On 11 November 1918, armistice was agreed between the Allies and Germany, marking an end to fighting in World War I. In Basingstoke, crowds packed into the Market Place, hung out of every window and scaled the roofs of local buildings to hear the announcement from the balcony of the Town Hall. As with all towns and cities across Britain, the war had taken its toll. Over 230 servicemen from Basingstoke had died in the four years of fighting. Our photographic collection captures the palpable relief and joy from this momentous day.
Thornycroft, a major employer and vehicle manufacturer in Basingstoke, organised a huge parade to celebrate the armistice. This celebration took place a few days later on 16 November 1918. Terry Hunt, a local photographer, captured the celebrations.
At the head of the Thornycroft parade was the company’s band. They were photographed in their fancy dress costumes, carrying flags and bunting.
Behind the celebration's vanguard was a procession of around 60 floats which stretched for approximately one mile. Each float was decorated with flags and bunting celebrating the role of both Britain and the Allies in the war.
Many of the floats were decorated by Thornycroft employees. As you would expect, they didn’t pass up the opportunity to show what they had achieved during the war years. Thornycroft manufactured munitions and also developed a new way of deploying depth charges to protect Allied shipping. The men and women who worked in the ‘Gun Shop’ paraded on a float, dressed in sailor uniforms and showing everyone what they had built as their contribution to the war effort.
Millions of women took up factory jobs to meet the nation’s production demands. Thornycroft was one of the largest employers of women in vehicle manufacture in Britain, accounting for around 35% of the company's workforce. These workers, dressed in their workshop uniforms, paraded on floats alongside their workshop machinery.
Early in the war, the Admiralty requested the development of a small, fast vessel able to deploy depth chargers and fire torpedoes. Thornycroft's answer was the Thornycroft Motor Boat which was proudly displayed.
It wasn’t all about the hardware. Not to be outdone, the ‘Pencil Pushing Department’ had a float decorated with drawings of their designs including the Depth Charge Thrower.
The parade couldn’t be all about Thornycroft, however. Servicemen and women had their own floats with soldiers, nurses and doctors taking centre stage.
After the parade, thousands of people joined a torchlight procession through Basingstoke to the common where a fireworks display was held. You could imagine emotions running high as effigies of the Kaiser and Hindenburg were burned on a bonfire.
In 2018, these photographs were kindly donated to our historic photographic collection, helping to preserve how the people of Basingstoke celebrated Armistice Day over 100 years ago.
This full collection of photographs can now be seen in our online collections catalogue.
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