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A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland
Citation (Chicago Style): Pennell, Catriona. A Kingdom United: Popular Responses to the Outbreak of the First World War in Britain and Ireland. OUP Oxford, 2012. Kindle edition.
Describing the reactions of over 40 million British and Irish people to the outbreak of war in 1914 as either enthusiastic in the British case or disengaged in the Irish is over-simplified and inadequate. Page vii
The five months from August to December 1914 set the shape of much that was to follow. This book seeks to describe and explain that twenty-week formative process. Page vii
Not so much the role of women as it took until Spring 1915 for men to start to feel the need for women on the land.
- Stephen Badsey
- Gary Sheffield
- Dan Todman
An entire population’s feelings cannot be adequately described by the monolithic label of war enthusiasm. Page 1
They sought domestic scapegoats in order to purge their fears of the external German enemy, notably in the form of enemy spies and aliens, responded to myth and rumour, and imagined and then actually encountered violence and loss. Page 2
Enemy spies and aliens
Demonisation, giving shape to their fears, sparking a human tendency towards xenophobia and incrimination during times of strife and stress. (JV) Page 2
They had to adjust to economic dislocation and the breaking of daily routines and rituals. Page 2
Public opinion continued to evolve day by day, if not hour by hour. Page 2
(JV QQ Can this be identified in morning and evening issues of a newspaper?)
4 August 1914
In reality, the responses of ordinary British and Irish people on 4 August were much more complex than the myth of war enthusiasm suggests. Page 4
The response was more pragmatic and complex, than the myth of war enthusiasm has suggested. People were more stoical and accepting; there was even in a sense for some that they had been here before with ‘The South African’ War. While most got on with their weekend, and some enjoyed a hot August Bank Holiday they might have read peices in the newspapers on war 50 and even 100 years previously: the Crimean and Napoleonic Wars too. They understood having their men away from home and some tightening of belts. JV
The central tenet of ‘A Kingdom United’ is that ordinary British and Irish people in 1914 did not back the war because they were deluded, brainwashed, and naïvely duped into an idiotic bloodbath, as the subsequent myth would have it. Rather, their support was very often carefully considered, well-informed, reasoned, and only made once all other options were exhausted. Page 4
The Value of Newspapers in Historical Research
Used critically, newspapers contain multiple forms of public opinion, not only news stories and editorials, but letters from readers. They do more than merely report events, offering, in addition, analysis and criticism. Newspapers fuel conversation about politics, which in turn enables people to clarify their opinions as political actors. Page 6
A mosaic of experiences emerges; the voices of a vast number of contemporaries are heard. A full cast of 441 diarists, correspondents, authors, poets, and elitefigures appears in the dramatis personae in Appendix Page 8
Class: Everyone ‘knew their station’.
‘Upper’,‘middle’, and ‘lower’ class was terms in common usage amongst contemporaries in the pre-1914 period. Railway carriages, churches, clothing, accents, public houses, educational systems, consumer goods, standards of living, working times, and wages, all served to embed a sense of precise station amongst Edwardians. Page 9
Appendix III illustrates geographically where the diarists were located in 1914 to highlight the regional spread of sources consulted. Page 9
Do these kinds of records exist for Sussex, and Lewes in particular?
Other sources included national, regional, and local newspapers; pamphlets; leaflets; magazines; committee minutes; records of universities; Working Men’s Clubs; Mining Lodges and Trade Unions; memoirs; letters; photographs; police records; sermons; government records; and many more. Page 10
‘How did you feel on 4 August 1914?’, these recollections are too valuable for this study to ignore. Page 10
The Imperial War Museum Sound Archive
The Imperial War Museum Sound Archive is the UK’s foremost oral history collection relating to conflict in the 20th and 21st centuries. It holds approximately 9,200 recorded hours of First World War-related material resulting from interviews primarily conducted in the 1970s and 1980s. My thanks to Margaret Brooks from the Imperial War Museum for this information. Page 10
Essex, Devon, Lancashire, London, and the West Midlands are covered. Page 11
A common spare-time occupation amongst the aristocracy and gentry was membership of the Volunteers, the Militia, and the Yeomanry. Page 13
The Volunteer movement played an important role in the social and recreational life of the country. Hundreds of thousands participated, as spectators or competitors, in rifle-shooting contests,‘shamfights’, and military reviews. Volunteering was ‘the spectator sport of mid-Victorian Britain’. Page 13
The literate pre-war male generation had been brought up on the adventure stories of G. A. Henty, H. Rider Haggard, Boy’s Own magazine, and best-selling accounts of the South African War which promoted an image of war as both honourable and glorious. Page 13
Chief among them was the Boy Scouts. Attracting 128,397 boys to its ranks in 1912. Although the reasons for its popularity are debatable–many working-class boys were attracted to the movement because of the opportunity to undertake outdoor pursuits rather than because of its promotion of empire—the ‘Scouts’ undeniably encouraged militaristic ideals and routine. See Bernard Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (Oxford, 2004), 188, 208. Page 13
The South African War had humiliated Britain despite costing three times more than the Crimean War, and involving four times as many troops. 44 People had watched their loved ones depart for war and other men return home wounded. The shock effects of the South African War had been magnified at home because it was a major media war with over seventy reporters at the front by early 1900. Page 14
The reportage of the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913 introduced the idea of modern warfare encompassing mass armies, machines, high casualties, atrocities, and entire civilian populations. Page 14
Stephen Badsey,‘The Boer War as a Media War’, in The Boer War: Army, Nation and Empire, ed. Peter Dennis and Jeffrey Guy (Canberra, 2000).
