The Pageant of Peace

Pageant type

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Place: Nottingham Forest recreational ground (Nottingham) (Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, England)

Year: 1919

Indoors/outdoors: Outdoors

Number of performances: 13


7–12 July 1919

6.30pm and 8.30pm every day, plus 3pm on 12 July.

Name of pageant master and other named staff

  • Pageant Master: Hart, Leolyn
  • Organising Secretary for St Dunstan’s Day, London: Mr Allin Green
  • Band Conductor: Mr John Wilson
  • Local Organising Secretary: Major G.P.L. Orr
  • Local Assistant Organising Secretraries: Lieut. H.E. Keeton, MC, and Capt. H.G. Hodder, DCM
  • Box Office Manager: Mr G.W. Perry
  • Advance Publicity Manager: Mr W.J. Jackson
  • Stage Managers: Mr Arthur H. Gilbert; Mr Harry Benson; Mr Arthur E. Holland; Mr W. Collins.
  • Choirmaster: Mr William Turner

Names of executive committee or equivalent

General Committee:

  • Chairman: J.E. Pendleton, Mayor of Nottingham
  • Vice-Chairman: J. Morris, The Sheriff of Nottingham
  • Mrs Armstrong (Performers’ Committee)
  • Lt.-Col. A.W. Brewill, DSO (Performers’ Committee)
  • Lt.Col. H. Bradwell (Performers’ Committee)
  • Major E.P. Baines (Performers’ Committee)
  • Mr H.A. Bennett (Transport Committee)
  • Mrs Barter (Performers’ Committee)
  • Miss Cowlard (Performers’ Committee)
  • Miss Davis (Performers’ Committee)
  • Councillor A.B. Gibson (Publicity Committee)
  • Mrs Gothorp (Performers’ Committee)
  • Mr J.W. Harding (Publicity Committee)
  • Madam Wilson Moulds (Performers’ Committee)
  • Mr E. Radford (Publicity Committee)
  • Mr Raven (Performers’ Committee)
  • Mr J. Stewart (Publicity Committee)
  • Mr A.E. Sutton (Publicity Committee)
  • Mr H. Seely Whitby (Performers’ Committee)

Music Committee:

  • Musical Director: Mr William Turner
  • 13 men

Publicity Committee

Performers’ Committee

Transport Committee


The patroness of the pageant was Her Majesty Queen Alexandra, and Sir Arthur Pearson was the Chairman figurehead. There was also a long list of nobility, civic dignitaries and MPs, headed by the Duke and Duchess of Portland, the Duke and Duchess of Newcastle, Earl and Lady Manvers, Lord and Lady Charles Bentinck, Lord and Lady Henry Bentinck, and the Lord Bishop of Southwell.1

Names of script-writer(s) and other credited author(s)

  • Hart, Leolyn


Written, invented and produced by Leolyn Hart

Names of composers

  • Elgar, Edward

Numbers of performers


600 men, 500 women, and 500 children, plus 1000 choral singers

Financial information

Nearly £5000 raised.3

Object of any funds raised

St Dunstan’s Day Fund for the After-care of Blinded Soldiers and Sailors

Linked occasion

Declaration of peace (Treaty of Versailles)

Audience information

  • Grandstand: Yes
  • Grandstand capacity: 6000
  • Total audience: n/a

Prices of admission and seats: highest–lowest


Admission: 1s., 2s. 6d., 5s., 10s. 6d., 21s., tax extra4

Associated events

  • Official service of thanksgiving for peace (6 July 1919) took place on the pageant ground. Approximately 20000 people attended.
  • A film of various scenes in the Peace Pageant was taken early in its run and was shown on the screen at the Scala (a local cinema) for the remainder of the week.
  • Thanksgiving Concerts in aid of St Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers and Sailors After-Care Fund (Sunday 6 July, Theatre Royal, 8.15pm). The Peace Pageant Band, Mr John Wilson, Turner’s Girls Prize Choir, Miss Bertha Patterson, Miss Ida Woolley, Miss Flora Webb, Mr Herbert Lowe, and Miss Ida Sansome, LRAM.

