Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This week in New Zealand history: Armistice Day

On the 12th of November 1918 (it was still the 11th in Europe), the official announcement of Armistice was published in New Zealand. After four years of hostilities, the Great War was over. In towns up and down the country, parades with brass bands and decorated floats, returned soldiers and schoolchildren, marched carrying banners and flags.

18,000 New Zealanders had died in the war, out of a population a little over one million; the highest death rate of any country in the British Empire, and one of the highest of any participating nation. Many of those people lining the streets to watch the parades would have been in mourning.

There were no parades in Auckland. The city's Chief Health Officer did not allow any official celebrations for Armistice Day - because crowds were something to fear. The war might be over, but deaths were not. Influenza was ravaging the country.

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