Lessons learnt from the Boer War
Post-South African War, the general opinion of the army was that frontal attacks were dangerous and costly, and should be avoided if possible. If one had to be made, the methods pioneered in Natal should be used, with close cooperation of infantry and artillery. Page 15
Frontal attacks were extremely costly and entrenchment offered excellent protection from artillery, making preparatory bombardments ineffective. Cover and concealment were crucially important. Page 15
The experience of war in the colonies, and the observation of the Russo-Japanese conflict provided some valuable practical lessons for the British army and important reforms were implemented, despite restricted budgets and the predominance of the navy in British defence thinking. Page 15
Lessons learnt : but the wrong ones?
Against Frontal attacks, relevance of cavalry to turn a flank, importance of infantry / artillery close co-operation. Page 15
For many in the British military, doctrine was to be resisted as it could act as a straitjacket. Page 16
Those who did contemplate a large land battle tended to think of it in Napoleonic terms: one decisive battle, admittedly bloody, but brief—a new Waterloo. Page 16
REF: Hew Strachan, From Waterloo to Balaclava: Tactics, Technology, and the British Army, 1815–1854 (Cambridge, 1985), viii–ix. 52 Strachan,‘Introduction’.
However, international events between 1902 and 1911 began to identify Germany as Britain’s potential future enemy. Although Anglo-German antagonism was fairly recent, it was particularly intense owing to the direct challenge to Britain’s principal source of security, naval supremacy, and also to German reluctance to reach a settlement over spheres of colonial influence. Page 17
1902-1911: Germany the threat.
Ominous developments had already begun. Germany wanted its ‘moment in the sun’, wanted its place at the world table … Agadir, Morocco; Naval Arms Race, Kaiser Wilhelm’s posturing and views, Prussian dominance in German politics, conscription and military service, the festering wound of Alsace Lorraine … Page 17
In 1906, the new Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, began negotiations with Russia, and on 31 August 1907 the Anglo-Russian Convention was signed. Page 17
Agadir 1 July 1911
On 1 July 1911 Germany announced that it had sent a gunboat to the port of Agadir on the south coast of Morocco, ostensibly to ‘protect’ German residents. Rather than accept Germany’s assertion that the matter was between Germany and France alone, Lloyd George made a vehement speech to bankers and merchants of the City of London at the Mansion House on 21 July, warning against further German expansion. Page 17
JV QQ 21 July 1911 what did the national newspapers say about Lloyd George’s speech at the Mansion House? Was it reported locally? Page 17
REF: Keith Neilson, Britain and the Last Tsar: British Policy and Russia 1894–1917 (Oxford, 1995), xiii. See also Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise of Anglo-German Antagonism 1860–1914 (London, 1980).
Prussian Invasion Scare
A by-product of the naval race was a new apocalyptic vision, this time entailing a failure of the Royal Navy to maintain its‘Command of the Sea’ and a subsequent occupation of Britain by Prussian ‘huns’ who specialised in violating and murdering defenceless women. Page 18
REF: Niall Ferguson ‘The Pity of War’ covers much Invasion scare in print. Put my review onto my MA blog.
One word could send ‘a frisson of terror coursing down the middle-class spine—invasion’. Page 18
REF: Ryan,‘The Invasion Controversy of 1906–1908: Lieutenant-Colonel Charles à Court Repington and British Perceptions of the German Menace’, 8. 67 Gooch, The Prospect of War: Studies in British Defence Policy, 1847–1942, 36.
William Le Queux’s The Invasion of 1910, published in serial form in the Daily Mail in 1905.
(JV) I have the book, I should read it. I should look at The Daily Mail and how it was reviewed.
