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Picture House, Stafford
Old photograph of the Picture House, Stafford

Unseen archives reveal jubilant mood in Staffordshire town following the Armistice

Bells ringing, fog horns going off on the railway, flags hoisted, and people dancing about were the scenes in Stone on Armistice Day described in a letter written by Lois Turner.

In her letter dated 14th November 1918 to her brother, a soldier serving in Palestine, she described the relief and excitement of Armistice Day and the noise in the streets in the town centre. She also talks about the novelty of the lights being on everywhere, the beer, a big bonfire and a firework display for the wounded soldiers.

The fact that the war was over however didn’t lessen the worry about her brother, who she had last heard from a month earlier. He had been about to go ‘up the line’ in Palestine.

Lois also goes on to talk about local news, including the death of a local man, only 20 years old, a few weeks before the war ended.  She also mentions some of the Belgian refugees who had settled in Stone and now serving in the war with whom her brother had planned to meet up with once the war was over. She finishes by wishing her brother a merry Christmas because she expects her letter won’t reach him much before that.

Lois Turner letter

Lois Turner writes to her brother Bill

Lois adds: “We got the news here at 11.30 and in less than five minutes all the bells were ringing, flags hoisted and put out of windows, fog horns going off on the railway and people dancing about…. We all went down the town in the afternoon. All of Stone was down there. There was the old band dressed in their red uniforms and three lots of scouts playing about the town… The wounded soldiers had a big bonfire and fireworks and were allowed out till ten o’clock and they say there was a barrel of beer in the bottom Brewery yard for the soldiers to help themselves too, anyhow there were plenty of them up the pole….”

This rarely seen letter is part of a collection of archives being revealed by Staffordshire County Council’s Archives Service to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armistice.  The materials include letters, diaries, posters and photos.

Gill Heath, Cabinet Member for Communities at Staffordshire County Council, said:

“This is a great letter from Lois and gives us a real insight into the mood at the time in a provincial market town. It has everything, from the wait on tenterhooks for the news that the war had ended to the colourful description of what Armistice Day was actually like in Stone. She also talks of her continuing worry about her brother last heard from about to go into battle, as well as some local gossip about life in the town.

“Over the last four years our archives service has been busy documenting records to help us understand what life was like during these incredibly important years in history. Archives like these are really precious and it’s vital we keep them for future generations to learn from.”

Other documents in the collection include letters from Captain Noel Stubbs of Stone, an officer in the Royal Field Artillery. Stubbs wrote that whilst it was initially “glorious to think that the war is at last over and it is only a matter of time now until Peace is signed and demobilisation starts” there was still a long road ahead.

Captain Noel Stubbs letter

Letters from Captain Noel Stubbs

Thoughts were also inevitably drawn to those who would not be returning home to their families. In his diary General Sir Walter Norris Congreve, of Stowe-by-Chartley, is still mourning the death of his son William La Touche Congreve, who died aged 25 on 20th July 1916. He sadly writes: “I can think of nothing but what the war has cost me in taking Billie. I can get up none of the enthusiasm which makes the streets full of cheering crowds…”.

For further details on the documents contact Staffordshire.record.office@staffordshire.gov.uk or follow the service on Twitter and Facebook.