By Richard Bryant,
Lindfield History Project Group
Today we have grown used to receiving news as it happens 24 hours a day, whereas one hundred years ago newspapers were the almost universal means for the public to receive news.
News of the Armistice on 11th November 1918 bringing to an end the fighting took time to spread and was not widely received until the following day. People needed to read it to believe it was true. There was a joyous but muted reaction in Lindfield and across Mid Sussex, with no organised public celebratory events.
The Mid Sussex Times reported that ‘During the past week the inhabitants of Mid Sussex have been in high spirits because of the cessation of hostilities. Joyous peals have been rung upon the church bells. Cottagers have displayed from their humble homes such flags as they could get hold of, bonfires have been lighted, and rich and poor have mingled together in the Services of Thanksgiving.’
Some took high spirits further than others. Ellen Baxter, from Horsted Keynes whose husband was serving in France, was brought before Haywards Heath magistrates. She had been celebrating with friends in Lindfield, and was found drunk and incapable beside the road at Town Hill, Lindfield on 12th November.
Police enquiries failed to find out where in Lindfield she had been served her drinks. Mrs Baxter was fined five shillings.
Within weeks of the Armistice, thought was being given to a memorial for the fallen and welcome celebrations for the returning service men. Lindfield received praise from the Mid Sussex Times for being first to start planning a welcome home event. Following a well-attended meeting in the Reading Room, a committee of twenty was formed and a fund for donations opened in early January 1919; this received a generous response. The date set for the Welcome Home Day was 28th May 1919, as it had been expected most servicemen would have returned by then. However, many were still to be demobilised which continued into 1920.
Shops and houses were decorated with flags, bunting and banners in readiness for the celebrations. These started at 5pm with a Service of Thanksgiving in All Saints Church. Afterwards, the men formed up behind the Ardingly Band and to the tune ‘Sons of the Brave’ marched down the High Street accompanied by their families and watched by a large crowd. Outside King Edward Hall, the crowd cheered the men into the Hall.