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Kate Wills

Bonfire Night

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Kate Wills

Listening to the last (I hope) bangers being set-off this evening (probably some cheap overstocks) led me to ponder if Guy Fawkes Night was celebrated during wartime.

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Terry_Reeves

Nice one Kate. I have exactly the same problem with the blessed things myself. As far as I can ascertain, bonfire night is really a post WW2 phenomenon. I have yet to to find anybody in their seventies and eighties who can remember the sort of "celebration" we have now in their childhood, other than organised public displays. But then I may be wrong and may well find myself getting a rocket.

Terry Reeves

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Cliff. Hobson

Kate/ Terry,

Not a rocket but a "Little Demon" my earliest recollection of Bonfire Celebrations was 1930 and thereafter. We used to hawke a Guy Fawkes door to door to collect half-pennies to buy parrafin to start the Bonfire ( it always rained) Bonfire Celebrations were banned during 39/45 War but we as young recruits in 1943 dropped a Thunder-Flash down the stove pipe of Nissen Hut which was the Sergeants Mess. It blew the door off, (the hut) not the stove. Two weeks confined to Camp.

Cliff. Hobson.

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Chris_Baker

In his wonderful memoir "With machine gun to Cambrai", George Coppard mentioned a particular firework:

"The concentrated noise of '15 rounds rapid fire' thrilled me, never having heard anything more deadly than a 'Lewes Rouser' on bonfire nights."

A footnote explains: "A home-made rocket used in Lewes, Sussex, on Guy Fawkes nights around the turn of the century. It exploded with a big bang and was dangerous if mishandled."

Well sounds to me as though one of those fly-by-night, cheapo fireworks shops selling Chinese bangers must have been open near George's place 90 years ago. They're still letting them off here, although in Leamington Spa we are encouraged by our local council to celebrate Diwali as well - thus giving our firework traders another bonanza.

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Simon R

Farnley Camp, home of the Northern Command Gas and Grenade schools from 16-18, was in the grounds of Farnley Hall, the ancestral seat of the Fawkes family. The officers that attended the courses there were certainly aware of 'bonfire night' and the local Fawkes history and allude to it in local documents - whilst busily lobbing grenades around a few yards from the front door of the hall.

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montbrehain
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Tony Lund

I think it started with a total ban on bonfires and fireworks with some relaxation on November 5th 1914 for small fireworks in some areas.

In 1915 the rules were relaxed to allow limited firework displays, if permission was obtained from the military authorities. I know permission was refused in London in 1915.

It was certainly cancelled around here by 1916. By way of compensation the Holmfirth Express dug up some information from a time in the past when a local woman named Mrs. Jagger was recording the history of Holmfirth. She said that the children would go from door to door asking, “Pray dame a koil for yaar bonfire hoil.” Meaning, (more or less) please lady a coin for the/your/our Bonfire holiday. Mrs Jaggar continued:

“We were great authorities regarding gunpowder, steel-filings, salt-petre, sulphur and other dangerous compounds. Modern firework miracles were undreamt about, so that whether our homemade squids were a success or not, we were content with them. When the fireworks were all exploded our joys were not ended. There came the excitement of roasting potatoes, which, if not lost in the fire, were generally raw inside and burnt to a crisp outside; but affording exquisite delight when eating in comparison to consuming unromantic potatoes of a later age.”

Amongst bonfires cancelled were those at Cliffe, Gully, Underhill, Crown Bottom, Scar Fold and many more elsewhere in the district.

But fireworks must still have been on sale in some areas because at Holmfirth Police Court on the Saturday 20th October 1917, James Mellor, a shopkeeper, was summoned for selling fireworks to children. Inspector Whincup testified that at 5-25 p.m. on October 19th he saw a group of children outside the defendant’s shop. A boy who appeared to be under thirteen years of age came out of the shop carrying fireworks. He stopped the boy and found that he was twelve years old and that he had bought four fireworks. He then went into the shop and spoke to Mr. Mellor who admitted selling the fireworks to the boy, but said he thought he was old enough. The fireworks were known as Electric Thunderflashes, and produced a very loud bang when they exploded in the street, the Inspector continued. Adding that these types of fireworks were very dangerous to children when held in the hand.

Superintendent Dowell said he would like the bench to issue a warning, there had been an air raid warning the previous night and people became very much alarmed when they heard these firework noises.

The Chairman of the Magistrates agreed with the Superintendent that people were inclined to become frightened when they heard such noises and it was desirable that children should not be playing with fireworks at a time like the present. Adding that some of the adults were worse than the children he imposed a fine of five shillings and sixpence.

I would have thought that fireworks were banned at this time, but the charge seems to be about selling to children rather than selling banned items.

Some local boys found a way around any firework shortage there might have been. As a result at Holmfirth Police Court on the 17th November 1917, Joe Bray, a young millhand, was charged with discharging fireworks on the highway at New Mill on October 17th. A Special Constable observed the defendant drop a large stone on an object on the ground causing a loud explosion. Police Constable Rose told the court that he had received numerous complaints of boys exploding detonators in this way, adding that he saw the boy at the mill where the worked the following day and told him he would be reported.

The manager of the mill where the defendant worked said that he was also the superintendent of the Sunday School that he attended. He agreed that if the lad had done wrong he should be punished, but the lad was usually a good one, and suggested a donation to charity to make amends. Saying: “Make it a sovereign to some charitable institution and I shall pay it, but please don’t brand the lad a criminal.” The Magistrates imposed the fine of five shillings with two shillings and three pence costs. The Chairman said that at a time like the present they must try to put a stop to all noises that caused unnecessary alarm.

By 1918 Bonfire night came and went without fireworks in this area. Even the traditional mischief night passed without incident with no Holmfirth juveniles being reported to the police.

It was back to normal for the Official Peace Day celebrations which were held on Saturday July 19th 1919. Celebrations were organised all over the district, with parades and concerts during the afternoon and bonfires and firework displays in the evening. The Council had bought some flares to let off, and they were fired at different parts of the district and burned for eight minutes. Rain fell later in the evening, although it held off until after the fireworks displays were over.

Tony.

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BeppoSapone
In his wonderful memoir "With machine gun to Cambrai", George Coppard mentioned a particular firework:

"The concentrated noise of '15 rounds rapid fire' thrilled me, never having heard anything more deadly than a 'Lewes Rouser' on bonfire nights."

A footnote explains: "A home-made rocket used in Lewes, Sussex, on Guy Fawkes nights around the turn of the century. It exploded with a big bang and was dangerous if mishandled."

Bonfire Night was, and is, very big in parts Sussex. In particular in Lewes.

In the past it developed into a very rowdy affair, and the police really wanted it banned in the late Victorian period. However, public opinion would not have stood for it - "we wont be druv". Even so, many of the Lewes pubs were/are closed on that night.

Remembrance of the war dead has also merged into the ceremony these days.

http://www.lewesbonfirecouncil.org.uk/history/index.html

http://www.needananswer.co.uk/lewes-fireworks-2005.html

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ejcmartin

Bonfire night is "celebrated" here in Newfoundland, the only place in the Americas I believe. I also think that it has been celebrated for a long time. Busy night for the local fire departments as the bonfires are usually ad hoc affairs in someone's dustbin.

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elgingero

When I read the War Diary of my Great Grandfather's Battalion (1914-1918) there was an entry on 05.11.15 which read “Straffed Germans in rememberance of Guy Fawkes” not sure you could call it a 'celebration' but it sounds like they certainly 'marked' the ocassion.

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