Teen's century-old Armistice flag on show in Leeds

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image copyrightLeeds City Council
image captionThe flag made by Madge Howdill 100 years ago

A century-old flag made by a teenage girl to mark the end of World War One has gone on show in Leeds.

Madge Howdill, who was 15 at the time, paraded the flag in celebration at the long-awaited end of The Great War.

Her older brothers Thomas and Norman both served in France while her youngest brother Leslie volunteered with the Coastguard.

All three survived the conflict but about 10,000 soldiers from the city did not return.

Because of the toll the war had taken on the city, the signing of the Armistice on 11 November, 1918 was greeted with spontaneous gatherings including in front of Leeds Town Hall, those behind the project said.

Many men and some women were still absent, so celebrations were largely led by workers and by some university students, many carrying their own improvised flags.

image copyrightLeeds Libraries and Information Service
image captionArmistice celebrations at the Barnbow National Filling Factory at the end of World War One

Duncan McCargo, a professor of political science at the University of Leeds, said the then teenager's flag symbolised the feeling in the city at the time.

"It's a story that really has captured people's imaginations- they imagine this 15-year-old girl with two brothers fighting in France making this flag," he said.

Professor McCargo found the flag after he moved into the Howdill family home on Hanover Square in 1993.

"Hanover Square had a recruiting station too, so the war would have had a real personal connection for the Howdill family.

"I think that's something Madge carried with her for the rest of her life."

After meeting the flag's creator before her death in 1999 Professor McCargo said he got the impression he was "given a mission to do something significant with it".

The flag is on display at Leeds City Museum alongside other work inspired by the story.

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