A century ago, in November 1918, the most terrible war that the world had ever known was nearing its end, although to a Britain exhausted by four long years of struggle and sacrifice, the deprivations caused by the ruinous cost of the war and the submarine threat were making life very difficult.
As reported in the pages of the Middlesex Chronicle, food rationing had been introduced for the first time in January, initially for sugar, but soon extended to meat, butter, cheese and margarine. It was made compulsory to use potato flour in bread. As recently as the 19th October, tea, jam and marmalade had been added to the list of rationed foods.
Fuel was rationed too. The Brentford Gas Company which supplied much of this area reduced gas supplies by a sixth compared with the previous year, and all public entertainments would have to close by 10.30pm to save electricity and gas. Hotels, restaurants and clubs were only permitted to serve hot meals between 5pm and 9.30pm.
So when it was suddenly announced that the Armistice had been signed, and the fighting would stop at 11am on the 11th November, the news was met with a sense of disbelief, to be succeeded by tremendous relief that it was all over. According to the Middlesex Chronicle, ‘Sunbury was be-flagged in honour of peace and a procession formed at Kempton Park which marched through the district with bands, banners and noise’. Churches held services of thanksgiving, although there seems not to have been any more widely organised celebrations.
This was perhaps because it was an armistice, i.e. a cessation of hostilities. The war did not officially end until the Versailles peace treaty was signed the following June, whereupon peace celebrations such as the one seen above in Church Square, Shepperton, were held.
How wonderful it would be if as many people as possible could attend their local Remembrance Sunday services this centenary year, particularly as it falls exactly 100 years to the day since the guns fell silent. We can then truly say of those men (and one woman) of Sunbury, Shepperton, Littleton and Laleham, whose names appear on the memorials which are the focus of the commemorations, ‘We will remember them’.
‘The March of the Women – Surrey’s Road to the Vote’, the story of the local suffragette movement, is the subject of the next meeting of the Sunbury and Shepperton Local History Society. The meeting takes place on Tuesday 20th November at Halliford School in Russell Road, Shepperton, starting at 8pm. All welcome, admission £2 for non-members