Pageant outline

Episode I. The Empire at Peace

The Pageant opens with the Choir singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ accompanied by the Band. At the finish two figures, the Spirits of Peace, appear, and take positions at each side of the centre stage. The curtains part. High in the centre is the figure of Britannia resting upon her sword; at her feet are two great slumbering golden lions. Posed around this central figure are characters representing the British Empire. Displayed with each group is the flag or emblem of its country. At the base of this central group are figures symbolic of the Commerce of the Empire, offering emblems of Commerce to Britannia. Four mounted trumpets enter from each side; they sound a fanfare, when all the figures in the Tableaux assume a position of alarm. The golden lions stand erect and alert, and Britannia lifts her sword and calls the Sons of Empire to arms. The characters at the base of the central group replace the Peace offerings of fruit wheat, gold, diamonds, etc., with implements of war—guns, tanks, warships, etc. The trumpeters cross the arena and exit as the curtains close.

Episode II. The ‘Contemptibles’

The Chorus sings ‘Brave Old Contemptibles’; the song grows gradually louder and louder, as a band and men singing the same approach. Crowds of men, women and children line the route, waving handkerchiefs and cheering. First the Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders approach, then the Connaught Rangers singing ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, then the Middlesex Regiment which cheers and shouts ‘Are we downhearted?’ as the other men respond ‘no-o-o-o.’ Then enter battery after battery of the Royal Horse Artillery, Royal Field Artillery and Royal Garrison Artillery with guns and horses. Then enter the cavalry, represented by the first (King’s) Dragoon Guards, second (King’s Own) Hussars, second Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys), fourth (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards, followed by the Royal Army Medical Corps, the Royal Army Service Corps, the Royal Flying Corps and ambulance waggons. Sweethearts, wives and sisters rush forward and kiss their men farewell. As the men reach the centre the curtains open, displaying a Great Troopship. At each side of the two gangways the Red Cross nurses are stationed; the men pass up the gangways cheering and waving their rifles and caps, before forming lines on the deck. The choir and all performers sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ as the curtains close.

Episode III. The Undying Story—The Great Retreat from Mons

Across the arena a gun team gallops; the men dismount, unlimber the gun and bring it into action. Distant firing is heard. Groups of exhausted soldiers enter, crossing the arena, and take positions near the gun. Firing is general; a few of the men fall and are attended to by the other men. Members of the RAMC enter and remove the wounded. The horses have been taken off and the men drag the guns away. Then the tableaux appear:

Tableau I. Private T.G. Turrall, VC, carrying Lieutenant R.W. Jennings, severely wounded, back to British Lines, after being exposed to the enemy’s fire for many hours in ‘No Man’s Land.’

Tableau II. Lance-Corporal L.C. Vickers VC, cutting the enemy’s wire and leading the troops through to capture the German trenches.

Tableau III. The Glorious London Scottish.

Tableau IV. The Gallant Sherwood Foresters.

Episode IV. The Nelson Touch—The Royal Navy

The main curtains open to the singing by the Choir of ‘Sons of the Sea’

Scene I. The Great Naval Review, Spithead, 1914

In front of the scene, upon the deck of another battleship, are the ship’s officers at salute. The sailors line the deck cheering. The King, accompanied by the Admiral of the Fleet, is received by a guard drawn up in two ranks. The Officers salute, the bugles sound a flourish, and the band plays the National Anthem. A Royal Salute is fired from the ships as the Royal Standard is hoisted at the Main.

Scene II. The Silent Navy

Searchlights are working from the ships, and we see the great battleships, torpedo boats and submarines, etc., steaming away to guard the shores of Britain. As the curtains close, so the smaller ones open, displaying tableaux depicting some of The Glorious Deeds of Our Sailors.

Tableau I. The Royal Navy—the ‘Blucher’ sinking and the Saucy ‘Arethusa’ standing by to save life.

Tableau II. The Australian Navy—Men of the ‘Sydney’ cheering and crying ‘She’s gone sir! She’s gone, sir!’ as the defeated and sinking ‘Emden’ turned to run ashore.

Tableau III. Zeebrugge; Alongside the Mole; The Viaduct; Planting the Union Jack.

Episode V. Belgium, the Flight

The scene opens on a devastated portion of Belgium with Belgian villagers and townspeople leaving the villages and towns with their portable belongings. Fire is flickering in the sky and smoke rolls down to the river. The air is full of the sounds of huge explosions of shells. People are escaping through the town in strange, dishevelled crowds. Timber wagons appear, heaped with mattresses and bedding, as do carts of all kinds, some dragged by women and children. Between these are foot passengers, each loaded with bundles and burdens of every kind, men and women, young and old, hale and infirm, lame men limping, the blind being led by little children, countless women with babies in their arms, children carrying children, and aged men bent double under their crutched sticks. As the last fugitives pass from sight the main curtains slowly close.