The extent of Anglo-German connections and mutual cooperation.
Outbreak of War, July to August
An unskilled labour force under stress
With the organisation of unskilled and general labourers, and with increased cost of living before the war, industrial unrest became particularly widespread and militant, peaking in 1912–1913. Page 22
Lewes : was any industrial unrest apparent?
The emergence of these private armies raised the prospect that civil war would erupt if a Dublin parliament was set up. Page 24
‘Peace In The Balance’
27 July 1915
The Times published the qualified acceptance of the Austrian ultimatum by Serbia on the evening of Saturday 25 July and, crucially, Austria-Hungary’s immediate dismissal of the conciliatory Serbian response. The crisis led with the frightening headline ‘Peace In The Balance’. Page 24
‘The horrible fear of European complications’.
The German government and army fended off all attempts at mediation by the Entente powers. Page 25
End of July 1914 : Anti-German campaigns
This was compounded by the fact that only a handful of newspapers were explicit in their opinions. The Liberal Daily News and Manchester Guardian ran strong anti-war campaigns up until 4 August, as did the Socialist press such as the Labour Leader and the Glasgow Forward. Lord Northcliffe’s papers, The Times and the Daily Mail, were equally anti-German from early in the crisis. However, the polemics of both sides were unrepresentative as much of the provincial press, both Liberal and Unionist, initially expressed afirm preference for neutrality. Paul Cambon, the French Ambassador in London, feared that the press, along with Radical MPs, would steer the British government away from a decision to intervene.
National papers: Daily News, Manchester Guardian, The leader , The Times, The Daily Mail. What were the Sussex papers saying? Sussex Express
JV QQ Do Reeves have a photograph of a newsagents August/September 1914 ? Page 25
1 August 1914
King George V noted in his diary on 1 August how ‘at this moment public opinion here is dead against us joining in the war’. Page 27
28 July 1914
On Tuesday, 28 July Winston Churchill ordered the Royal Navy to Scapa Flow and its other war stations. The following day, Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia was published in The Times.
Friday, 31 July and Monday, 3 August.
This sense of distance from the impending crisis was compounded by the fact that many people were enjoying their Bank Holiday weekend between Friday, 31 July and Monday, 3 August. p29
There was ‘no flag-waving, no demonstrations, no music hall patriotism’. People understood the gravity of the situation but went about their business quietly. Page 30
On the other side of the county, the East Lancashire Territorial Association viewed the deteriorating international situation with such concern that it called an emergency meeting the same day. As a result, it instructed a supplier who was holding 2,000 service uniforms on its behalf to send them immediately by train to Manchester. It also ordered a further 2,000 suits and 5,000 pairs of boots. Page 30
2-4 August 1914
Across the Bank Holiday weekend, war on the continent became inevitable as France mobilised against Germany in support of its Russian ally (Saturday), Germany invaded Luxemburg (Sunday) and declared war on France (Monday), and consequently issued an ultimatum to Belgium on Tuesday, 4 August, requesting free passage for its army. Page 31
Her worries were amplified when horses, which were being commandeered by the army, began to disappear from the roads. Page 31
2 August 1914
On 2 August French Reservists left stations in London amid pathetic scenes of wailing, tearful, and fainting women who they left behind.
A large anti-war demonstration was held in Trafalgar Square on Sunday, 2 August. Page 32
Germany declared war on France on 3 August
‘ all hope of peace… disappeared with a crash’.
In response, the British Cabinet sanctioned the mobilisation of the British fleet and army. Haldane began sending mobilisation telegrams to all Reservists and Territorials that afternoon. Page 32
We thought it would be a quick clash as in 1870 when the Germans overran France so quickly. Page 33
By 3 August members of the Territorial forces were receiving, or expecting, their mobilisation orders. Page 33
REF: Lyn Macdonald, 1914—The Days of Hope (London, 1987), 41.
