100-year-old flag flies again in Leeds

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This eye-catching flag was made more than a century ago by an excited Leeds teenager eager to celebrate the end of war.

Madge Howdill, who was 15 when the First World War came to a close, joined the huge crowds which took to the city’s streets, carrying with her a handmade flag pennant. Afterwards, she safely stored is in her attic as a reminder of the historic occasion where it remained for decades.

A 100 years later, the flag was put on display at Leeds City Museum as part of the city’s commemorations to mark the signing of the armistice which brought The Great War to an end and has since become part of the Leeds Museums and Galleries collection.

During the war, Madge’s older brothers Thomas and Norman both served in France while her youngest brother Leslie, who was too young for military service, was volunteering with the Coastguard. All three survived the conflict but around 10,000 Leeds soldiers never returned from battle. Madge died in 1999 and the flag remained with Duncan McCargo, a professor of political science at the University of Leeds, who moved into the Howdill family home on Hanover Square in 1993. He kindly donated the flag to the museums service so it could be part of the centenary celebrations. Because of the toll the war had taken on the city, the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 was greeted with spontaneous gatherings including in front of Leeds Town Hall.

Many men and some women were still mobilised and away from Leeds, so celebrations were largely led by workers and by some university students, many carrying their own improvised flags like Madge’s.