In the days leading up to the Armistice the sense of expectation in the British press built to a fever pitch. They had of course been following each twist and turn of the political negotiations but as an end to the war became a certainty the excitement built. Suddenly there were practical arrangements to be made, questions to be answered. Local papers sought to find a balance between the momentous historical events that were unfolding and the concerns of a readership poised on the verge of cheering.
No-one knew how the news would be released and nobody wanted to miss it. The Birmingham Mail on Friday November 9 explained the plans the council were putting in place. Dark reddish flares would be set off from police stations and public buildings and in the windows of the rival Birmingham Post to spread the long awaited news – competition temporarily forgotten.
Anticipation over the weekend remained high but still there was no firm news. The papers, both regional and national, covered every piece of news to come out of Europe. The Kaiser wouldn’t abdicate, the armistice wasn’t signed, the deadline approached. Finally, with only 5 hours to spare, Germany signed the terms of the deal. As Monday morning dawned, the papers shared the news, even if it had come in after they went to press.
Later editions started to describe local reaction to the news and here the local papers had a much more intimate story to tell. While the Mirror captured the sense of anticipation as Londoners flocked to the city centre.
But for the Lancashire Evening Post it was the children of Haslingden who captured the mood of the day.
But there was a realisation that for those who would celebrate that night this was not a return to how things were before. The world was a more uncertain place. An election was expected in Britain, a new Russia was being carved out, Europe had deep scars to heel. The returning men were coming home to a different world. Even as they celebrated, the papers sounded a note of caution as they published the arrangements to light that special night.