Episode VI. The Empire and her Allies; the Coming Generation; the Great Living Flag

The last episode opens with the Choir singing ‘The Bells of Peace’:

After the toil, after the strife,
After the sorry and pain;
After the loss of dears one we loved,
Let us hope and take courage again.
The darkness has passed from our land,
God’s sunlight again gushes forth.
Our people from south unto north,
United one Empire we stand.
Oh Bells of Peace, chime out so clear,
Ring your glad tidings,
Dispelling our fear.
Telling of joy, such sweet release,
Hope for the Homeland and Glorious Peace.

Then the trumpets sound the entrance of the processional car. High in the centre stands the ‘Spirit of Peace,’ in the act of breaking the sword. At her feet lies the ‘Spirit of War,’ crushed and destroyed. The Band plays the regimental marches and enter: The Armies of the Empire and Her Allies—hundreds of regiments from England, including the Women’s Volunteer Reserve and the Women’s Land Army, and regiments from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, India, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Servia [sic: Serbia], Japan, and America. The children then enter and form the Great Living Flag, representing the coming generation, to the singing of ‘Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past’. The curtains of the central stage then open, disclosing the tableau of the Empire at Peace, to the singing of the National Chorale, ‘Our Empire’s Aim.’ A grand processional march takes place to the flourish of trumpets and singing by the choir and audience of the National Anthem. Finally, there is a grand march past to the playing by the Band of ‘Victorious Chimes’.

Key historical figures mentioned

  • George V (1865–1936) king of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, and emperor of India
  • Edward VIII [later Prince Edward, duke of Windsor] (1894–1972) king of Great Britain, Ireland, and the British dominions beyond the seas, and emperor of India
  • Mountbatten, Louis Alexander, first marquess of Milford Haven [formerly Prince Louis of Battenberg] (1854–1921) naval officer
  • Fisher, John Arbuthnot, first Baron Fisher (1841–1920) naval officer
  • Beatty, David, first Earl Beatty (1871–1936) naval officer
  • Jellicoe, John Rushworth, first Earl Jellicoe (1859–1935) naval officer
  • Callaghan, Sir George Astley (1852–1920) naval officer
  • Asquith, Herbert Henry, first earl of Oxford and Asquith (1852–1928) prime minister
  • Churchill, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer (1874–1965) prime minister

Musical production

An orchestra performed the following pieces:

  • Elgar. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ (Episode I).
  • ‘Brave Old Contemptibles’ (Episode II).
  • ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’ (Episode II).
  • ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (Episode II).
  • ‘Sons of the Sea’ (Episode IV).
  • ‘The National Anthem’ (Episode IV, Scene I).
  • ‘The Bells of Peace’ (Episode VI).
  • ‘Soldiers of the King’ (Episode VI).
  • ‘Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past’ (Episode VI).
  • ‘Our Empire’s Aim’ (Episode VI).
  • The National Anthem (Episode VI).
  • ‘Victorious Chimes’ (Episode VI).

Newspaper coverage of pageant

The Times
Nottingham Evening Post
Nottingham Evening News

Book of words


Other primary published materials

  • Official Souvenir of the Pageant of Peace. Nottingham, 1919.

Copy available in Nottingham Local Studies Library.

References in secondary literature


Archival holdings connected to pageant


Sources used in preparation of pageant



The Pageant of Peace was a large and successful event that travelled across Britain as a part of the Treaty of Versailles peace celebrations in June and July 1919. It was staged multiple times in Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Nottingham, Newcastle, Manchester, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cardiff.8 At each location the same script, stage and grandstand was used, and the pageant was organised and produced by the same committee. As a travelling pageant it concentrated wholly on the national and the imperial rather than specifically on the locality in which it was staged. Despite this, the pageant did also have some additional local organisers and civic patrons to go alongside the general and London-centralised committee, and the performers were still drawn from the locality—particularly ex-servicemen. Its stated purpose was simple: to raise money for the St Dunstan’s Blinded Soldiers’ and Sailors’ After-Care Fund. A number of other Peace or Victory Pageants were held across the country in 1918-19 including in Salisbury, Winchester and Oxford.

