10 a.m. the town band commenced to play in the Market Place. The officers and men who had been invited to send in their names and had received a card of invitation from the Mayor, assembled in Rectory Road and at 11.30 commenced a triumphal march through the principal streets of the town under command of Admiral J.B. Eustace, assisted by Colour-Sergeant H. Harvey, 4th Royal Berks. Retired, the only man who wore the old red volunteer uniform, and acted as chief marshall. Headed by the Wokingham Military Band the procession proceeded through Broad Street, which had been extensively decorated, the trees and lamp posts being bedecked with national colours, evergreens etc. A large wreath in the centre of the street. “Our bold and brave heroes, 1914-18.” Was saluted by the column.
A triumphal arch had been erected by the corporation from the London and County Bank to Mr. T.M. Welch’s premises, bearing the words “We thank you.” Rose Street was also very gaily hung with flags and streamers, with the motto “Welcome Home” suspended across the street. As the procession emerged from Rose Street against All Saints’ Church the bells rung a peal of welcome. Marching up Peach Street, the procession entered the Market Place through an arch similar to that in Broad Street, but bearing the words “Well done boys.” The Church Lad’s Brigade bugle band were in the centre of the procession and took turns with the military band in providing music.
The wounded and disabled who were accommodated in two wagons immediately behind the leading band everywhere most heartily greeted.
Upon a draped and coloured dais in the Market Place, facing Denmark Street stood the Mayor in his robes attended by the Town Clerk, the mace bearer (Sergeant Sparkes), the town crier (Mr. J. Taylor) and the four honorary constables. There were also upon the platform the Mayoress, the Rev. B. Long, the Rev. H. M. Walter, the Rev. A.P. Carr and Rev. J. Conolly, Aldermen Hughes and Sale. Councillors Hammond, Martin, Blake, Whaley, Priest, Brant, Bodle and Headington. Mr. C.W. Marks (surveyor), Colonel Walker, Mayor Hanbury O.B.E., Mrs. Murdoch, Mr and Mrs. W. Howard Palmer, Mrs. H. Walter, Mrs. Eustace, Mrs. Hanbury, Miss Hanbury, Mrs. T.W. Heelas, Miss Sturges, Miss Gregorie, Mr. A Rasey and Mr. William Palmer.
The cadet band KRR sounded the Royal salute. The Mayor (Alderman Mylne) announced that he had received from H.M. the King, a message to all magistrates and lord lieutenants of counties. The National Anthem was then sung, led by the band, Mr. Yould conducting.
The Mayor then said, ”Officers and men from the Navy, Army and the Air Force, it is my privilege as Mayor and speaking for all the people of Wokingham to bid you all welcome here today and to render to you our unstinted thanks for all you have done, all you have suffered and all you have gone through in these last few years. We rejoice that it is at last possible for us to meet so many of you after all the hardships you have gone through, since that day in which each one of you took his part in the magnificent response which you made to your country’s call in its hour of need. Some of you have been in the navy or army since the beginning of the war. Some of you were in that first army that went to Belgium—an army which I have heard has been called ‘a contemptible little army’: small it certainly was, but there is not a man in the world today, least of all in Germany, who would venture to call it contemptible.
Others of you who took part, leaving all in that mighty rush of men which changed the British Army from being reckoned in thousands to being reckoned in by millions. You, who have been through it, know what the sacrifices have been. You know even how thin a line, once and again, there was that there was all there was left to withstand the German onrush. You know, too, how indispensable it was that H M Navy should keep a ceaseless and sleepless watch throughout all the time.
What would our position have been today if that thin line had given way or that ceaseless watch failed for one hour? What sort of peace should we have had today? What would have been our condition? Some of you have been in France and Belgium and you know and can answer that question. But that ceaseless watch was maintained till the last hour and that this line never broke, and when today we are celebrating peace, it is that great and glorious victory, brought about in the providence of God through the valour of the sailors, soldiers and airmen of the British Empire. But in the midst of our rejoicings let us not forget the sacrifices that have been made. Let us not forget that there are some hearts in the Empire today because of those who, to gain that victory and to win this peace laid down their lives and their names live for ever more.
When we have celebrated this peace today, which we hope will soon spread the world over, let us all stand united as we have done in those dreadful days of war in the last five years, and each in his own part, do whatsoever in him lies, to promote the common good and to bring back with peace prosperity to our native land build up a greater, more honourable and a more powerful Britain than the world had ever known before so that the victories of peace will be no less worthy of celebration than the victories of war. And now we ask you to accept our hospitality and entertainment and we hope that for you and to all of us it may be a happy and a memorable day.” (applause).
“Land of Hope and Glory” was then sung, the sole being taken in unison by some 20 choirboys, the assembly led by the band joining in the chorus. Miss Edna Martin presented a lovely bouquet to the Mayoress. The Rev. B Long called for “three cheers for the boys,” which were heartily given also “three more for their wives.”
Photo: Frederick Caiger of Peach Street, welcomes home his son Henry who saw service through the entire war, was wounded and became a Sergeant.