Peace

The armistice was signed on the 11th November 1918 at 5am in the morning and came into effect six hours later. From the early hours, rumours were circulating around Fishguard but it was not until the telegram arrived at the Echo offices just before 11.00am that the town could officially celebrate.  A notice was quickly put in the window of the Echo offices and declared “Thank God for Peace after over four years of cruel warfare. May God Bless our Heroic Defenders”. For the rest of the day people took to the streets to celebrate, church and school bells rang, and hooters sounded in the harbour.

However it was not until the 19th July 1919 that Peace was officially celebrated. Fishguard and Goodwick, along with towns and villages the length and breadth of the country, drew up a programme of events. In Fishguard the celebrations commenced on Friday 18th with a banquet for ex-service men and service men home on leave, with free cinema entertainment in the afternoon and evening  (children from Goodwick were invited too !!). On the following day, all homes and businesses were required to be decorated and a Grand Parade was organised, with all local organisations represented, which marched from the Market Square to Narbett’s field at Windy Hall. There was tea for the children at 4pm, followed by sports and games for all. The evening ended with a carnival which paraded through the streets to culminate at Penslade where a big bonfire was lit. Similar celebrations took place in Goodwick where the carnival was led by Goodwick Brass Band and the Ex-Servicemen’s Jazz Band. Goodwick also arranged for photographs to be taken of all service and ex-service men.

A poem written by 12 year old Myra Ayres (later to become Mrs Myra Morse) tells how Peace was celebrated in Lower Town.

Although not presented on the 19th July, all children were later given an inscribed mug to commemorate Peace.

Much debate took place as to what type of memorial would be appropriate to remember those who perished in the war. Inevitably a War Memorial Committee was established and various proposals were considered. Letters were written to the County Echo on the subject and one contributor suggested building a bell tower on the side of St Marys Church which would make “Fishguard famous throughout the Principality”. After numerous meetings it was decided that a purpose built public institution should be provided with reading and recreation rooms, room for a caretaker and a billiard room – although there was some opposition to the provision of billiard tables as it was felt that “billiard tables did not improve the moral welfare of the young men of the town”!   Sadly, within months, this proposal was completely dropped and as a result, the men of the local association of Discharged Sailors and Soldiers, with support from the YMCA, provided their own recreational institute and billiard hall. This was sited on Rope Walk and was officially opened by Lady Jones of Pentower in October 1919.

Although Peace had been reached, the valued efforts of the “Our Boys” Committee both in Fishguard and Goodwick continued.  It was reported in the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Mercury in October 1919 that the Fishguard Committee had distributed over 383 gifts to men home on leave throughout the War and over £200 had been distributed. Some soldiers were yet to be demobbed and upon news of their arrival home they were given £1 by the appreciative Committee. The monies available to the Committees resulted from fund raising and the generosity of local people.  Over the four years of hostilities, the “Our Boys” Committee of the two towns strove to support servicemen and their families.

In Fishguard, it was finally determined to provide a monument as a permanent War Memorial, which was to be inscribed with the names those of the parish who had died. A number of local men are not commemorated on the monument but it is not known whether this was an oversight or whether it was the wish of the family. The unveiling of the War Memorial took place on the 4th April 1928 and was performed by Sir Evan Jones, who himself had lost two sons and a son in law.

The men of Goodwick are commemorated on a brass plaque in St Peters Church although the local branch of the British Legion are currently fundraising to provide a stone inscribed memorial on Goodwick Square – it is hoped that the required sum of £6000 will soon be reached, enabling the stone to be in place in time for Remembrance 2014.

The necessary fund raising was achieved and a memorial stone inscribed by local sculptor Darren Yeadon was unveiled on 1st November 2014.

Anrheg i blant Abergwaun ar derfyn y Rhyfel Mawr a Dathliad Heddwch / A gift to the children of Fishguard at the end of the Great War and the Celebration of Peace.
H Hughes

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