ONE hundred years ago, Wantage was in the middle of its peace celebrations commemorating the end of the First World War.

In April 1919, the War Office had presented to Wantage a 106mm howitzer captured from the Germans by the 5th Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment and it was placed in the Market Place by the urban district council.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, and that evening, in Wantage, flags appeared and fireworks were let off.

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The gun that had been placed in the Market Place was manhandled down Mill Street and ended up in the brook by the mill.

It was never popular and many ex-servicemen declared that it had never been fired in anger.

There was a thanksgiving service in the parish church on Sunday and on Monday evening there was an unofficial bonfire in the Market Place.

The peace celebrations in Wantage started on July 20. In the morning there was a parade of tradesmen's decorated cars.

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First prize went to Mr Cole of Elms Cottages with car called ‘workers not rulers'. Second was Mr F Dance with car entitled ‘A bit of old England’, and third prize went to Mr U J Reeves with a decorated ice cream cart.

At 1pm children from all Wantage schools assembled in the Market Place and there was a parade of 150 demobilised soldiers.

The national anthem was sung and then the parade proceeded to Stirlings Meadow (now occupied by Chapel Close and Stirlings Close) lead by the Workers Union Band from Swindon.

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Here various sports were held and then a tea for all the children. Then followed a carnival and fireworks in the evening.

The main event was on August 3 and 4.

This occasion was organised by the Comrades of the Great War to welcome home ‘the servicemen and women of Wantage returning from the war’.

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Five hundred of these marched from King Alfred’s School grounds headed by the 1st Vol. Royal Berks Regt Band to the church.

After the church service the parade reformed in Priory Road and marched via Ormond Road to Wallingford Street and back into the Market Place.

A wooden cross was erected outside Rockwell House with wreaths laid and a Guard of Honour.

The salute was taken at the foot of King Alfred’s Statue by Brig-Gen J T Wigan CB CMG DSO MP.

On the Monday, the ex-servicemen were entertained to a dinner in the grammar school meadow after a parade from the Market Place. In the afternoon there was a comic football match.

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The wooden cross, was later moved to the churchyard to be the memorial used each November 11 for wreath laying.

On June 28, 1919, there was a meeting at the town hall to decide what form of war memorial Wantage should have. The proposal that received most favour was a Recreation Ground.

This was partly because there was a campaign in the town for somewhere for children to play. Mr Edward Ormond donated land in Newbury Street and the ‘Rec’ was laid out by public subscription.

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The Wantage War Memorial Recreation Ground was opened on May 13, 1920.

The cross remained in the churchyard to be the focus of the November parade and commemorations.

By 1949 it had decayed so much that it was replaced by the current cross at a ceremony on May 8, 1949.