WWI centenary commemorations celebrate Peace Day

After five years of commemorations honouring the memory of those who died in the First World War 100 years ago, Oundle will be reviving a celebration of peace.

One hundred years ago, Britain observed the end of the Great War in which six million British men were mobilized and 700,000 men killed. The entire nation had been invested in the war, including those residents of Oundle who fought for their country.

To celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, Oundle observed two celebration days, one organized by Oundle School and the other by the town.

In May 1919, Oundle School organized a Peace Day along Milton Road for employees and pupils. An account from The Laxtonian describes a festive occasion, considerably dampened by very bad weather.

A service of thanksgiving was held in the Market Place, followed by a procession. The town was decorated with bunting and flags, as was the entrance to the activity field along Milton Road.

The cricket match started just after noon, but had to be abandoned late in the afternoon due to very heavy rain. The London Fire Brigade Band provided entertainment.

Water polo, tugs-of-war and crocodile races which had been arranged for the afternoon were abandoned as a result of the rain.
A house fancy dress procession was organized, as well as sing-songs and dances. In the evening, school employees were able to dance inside the Great Hall instead of the drenched field.

The fireworks display on the fields started at 10.15pm and was described as “really excellent” and “thoroughly enjoyed”, despite the rainfall.

“Sincerest thanks” were sent to the headmaster for his “kindness” in providing a very enjoyable and successful program. The band was also thanked for their resilience in continuing to play throughout the day “under extremely adverse weather conditions”.

The Oundle Peace Celebrations organised by the town were held on Saturday 19th July 1919 on the cricket ground. There are no written records about the actual day, but the advertised program of sport, entertainment and games was extensive, and included a fancy dress parade, a leap-frog race, climbing the greased pole, a driving competition and musical chairs on cycles. Other activities included; a decorated cycle parade, a flat race, a skipping rope race, a tug of war, a sack race, egg and spoon race, bobbing for oranges and a victory race.

To commemorate the historic celebrations, there will be a recreation of these Peace Games on Sunday 7 July at 11:00am.

The Peace Games will feature egg and spoon, sack races, musical chairs on bicycles and many other races and events recreating the celebrations from 1919. The events will also include music from Yarwell and Nassington Brass Band and Oundle Fringe, alongside food and drink stalls.
As plans for the event continue to grow and evolve, people are encouraged to check the Festival website for updates.

Tom Pilsbury
May 2019