How the ET pulled off the Armistice scoop

The story was retold by Fred in the Evening Telegraph in 1957. NNL-180611-154713005
The story was retold by Fred in the Evening Telegraph in 1957. NNL-180611-154713005

Monday, November 11, 1918.

Evening Telegraph junior reporter Fred Adkins had spent the previous Sunday evening painting window posters saying “End of the war” and “Armistice signed today” in hopeful anticipation of an agreement.

He got to the old Wellingborough office voluntarily the next morning at about 5am and sat in front of the fire before dozing off.

The telephone rang. He wasn’t sure if he was dreaming.

It rang again. It was the Press Association in London.

They said: “We have been trying to call all offices in the Midlands and you are the first to answer.

“Will you take a message?”

And what a message it was.

The message said: “The Armistice was signed at 5.30am this morning.”

Fred, who later became the paper’s sports editor, tried to call head office but there was no reply.

He was told that the next-door neighbour of then-editor Frank Hutchen had a phone and requested they were called.

“What, at this time of the morning?”, the operator said.

To which the reply was: “Yes. They won’t mind. The war’s over.”

Mr Hutchen was brought from home and said to Fred: “Well done, lad. I’ll get out a special.

“Call for one or two of the operators on the way to the office and you be here with your bike at nine.”

Later forty dozen single sheet specials were tied to Fred’s handlebars and in 26 minutes the journey was complete.

The papers were on sale, four hours before other evening papers appeared with a stop press paragraph.

Factories closed and most of the pubs ran out of beer.