Preface: 11th November 1918

(From the memoirs of Horace Drake)

As I put down my pen on these memories, I found a delightful description of the end of WW1 in my childhood village Aberkenfig. I was born almost exactly 1 year later. The account was written many years ago by Roy Parkhouse, whose family like mine left Taunton in Somerset in the early years of the Century for South Wales. I believe that Roy would have approved my including his vivid account of one of history's greatest days, justifying for these ramblings the subtitle 'A Century of Reflections'.

 

From 'The Dusty Decade' by Roy Parkhouse:

"The end of the First World War, even to a twelve-year-old lather boy, was really something. It was the evening sessions at Charlie Jenkins’, the barber, shop and we were dealing with only a few casual customers. It was getting on for closing time, a precious hour for me. Suddenly, there was a lot of noise in Aberkenfig’s main street: the sound of children shouting and singing and banging tins. We had all heard rumours – rumours of the one thing that could bring smiles and laughter back again – the end of the War.

 

The barber, an ex-jockey, was only a small man, but as he dashed to the shop door, he seemed to grow in stature. As he opened the door, the clatter from the little street grew louder still as the marching boys and girls came abreast of us. He shouted something, I don’t know what, and was answered in a chorus of shouted words that made no sense to me and yet my mind said the War was over. “It’s over! It’s over”, the barber cried. Stanley, get your apron off. Quick! No sooner said than done. As I rushed towards the door, he dipped his hand in his pocket and passed me a threepenny bit, and in no time at all I was mingling with the mob of girls and boys and advised to get a biscuit-tin from the back of Perkins, the baker’s, shop. I can’t recall the next few moments. Whether I got the biscuit tin or not, I found myself marching, shouting, jostling along at least as far as the Red Bridge.

 

The noise, in a street usually so quiet that time of night, was almost deafening. Then, as quickly as the shouting had begun, it died down and further deadening, awful news filtered through. The War was not yet over. It was a false alarm. Again, my mind is a blank until next day, the 11th of November 1918. We were, as usual, at school, busy with our various lessons. Then, quietly, almost mysteriously, we became aware of teachers moving from one classroom to another, and odd whispers, excited whispers, and then we were summoned to the main hall. There, we were told, officially, that, at eleven-o-clock that very morning, an armistice would be signed between the Allies and the Germans.

 

While we were trying to come to terms with the word “armistice”, the headmaster told us with a joyous smile that the War was over – and that we could all go home. Hooray! Hooray!"

Two original letters written by JPR Marriott on Armistice Day 1918, in our family’s possession

Horace Drake, May 2015