Wednesday, 26 March 2008

1918 - Armistice Signed, "Undergraduate Rejoicings"...

SCENES IN THE STREETS

"Cambridge Magazine" Offices Raided

UNDERGRADUATE REJOICINGS

From the Cambridge Daily News, 11/11/1918...

The glad tidings were received at the office and as soon as they could be printed bills were posted in the office windows announcing that Peace had come at last. A special edition of the paper followed, and was on sale in the streets before lunch.

The news was received with great enthusiasm, and soon the streets were filled with cheering crowds. Flags appeared like magic from the upper windows of shops and private houses, in the hands of pedestrians, and tied on bicycles, taxicabs and other vehicles.

Enterprising hawkers bought out sheaves of small Union Jacks, which sold like wildfire, and the shops were besieged with customers eager to secure a piece of bunting of some sort. Flags were hoisted on the flagstaffs of the colleges, churches, and public buildings.

Notices announcing the signing of the armistice were posted at the Guildhall and the various Post Offices in the town.

The undergraduate element quickly got wind of the event, and proceeded to celebrate the joyous occasion in their own peculiar fashion. A score of young fellows commandeered a small motor car and proceeded to pile in as many of their number upon it as it would hold, until the machine was almost completely hidden by a mass of cheering humanity. The remainder surrounded the vehicle and shoved it at a run through the principle streets, cheering, waving flags and blowing horns and tri-colour paper trumpets. Others boarded taxicabs, climbed the roofs, and careered about the town in similar fashion.

A party of about a hundred cadets, in uniform, wearing khaki mackintosh capes, and mounted on cycles, rode in file through the town, cheering as they went; others climbed on the motor-buses waving flags and cheering. The employees of the Cambridge Scientific Instrument Company were given a half-day's holiday, and a party of munition girls, gaily decked with bunting, boarded a motor-car and rode through the streets adding shrill whoops and screams to the joyful clamour. A wounded soldier in Petty Cury begged a battered biscuit tin from one of the shops and banged it for all he was worth; troops of children, brandishing small flags, paraded the streets and cheered tumultuously.

A small motor car was peacefully standing in the centre of the town. Upon it hurled themselves a mob of undergraduates, sitting, lying, hanging on three deep. Away it sped to Leavis' musical shop where the rejoicers swarmed into the shop, seized bugles, whistles, anything in fact with which they could make a noise, thrusting excessive sums upon the bewildered assistants. Out into the street rushed the undergraduates, on the protesting car, and away down St Andrew's Street and through Petty Cury, bugles blowing, whistles shrieking, the onlookers shouting, crowds of small boys following.

At the market place the motor was deserted. The occupants, panting and red-faced, ran to the roof of one of the houses facing the Guildhall. The market place by this time was crowded. On the roof the "undergrads" blew and shouted. "Hip!" shrieked one. "Hurrah!" yelled the crowd, what time the whistles sounded and the "clackers" clacked.

However, this grew wearisome after a time. More "undergrads" arrived, and enticed the roof dwellers to descend. Cadets joined in. Suddenly an idea struck one of them. "The Cambridge Magazine," he shouted. "Yah," said the crowd, and rushed through into King's Parade. At the Cambridge Magazine's shop the door was shut. All was peace and quiet. After a moment's hesitation the ringleaders of the mob charged at the door and burst their way inside. Alas for the peace and quiet! Tables were overturned, books thrown about with terrific force. Smash went a window, the signal for a general onslaught. Smash went more windows. Books flew through the windows on to the road. The crowd outside danced with joy; the crowd inside destroyed everything with grim enthusiasm. All was excitement.

Then it occurred to the destroyers that the time had come to fade away, lest a worse thing befall them. Out once more into the street, down King's Parade, past the Senate House, racing along Trinity Street, and to the end of St John's Street, where stands - or stood - the charmingly (?) painted Cambridge Magazine shop. Here the crowds gathered thick. The door was locked.

"Away!" yelled the celebrators of peace; "Make room!" The "undergrads" joined hands, formed into a solid phalanx, and charged at the door. Boom! and the glass was splintered. Another charge. Boom! and the door flew open, and in rushed the crowd. The books lining the windows were seized and hurled through the plate glass. Glass covered the path. Girl college students flung themselves upon the books and threw them back into the shop. So the merry game went on.

Then the merry makers deserted the shop. Back they ran, panting but happy, to the Senate House. Here stood an unfortunate bus. Up the sides, over the front, everywhere and anywhere swarmed the "young gentlemen of the University". The top was packed. Undergraduates hung over the side of the bus, clinging to the top rails. The bonnet of the car was covered thick as leaves of autumn.

"Wind her up, Johnnie!" shrieked the undergraduates. "Johnnie" wound, but the engine was lacking in the sentiment suitable to the occasion. The engine refused to start. "Push, my laddies, push!" The crowd gathered thick around the bus. "Heave!" The car moved slowly forward amid scenes of wild enthusiasm for about 30 yards. Then the driver said "Kismet" and signed his own armistice. He started the engine and away went the bus, stopping now and again along King's Parade. An aged and dignified professor at the gate of King's bowed gracefully. "Hurrah!" said the crowd.

At the Cambridge Magazine shop stood Inspector Baker and a constable. The officers of the law advanced into the centre of the street and stopped the bus. The constable argued with the undergraduates sitting on the bonnet of the car, and said he would allow the bus to proceed if the driver were given free play to drive. "Three cheers for Robert!" shouted a voice from the top of the bus. Nobly the crowd responded. Inspector Baker's hat mysteriously vanished, leaving him rubbing his head in a somewhat bewildered fashion.

Away went the bus once more, and in a few yards the bonnet was crowded as thick as ever. A daring enthusiast clung to the side in a position where a moment's faltering or cramp would have sent him to a terrible death. The driver was induced after some persuasion to take the rejoicers out into the country.

The crowd, left behind, turned back. Suddenly the cry was raised. The Trumpington bus was coming up behind. The merry crowd swarmed up the sides and back, but the driver was a hardy man. Putting on speed, he tore round into Bene't Street, where he was finally captured and stopped. The undergraduates descended and tried to persuade the driver to drive them out further - into the country. The driver, as we have said, was a hardy man and resisted long. "My dear gentlemen," he said. The crowd grew vociferous. They patted the driver on the head and back. He attempted to ascend to the top - for what earthly reason we cannot imagine - but was gently but firmly pushed back. At this moment a military motor car came along King's Parade, and was forced to stop by the density of the crowd. A dignified sergeant major sat next to the lady driver, and to him the unfortunate bus driver appealed for help. Out came the sergeant major. "Get orf it there!" he commanded.

"May I ask who you are talking to?" quietly but grimly inquired the ringleader of the undergraduates, with the light of battle in his eye.

"Yes!" shrieked the crowd. The sergeant major subsided, climbed into his car, and drove crest-fallen away. The [bus] driver capitulated. Amid cheers he drove away along Peas Hill, through Market Street, up along Magdalene Street, up part of Castle Hill, and the bus protesting against its load, the driver avoided the stiffest part by driving along St Peter's Street and Shelley Row.

The bus vanished out of sight at an ever-increasing pace along Huntingdon Road. The undergraduates, half delirious though they were with excitement, sank into a silence as the bus passed a funeral procession, only to break out with renewed noise further along the road...

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