The Treaty of Versailles was finally signed in Paris on 28th June 1919, exactly five years after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which had directly led to the First World War.
In Doncaster, the Mayor addressed a crowd outside the Mansion House at 4pm and, though flags and bunting had been put up, it was a much more low key affair than the announcement of the Armistice had been. People were fed up of waiting for the news and the Mayor asked that people refrain from boisterousness till a later date, when there was proof that all sides would hold to the treaty. As part of his speech he said:
“We have every reason to be thankful that we in Doncaster have done our part during the war. We were one of the first towns to raise men to go out to France, and we shall not be among the last in sharing with others the joy and gladness of the peace that has come to pass”.
The government would set a date for a few weeks’ time when festivities should be held.
The announcement was marked in all the towns and villages, with Carcroft for example having “flags hung from many windows”.
As it turned out there were no official peace celebrations in Doncaster on the actual day appointed, but that didn’t mean nothing happened. People were determined to celebrate properly, and it all began in Hexthorpe!
Starting on 17th July, Hexthorpe had a number of street parties and other festivities that went on for days, as the Gazette reporter put it – “Showing Doncaster the way”.
The day of the 19th started off beautifully warm and sunny, but rain later spoiled and curtailed some of the planned activities, such as bonfires and fireworks.
The promised town centre festivities organised by the YMCA were judged a great success. At the same time every surrounding town, village and organisation held events of their own, which the Doncaster Gazette reported on in great detail.
Bawtry burnt the Kaiser in effigy and in Conisbrough “the boy who fell in a tub of water at the Morley Place sports will remember Peace Day without a doubt!”
The “official” Doncaster celebration, titled “Children’s Day” happened on Friday 24th July. Peace Medals were presented by the Mayor to all pupils at Christ Church Girls, Balby Girls and other schools; Conisbrough Boys received the gift of a Peace Mug and Beechfield Infants a gift of Doncaster Butterscotch and a toy. An extra week was added to the children’s summer school holiday. Strangely there were no photos of the event in the newspaper.
It didn’t all end there – celebrations went on right into the middle of August.These included the Belton Peace Pageant on the 1st and a street party held in Hexthorpe on the 15th, dubbed “Better Late than Never”.
So despite the ongoing hardships of the miners’ and tram workers’ strikes, and the worry over the situation in Russia, Doncaster put heart and soul into the celebrations, hoping against hope that there would never be a need for such scenes again.