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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Armistice Celebrations, 1918

Arnold Bennett's Journals - Thursday, November 12th,  1918, London. Yacht Club. – In Sunday’s papers we saw the abdication of the Kaiser. Returned to London yesterday morning.  In Lower Regent Street the first news that armistice was signed – a paperboy calling out in a subdued tone. 10.45. Maroons went off at 11, and excited the populace.
   A laree portion of the ministry staff got very excited. Buchan came in to shake hands. Girls very excited. I had to calm them. Lunch at Wellington Club. We had driven through large crowds part way up the Mall and were then turned off from Buckingham Palace,
   Raining now. An excellent thing to damp hysteria and Bolshevism. Great struggling to cross Piccadilly Circus twice. No buses. (It was rumoured that tubes stopped. I believe they were stopped for a time.) It stopped raining Then cold mire in the streets. Vehicles passed, festooned with shouting human beings. Others dark, with only one or two occupants. Much light in Piccadilly up to Ritz corner, and in Piccadilly Circus. It seemed most brilliant. Some theatres had lights on their facades too. The enterprising Trocadero had hung a light of temporary lights under one side of its porticoes. Shouting. But nothing terrible or memorable. Yet this morning Brayley, my valet, said to me the usual phrases: ‘You wondered where the people came from. You could walk on their heads at Charing Cross, and you couldn’t cross Picc. Circus at all.’ When he came in with my tea, I said, ‘Well, Brayley, it’s all over.’ He smiled and said something. That was all our conversation about the end of the war. Characteristic.
   Last night I thought of lonely soldiers in that crowd. N one to talk to. But fear of death lifted from them.
Thursday, November 14th London, Yacht Club – I dined at flat Tuesday night (Pinker [his literary agent]) there and slept there; so I didn’t see anything of the ‘doings’. But there was a bonfire in Piccadilly Circus, kept alive by theatre boards and boards off motor-buses. Swinnerton told me that the staidest girl they had suddenly put on a soldier’s hat and overcoat and went promenading in them.
   Wad told that the scene at the Carlton on Monday night was remarkable. Any quantity of broken glass, tables overturned, and people standing on tables, and fashionable females with their hair down. On Tuesday night I noticed that all the principal restaurants had commissionaires in front of doors scrutinizing people who wished to enter and keeping out (apparently) all who had not reserved tables. Last night a cabby told me he would go westwards but not towards Piccadilly. Friday, November 15th,
 Circus, as he did not know what would happen to him   The feature of last night was girls with bunches of streamers which they flicked in your face as you passed.

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