When Great Yarmouth gave peace a chance with two days of celebrations
- Credit: Archant
VE Day and VJ Day in 1945, celebrating the end of the wars in Europe and the Far East, are still recalled annually although nearly three-quarters of a century has passed.
But Peace Day? That's a new one. I have never heard of it, and am sure many readers will be equally surprised!
However, today marks its centenary, according to local historian and author Colin Tooke who says: "Although Prime Minister David Lloyd George declared July 19 as a Bank Holiday for people to celebrate the end of the war, it appears that Yarmouth decided on two days of celebration!"
The entire programme laid emphasis on the children who had lived through that 1914-18 conflict, many of whom had seen their fathers and elder brothers leaving them and their mothers behind to join the armed force, perhaps not to return.
According to a Yarmouth newspaper: "Many memorable services have on different occasions been held in the ancient and historic church of St Nicholas (today, the Minster) but the service of thanksgiving on Friday in which upwards of 4,000 children took part was one never to be forgotten.
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"Every available space in the church was filled with juveniles, all of whom joined most heartily and reverently in the great service, while the enthusiasm put into the singing by the fresh young voices was very marked."
He offered thanks for the great victory to us and our allies, for the restoration of the peace, and "for the great multitude who have laid down their lives for us."
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When the National Anthem was sung, "the grand old church again rang with the voices of thousands of children."
An immense crowd watched the youngsters leaving to return to their schools, marching four abreast and passing the Mayor and Mayoress, Mr and Mrs William Bayfield.
All the children looked exceedingly happy, most wearing rosettes, a favour or some festive ribbon, while others carried miniature flags.
"That afternoon the children were entertained to tea at their schools, followed by sports, concerts and other entertainment. The teachers did everything possible for the happiness of the youngsters and it was a day that will live long in the memory of every scholar.
"After tea, Northgate Girls' School had a steamer trip to Burgh Castle which was greatly enjoyed. Inmates of the Children's Convalescent Home on Euston Road were taken round the town on a tramcar to view the decorations, and afterwards entertained to tea."
The tea for pupils at the David Tomkins School in the Conge Mission Hall included "a monster iced cake weighing 30lb" provided by Mr J D Gobbett and cut and served by the Mayor and Mayoress.
Some 3,500 former and current servicemen plus Boy Scouts who saw war service dined in eight different venues, including the Town Hall, Goode's Assembly Rooms, Hill's Restaurant and Gorleston Pavilion, with entertainment following the meal.
When the Mayor and Mayoress called at the Savoy Hotel, one of the dinner venues, a guest named Goodrum brought a sombre note to the joyous occasion.
He said he was a prisoner of war from October 1914 until December 1918 "and they had much to thank the women of England for all they did - had it not been for them, they would not have returned.
"The enemy tried to bring them to their knees time after time, but did not succeed.".
The next day townsfolk "made merry, out on pleasure bent" in glorious weather. Thronged streets looked festive as a procession of decorated motors, horsed lorries, bicycles and mail-carts passed by.
The RAF took first prize with a car with "the Jazz Army which had some weird instruments on board, chief of which was a foghorn and clamorous bell."
Second was Mr J E Starling's car "transformed into a well-modelled sky blue fish, not even the wheels being visible."
It bore the announcement: "Who says Yarmouth is not a trawl port?"