What the Armistice meant to North Otago People
The 11th of November 2018 is the centennial of the World War One Armistice. An armistice is a truce. Opposing forces might agree to an armistice while they work out peace terms. And that is what happened in World War One.
The Armistice between the Allies and Germany was signed at 5am, but it came in to force on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month (according to the local time in Paris where the Armistice was signed). It wasn’t the official end of World War One, that didn’t come until the Peace Treaty was signed on June 28 1919. But the Armistice is important because it was the end of fighting.
For much of 1918 it was not clear who would win the War or when it would end. New Zealanders were still in action in the final days of the war. Less than a week before the Armistice, Hubert Rusbatch of Oamaru was killed in action in France. He was 22 years old. In some places the fighting continued until 11am on Armistice Day and 10,000 people died on that day alone.
For those serving overseas news of the Armistice was often accepted solemnly.
Andy Dewar of Oamaru wrote “Just before breaking off before dinner on 11th November 1918, we were informed that the Germans had signed the Armistice!! We took the news very quietly! Quite matter of fact, as we had been used to taking news of all sorts in the past four years … In France I believe the boys took the news very quietly also.”
George Grenfell was in France and his diary entry for Monday 11th November simply reads “Return Solesmes. Heard that Germany accepts terms at 11.a.m. Marched from Solesmes to Fontain. Pleased terms accepted 11 a.m. Band played the Marseillaise.”
News of the Armistice reached Oamaru on Tuesday November 12th. You can read accounts of celebrations after the Armistice in the Oamaru Mail online from Papers Past and in the North Otago Times. Oamaruvians celebrated in the street with flags, bunting, banging kerosene tins and singing songs. People in North Otago were delighted that the War was over. Around 2000 people from North Otago had served and over 400 local men and women had died.
If you want to know more about Armistice Day in New Zealand check out this book at the Oamaru Library. The cover even features a Peace Day dress from our museum’s collection. The North Otago Museum will be honouring the Peace Day centennial in 2019.