Hebden Bridge author reflects on the end of the Great War

Retired history teacher Peter Thomas
Retired history teacher Peter Thomas

A Hebden Bridge man is reflecting on 100 years since the end of the Great War.

Peter Thomas published a book entitled “Hardship & Hope - Hebden Bridge and Todmorden During The First World War (1914-1918)” back in 2016.

He concluded the book with a chapter entitled “A Time to Reflect” and is taking the time ahead of Remembrance Day to remember the end of the conflict.

Retired history teacher Peter said: “After four years of gruelling conflict, with Germany in a state of collapse, the end of the Great War came with an agreement to cease fire at 11am on November 11, 1918.

“The final acts of the drama came so quickly that many were taken by surprise.

“This seems to have been the case locally. On the morning of the Armistice, rumours were abroad in Hebden Bridge, but by 11.20am excited conjecture had become official news.

“Mills and businesses closed down at once and the streets were soon filled with a jubilant throng of people. Schools closed in the early afternoon and the children were promised a day’s holiday for the following Friday, November 15. Belgian refugees joined the party and the strains of the ‘Marseillaise’ could be heard in streets. Flags and bunting appeared, and the Hebden Bridge Brass Band provided entertainment.

“For the first time since the outbreak of war, the bells of Heptonstall church came floating down the hillside. Such scenes were replicated throughout the upper Calder Valley, with fireworks thrown in to add to the excitement.

“Todmorden had an interesting variation on the celebrations. The owners of Mons Mill gave every one of their 420 employees a £1 banknote, honouring an old promise that this would be done when the town of Mons, in Belgium, was retaken from the enemy. Mons was retaken just a few hours before the Armistice.

“Unrestrained joy was only a part of the story. Many local homes had lost their menfolk and no doubt the predominant feeling here was sadness, if not outright grief. The contemporary issue of the Hebden Bridge Times reflected the sombre side of the story by appealing to its readers to remember ‘the many men who have made the supreme sacrifice’.

“The cost of the war in human lives was enormous and the immediate result locally was the proliferation of war memorials of all kind carrying their lists of the dead.

“Something like 512 men were lost from the area from Hebden Bridge to Luddenden Foot, including the hilltop villages. The Todmorden figure stands at roughly 726.

“The great hope was, of course, that this would be ‘the war to end all wars’. Tragically, the next two decades proved merely a prelude to the next great war.”