On the 11th November 1918 at 11am (French time) the Armistice came into effect. It was an agreement to end fighting as a prelude to peace negotiations. The Treaty of Versailles signed six months later would act as the peace treaty between the nations.
The 11th November 1918 was also the date of death of the last officer of the Hertfordshire Regiment to die in France, Captain Guy Dodgson, who died of his wounds. Following the Armistice, the Regiment were billeted in Bethencourt where they remained in training until December 1918. During this time sports matches were played between the battalions in the 112th Brigade and the battalion’s war diary proudly mentions that the Hertfordshire Regiment won their first two matches.
The remaining men of the Hertfordshire Regiment were finally demobilized and left France in spring 1919.
In July 1919, Hertford held a day of celebrations for peace starting with a procession through Hertford. A special luncheon was held for Service and ex-Service men in the Drill Hall on St Andrews Street and there were fireworks and a bonfire on Hartham Common in the evening.
Following the Armistice, as happened up and down the country, a War Memorial Committee was set up. Several buildings were demolished to make space for the new memorial which features a bronze hart sculpted by Sir Edward Alfred Brisco Drury on a stone plinth designed by Mr Maurice Webb and Sir Aston Webb.
The memorial listed the names of men from “Hertford and the neighbourhood” who had died during the First World War and, unusually, it also listed the nine victims of the Zeppelin Raid on Hertford in 1915.
A special ceremony and service was held on the 6th November 1921 during which the memorial was unveiled by the Mayor of Hertford, J. Burnett Smith. Lord Salisbury, the High Steward of the Borough spoke at the unveiling.
“The war has come very near to all of us in the death of our sons, or nephews, or comrades. Nay, even in this very place, a few yards from where I am speaking, the engines of death wielded by the enemy struck down the young and the innocent. It is therefore right that we should remember these things and perpetuate their memory upon such a monument.”
Sir Edward Pearson
The land for the war memorial was donated to the town of Hertford by Sir Edward Pearson or Brickendonbury. Sir Edward had been knighted in 1917 and was a prominent figure in Hertford. He had been High Sheriff of the county in 1909 and was mayor of Hertford for three years as well as president of the Hertfordshire Agricultural Society.
At the unveiling of the memorial he expressed his pleasure “at being able to do anything for the good of the town and hoped that they would be as pleased with him at the end of next year as they were now.”