The End - Lerwick, 11th November 1918

The End - Lerwick, 11th November 1918

It was with subdued feelings, a sensation that ran too deep for words, that people met each other and with genuine hand-clasps congratulated each other that the maiming and killing of the boys were at an end.

The Shetland Times of 16th November reported the armistice that ended the fighting. Importantly, it noted that recruiting was suspended. There were still casualties to report, Private William Anderson, RAF, had died of flu, as had Gunner Alexander Campbell. Private William Bruce, New Zealand, Private Colin Henry, and W R Tait, RGA died directly as a result of war. Casualty reports were to continue for some time. A headline said "GERMAN WARSHIPS RAISE THE RED FLAG". A piece from the National Tidende, Copenhagen showed the situation in Germany.

Soldiers speak very openly in the Rostock papers of their desire for peace, and of their expectations that it will come within the next few days. The Kaiser’s time is over, they say, and he must go.

The news that there was to be an armistice came via a wireless signal to Rear-Admiral Greatorex, Senior Naval Officer in Shetland. Then the news came from the news agencies. By nine o’clock the Shetland Times had a placard with the announcement in the window of the Times’ Commercial Street offices. People gathered around it. At the Central School the headmaster, Mr Durham, volunteered his schoolboys to deliver the paper’s free handbills to every household and visitor in the town.

So the first visible sign of peace was a crowd on Commercial Street and schoolboys going to and fro across the streets and lanes. Soon there were flags out and buildings decorated. Ships blew their sirens.

In the early evening groups of small youths paraded the streets, carrying Union Jacks, the tricolour of France and the Stars and Stripes, singing snatches of patriotic songs, and cheering with all the wild abandonment of youth.

At night the ships blew their sirens again, and let off flares. An aurora display, the northern lights, formed a natural backdrop.

The following day, Tuesday, was declared a holiday. Lerwick was a church-going town and the the main collective expressions about the armistice were religious. In the morning there was a united service. It began with the hymn "God is our Refuge and our Strength". The Reverend MacIntyre presided, dwelling on "Why did God allow this thing to go on?"

At the end of the service a procession of people left St Colomba's Kirk and went to the Market Cross. There Sheriff Menzies spoke to the crowd and called for three cheers for the King "as head of the Nation and Empire". He spoke about the men who had left and would not come return. There was a further round of cheers for France, and a band played the Marseillaise. He called for three cheers for the Stars and Stripes of America, and Provost Goodlad finished the gathering by calling for three cheers for the Army and Navy.

The afternoon and evening saw further religious expressions. The Reverend J Hartley Thomson ran a children’s service in the afternoon. The Reverend David Houston took the one in the evening. After that, people went home. It was a dark evening in November, after all.

All places of business being closed, Commercial Street was comparatively quiet in the evening. A number of service men were about, and those sang, danced, and gave many indications of rejoicing in sailor-like fashion, but long before midnight the streets were deserted.

There had been boisterous expressions of joy and relief in public. For many people, though, it was an occasion for contemplation.

Armistice Notice. Shetland Archives D6/294/1p22.