Fleet Dressed and Firing Salute for Peace Day Post Card

Peace Day took place on 19th July 1919 and was a bank holiday across Great Britain with a march of 15,000-20,000 troops through London. The King sent a message out that morning:

‘To these, the sick and wounded who cannot take part in the festival of victory, I send out greetings and bid them good cheer, assuring them that the wounds and scars so honourable in themselves, inspire in the hearts of their fellow countrymen the warmest feelings of gratitude and respect.”

The Royal Navy also celebrated the day and this postcard depicts part of the British fleet dressed for the Victory celebrations:

The ships are flying their flags from the main mast to the bow and stern, the front vessel here being a destroyer:

It is a little harder to make out the rear ship as it is moving at sufficient speed to throw up some spray:

The postcard notes that the ships are firing a salute, this being a traditional way of celebrating aboard Royal Navy ships, with blank shells being fired to commemorate important royal or national events by the service.

The Royal Navy also provided a river pageant on the Thames at the request of the King who was keen to have such a display for the people in the capital, but the parade was the main spectacle:

The parade of some 20,000 men and women, began at 10 am, led off by US General Pershing on a great brown horse, accompanied by his staff officers and company after company of infantry. They were the first to enter Whitehall where ‘men’s eyes turned instinctively to the simple white cenotaph, with a silent bowed sentry at each corner, and they remembered those other soldiers who will march no more.’ Belgian soldiers were next, loudly cheered and closely followed by a smaller contingent of Chinese officers, and then the ‘Czecho- Slavs’. Next a group of French lancers, ahead of Marshal Foch ‘on a black charger’ and carrying ‘a gold-tipped baton’, and so it went on: Greeks, Italians, Japanese, Poles, Portuguese, Rumanians, Serbs and Siamese. Each country’s soldiers, it was reported, brought renewed applause and cheers from the vast crowds, and then it was the turn of the British, led by Admiral Beatty and sailors of all ranks from the Royal Navy, along with naval nurses and Wrens, and members of the mercantile marine.

After the sailors came the soldiers, led of course by Field-Marshal Haig, and many of his generals, ahead of officers and men of ‘the Old Contemptibles’, the British Expeditionary Force of 1914. And this was the curtain-raiser for groups from every part of the British Army, the Guards, Regulars, Territorials and Yeomanry; artillery crews with their field-guns, engineers, infantry, machine-gunners. Then it was the turn of ‘the Dominions’: Australians, South Africans, the Labour Corps, followed by the Women’s Legion, doctors, nurses, VADs, chaplains, and WAACs. The parade was completed by the youngest service, the Royal Air Force, and the whole procession took more than two hours to pass each point along the route.

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