Armistice Day

11 November 1918

Armistice Day parade in Masterton (Alexander Turnbull Library, PAColl-5314-02)

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month was the moment when hostilities ceased on the Western Front in 1918, following the signing of an armistice. In 2004 an Unknown New Zealand Warrior from the First World War was laid to rest at the National War Memorial.

The signing of the armistice between the Allies and Germany was celebrated in many cities and towns around New Zealand. Enthusiasm was dampened, though, by the ongoing impact of the influenza pandemic then ravaging the country. A premature report of an armistice published on 8 November added to the general sense of uncertainty about celebrating the official announcement.  

Despite the difficult circumstances, thousands of New Zealanders took part in or watched armistice parades on 12 November, the day the official announcement was published here. Brass bands and elaborately decorated floats led the way as returned soldiers, schoolchildren and crazily costumed performers marched along main streets carrying banners and flags. Public officials gave earnest speeches and crowds gathered to celebrate the end of four long years of war.

Auckland was the exception. Here the acting Chief Health Officer, Dr Joseph Frengley, postponed all official armistice celebrations in a bid to stop the further spread of influenza. Frengley had been alarmed at the large crowds which had gathered after the premature declaration on 8 November. Despite these precautions, 1128 Aucklanders died from the influenza pandemic. Auckland eventually celebrated the armistice in mid-1919.