The inventor, author, and producer of the pageant was Leolyn Hart, seemingly best known, though certainly not famous outside his profession, as a scenic artist for the theatre.9 The public face of the pageant, however, was the much more renowned Sir Arthur Pearson, the former newspaper magnate who had progressively lost his sight due to glaucoma. Made president of the National Institution for the Blind in 1914, he founded St Dunstan’s in 1915, a home for soldiers blinded during the First World War that aimed to provide vocational training.10 In his generic ‘message’ in the souvenir for the Nottingham staging, Pearson described the ‘gallantry of these men at the Front’ and the necessity for making sure that, upon their return, they could be reintegrated into British society.11 Hart further highlighted the cause in his own foreword, declaring the pageant an opportunity for ‘everyone to answer the call’ and show that ‘the people of this country are willing and anxious to respond to’ the plight of those suddenly ‘plunged into life-long darkness’.12 Attending the pageant was thus a visible declaration of patriotism and respect for the soldiers of the First World War. As one newspaper advert for Nottingham declared, ‘Give thanks and help the lads who have given their sight for England.’13

In some important respects the Pageant of Peace was not a true historical pageant, with its scenes all drawn from the recent past and its lack of dialogue throughout. Yet it clearly drew heavily on the established format of historical pageantry by being staged in the open air, including themes of national identity, drawing its performers from the local populace; and with its narrative consisting of several episodes. It was particularly novel in terms of its technical production, as one of many pageants in the interwar period that continued to experiment with the form of pageantry. The outdoor-stage replicated an indoor theatre, with a central curtain that was ‘the largest designed for open-air use’, and had a ‘novel method of working it’ that provided ‘for a wind pressure of ten tons’.14 This design enabled the producers to control what the audience could and could not see at all times, thus ensuring a dramatic response when graphic scenes were revealed instantly. Staged late in the evening, searchlights were also used to pick out aspects of the action as the arena grew dark.15

Most surprisingly, considering the undoubted freshness of the war in the minds of both performers and audience, the pageant featured graphic reconstructions of battles, using real guns loaned by the military authorities.16 Many of these scenes played up the heroism of the troops, portraying turning points in the conflict and providing rousing images of patriotic might. This was particularly evident in the tableaux of Episode III, where soldiers enacted acts of front-line bravery such as carrying other wounded soldiers and capturing German trenches, and in the tableaux of Episode IV, where naval victories such as the defeating of the Emden and the sinking of the Blucher were portrayed. Other scenes, however, offered a poignant reminder of the horror and chaos of war, such as the confusion of the Great Retreat from Mons in Episode III and the bombed-out and burning Belgian town in Episode V, as women, children and injured soldiers fled the still incoming artillery. The final scene returned to triumphant victory, with a procession ‘blazing with colour, the flags of the victorious Allies and the multi-hued uniforms of artillery, cavalry and infantry’, also including ‘trained children… forming a living Union Jack’. With a final blast of the national anthem, the pageant ended as an ‘imposing spectacle.’17 Unlike many pageants in the inter- and post-war period, and indeed some before, there was no element of humour in the episodes of the pageant. While it is tempting to suggest that this was due solely to its status as a peace pageant, this is too simplistic; one of the other notable peace pageants in the summer of 1919, at Salisbury, was mostly jovial and acted out by local children. Clearly there were different ways to rationalise and deal with the representation of the Great War. Instead of trying to create a cathartic escape from the conflict, the Pageant of Peace attempted to portray the conflict as a symbolic coming together of Empire—an example of patriotic sacrifice and a deserved victory, yet also a war of horror. The souvenir to the pageant built upon the direct representations and fulfilled many roles: part informative guide to the conflict and its regiments, part light-hearted reminiscing from ‘lads’ on the front, and also a graphic remembrance of the horrors of war.

