Armistice Day 1918: How teachers would have experienced the end of the War

By the time WW1 officially ended, Doris was 25 years old, living at home with her family and working as a teacher at Victoria Park Primary. She had passed an Inspection a month prior, and was employed as a level B1 teacher on an annual salary of £180.

During the war years, enrolments at Vic Park Primary had grown so much, that the school had to hire the local Town Hall as well as erect several marquees on the grounds to hold all the extra students.

For several days, whispers of the Armistice had been reported in newspapers across the nation, leaving the people at home in a terrible state of limbo. But due to the time difference, when the Armistice had finally been signed at 11am (in Paris) on Tuesday the 11th of November, it was already night-time in Perth.

Regardless, the state government called for schools and businesses to be closed the following day.

Without the benefit of the internet, or indeed even private phones, there would have been little warning to the state’s teachers that schools would be closed the next day. It is entirely possible that Doris went into work on Wednesday 12th November like all of her colleagues, only to find the joyful yet confusing situation of the end of the war and no work. Almost certainly some of the students would have arrived as well only to be duly sent home.

The following day, Thursday 13th November, Perth students enjoyed a half day of schooling, expected to attend in the morning for special talks by prominent citizens on the subject of peace, and then dismissed afterwards to enjoy an afternoon of holiday. There was much singing and celebration. While many businesses reluctantly re-opened ‘as far as possible in the present joyful circumstances’, teachers and students alike were informed that schools would also be closed the following day, Friday 14th November.

In effect, the end of the war gave the teachers and students of Perth a five day weekend.

In reality, there was very little to celebrate.

Not only had Doris lost her sweetheart, but at least 46 other teachers from across Western Australia had enlisted and been killed in the Great War, including some she would have studied together with at Claremont Training College.

Even more pressing, the world was in the grip of the Spanish Flu, a devastating epidemic that would ultimately kill more people than the war itself. Each returning ship to Perth was held in quarantine, and across the sea in New Zealand, they had already made the decision to close many of the public schools as a precaution.

Armistice Day may have symbolised the end of the war, but it did not represent the end of the suffering, for the men and women returning home, and for the families and women left bereft by the men who would never return.

 

With thanks to Shannon Lovelady, the incredible WA historian who has overseen the massive project to ensure that all West Australians who served and died in WW1 have been acknowledged and remembered. Learn more about her work here.

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