In Nottingham the Pageant was staged eleven times. The Nottingham Evening Post commended the producers for the ‘astonishing realism’ of war that was also ‘sufficiently exciting’ and, as a spectacle, ‘gorgeous.’18 Following the symbolic picture of the Empire again at peace in the final tableau, ‘there were well-deserved rounds of cheering.’19 Undoubtedly the scenes were stirring for local spectators. As the Nottingham Evening Post described, ‘The sight of a company of the Robin Hoods fighting under their old officers and NCOs aroused great enthusiasm’.20 On a purely financial level this run of the pageant was clearly a success, raising almost £5000—approximately £100000 in ‘today’s money’. Following the pageant the Mayor wrote to the Post to inform the public of the pageant’s ‘magnificent results’ and to thank them for their support. He also included a telegram sent by Pearson, who added ‘the sincerest of thanks of the men of St Dunstan’s, and of myself, for their most kindly and sympathetic help.’21 This success was seemingly replicated across the country; in the foreword for the Nottingham souvenir, Leolyn Hart declared that the seven previous productions across the country had engendered the support of thirty thousand performers with a staggering aggregate of over one million spectators.22

While not strictly a historical pageant, one can still clearly trace the lineage of the Pageant of Peace to Edwardian pageantry. As a specific form of public drama that has not been analysed, peace pageants are vital for understanding the variety of popular reactions to the First World War and the post-war return to peace. Many peace day celebrations were ill-received: in Luton, rioters burned down the Town Hall, following the banning of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers’ plan to hold a memorial for the dead; in Dublin, thousands of ex-servicemen boycotted the official celebrations; and in Merthyr Tydfil, 25000 people attended an alternative ceremony offering a thanksgiving for peace that ended with a call for higher pensions for ex-servicemen and their dependants.23 Yet the historical pageant remained a form of remembrance that could bring thousands of people together to participate and spectate, using community drama to commemorate, raise money, and even re-enact the First World War.


  1. ^ Official Souvenir of the Pageant of Peace (Nottingham, 1919), 13.
  2. ^ ‘A Peace Pageant’, Nottingham Evening Post, 28 April 1919, 3.
  3. ^ ‘Nearly £5,000 Raised’, Nottingham Evening Post, 14 July 1919, 3.
  4. ^ ‘The Great Peace Pageant’, Nottingham Evening Post, 9 July 1919, 3.
  5. ^ ‘Peace Thanksgiving’, Nottingham Evening Post, 7 July 1919, 2.
  6. ^ ‘Local Amusements’, Nottingham Evening Post, 8 July 1919, 6.
  7. ^ ‘Thanksgiving Concerts’, Nottingham Evening Post, 3 July 1919, 2. Advert.
  8. ^ ‘Pageant of Battle Scenes’, The Times, 7 June 1919, 9.
  9. ^ Who’s Who in the Theatre (London, 1914), iv.
  10. ^ See Sidney Dark, The Life of Sir Arthur Pearson (London, 1922) and June Rose, Changing Focus: The Development of Blind Welfare in Britain (London, 1970).
  11. ^ ‘A Message from Sir Arthur Pearson, Bart., G.B.E.’ in Official Souvenir of the Pageant of Peace (Nottingham, 1919), p. 3.
  12. ^ Official Souvenir of the Pageant of Peace, 9.
  13. ^ ‘Thanksgiving Concerts’, Nottingham Evening Post, 3 July 1919, 2.
  14. ^ ‘A Peace Pageant’, Nottingham Evening Post, 28 April 1919, 3.
  15. ^ Ibid.
  16. ^ ‘Pageant of Battle Scenes’, The Times, 7 June 1919, 9.
  17. ^ ‘A Peace Pageant’, 3.
  18. ^ ‘Nottm. Peace Pageant’, Nottingham Evening Post, 8 July 1919, 3.
  19. ^ Ibid.
  20. ^ Ibid.
  21. ^ ‘Nearly £5,000 Raised’, Nottingham Evening Post, 14 July 1919, 3.
  22. ^ Official Souvenir of the Pageant of Peace, 9.
  23. ^ Adrian Gregory, A War of Peoples 1914-1919 (Oxford, 2014), 181; Edgar Jones and Simon Wessely, Shell Shock to PTSD: Military Psychiatry from 1900 to the Gulf War (New York, 2005), 126; Neil Hanson, The Unknown Soldier (London, 2005); Brad Beaven, ‘Challenges to Civic Governance in Post-War England: The Peace Day Disturbances of 1919’, Urban History, 33, no. 3 (2006), 370.

How to cite this entry

Angela Bartie, Linda Fleming, Mark Freeman, Tom Hulme, Alex Hutton, Paul Readman, ‘The Pageant of Peace’, The Redress of the Past,