If Britain stayed neutral while Germany conquered, Britain would ‘sacrifice our respect and good name and reputation before the world, and should not escape the most serious and grave economic consequences’. Page 34
She was right: supporters of neutrality, who had been working feverishly to keep Britain out of the war since Austria-Hungary’s declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July, dwindled rapidly on the afternoon of 3 August when a number of Liberals were won over by Grey’s speech in the House of Commons. Page 35
The British government’s ultimatum demanded that the German army withdraw from Belgium (which had been invaded at 8 a.m. that morning) by 11 p.m. on 4 August. The time between the issue and expiration of the ultimatum wasfilled with tension, uncertainty, and anxiety. Page 38
4 August 1914
There was no excitement or panic. Page 42
The crowds of 4 August 1914, in London and elsewhere, possessed many emotions—curiosity, apprehension, excitement, anxiety, shock, sadness, and silence. This is similar to the prevailing response to war in rural France. Concern and fear dominated rather than vibrant celebration. Page 42
Mafeking 18 May 1900
Newspaper reports of Mafeking Night (18 May 1900) described the joy and enthusiasm with which the news of the relief of the small British garrison town, besieged by Boer forces for seven months, was received across the United Kingdom. Page 42
The hysteria of Mafeking Night was deemed inappropriate and to be avoided at all costs. Page 43
The experience of 1900 informed the descriptions of the crowds on 4 August
The gathering and demonstrations of crowds in the West End have been described as ‘mafficking’. That is not a just description. When [Baden-Powell’s] force was relieved London went mad and indulged in an orgy which, while it was spontaneous and touched all classes, and pervaded even the furthest suburbs, had many discreditable features. On Tuesday night [4 August] there was a certain amount of rowdyism, but it was not by any means of the same character. Page 45
7 August 1914
The writer, Rudyard Kipling, was holidaying in Kessingland, Suffolk, on 7 August and commented how calmly the local people reacted to the outbreak of war: ‘they don’t howl or grouse, or get together and jaw but go about their job like large horses … the simple Suffolker doesn’t panic. He just carries on all serene.’ (166) Page 46
6 August 1914 Anit-War Keir Hardy
On 6 August, Keir Hardie, who four days earlier had confidently addressed a large anti-war crowd in Trafalgar Square, was shouted off stage by his own constituents in Aberdare, for expressing the same opinions. Page 47
The writer, Virginia Woolf, described how Lewes, Sussex, was practically ‘under martial law’ within a week of the outbreak of war. Page 47
Virginia Woolf on Lewes August 1914
183 Nigel Nicolson, ed., The Question of Things Happening: The Letters of Virginia Woolf, Volume 2: 1912–1922 (London, 1976), 51.
Unemployment and food prices
Early August 1914 the War Office advised local military and civilian authorities to start preparing for outbreaks of disorder that might erupt owing to the foreseen sudden increase in unemployment and food prices. Page 48
To meet the anticipated distress, relief committees were set up and large sums donated by the public. Within twenty-four hours of its establishment on 7 August the Prince of Wales’National Relief Fund had raised £250,000. Page 48
Banks remained closed until Thursday, 6 August 1914
Here the population caused a considerable strain on the Bank of England as they rushed to spend, stock up, and protect their savings. In consequence, the Bank Holiday had to be extended to Thursday, 6 August in order to give the Bank of England the breathing space it required. Page 49
Among the very poor there is indignation at rich people laying in siege stores, and they say burglars, and people who may starve later, are marking the houses where it is done, in order to raid them later on. Page 49
In August, Alice Nash, near Hull, had been left in charge of her younger brothers and sisters whilst her mother was away. On hearing the declaration of war Alice felt the appropriate action was to spend all the ‘emergency money’ left by her mother on food, resulting in enough supplies to last six weeks or more. (195) Page 50
Although employment was already on a downward curve in July 1914, the war brought instant disaster, particularly for the cotton trade owing to the suspension of all imports and exports. Burnley, which was producing 75 per cent of its normal output in July, sank to 25 per cent in August, a trend that would continue for the remainder of 1914. Page 50
8 August 1914
Although on 8 August Alex Morton, owner of Morton Sundour Fabrics Ltd in Dentonhill, Carlisle, appealed to his suppliers to continue with business ‘as normal’, by 11 August a notice was posted outside the factory informing workers that they would now all be working on short time owing to the dislocation of the textile industry. Page 50
JV QQ: Which Lewes businesses would suffer a similar fate?
Carlisle : No ‘war enthusiasm’
Conventionally, the ‘rush to the colours’ has been taken as prime evidence of the supposed ‘war enthusiasm’ in August 1914. However, the fine chronology of recruitment tells a different tale. (208 )
The monthly enlistment rates for the regular army and Territorial Force in Britain from August to December 1914 show that September, not August, emerges as the month with the strongest recruitment (462,901 men) not just in 1914 but for the whole war, representing 9 per cent of the overall enlistment in the army. Page 52
This is not to deny that an intensification of volunteering took place at the outset of war.
The Times on 7 and 28 August. Kitchener’s Appeal.
Despite logistical and promotional issues surrounding voluntary recruitment at the outbreak of war, around 113,000 men volunteered between 4 and 24 August, which was symptomatic of the mood of national emergency. Men were also responding, in part, to the appeals made by Lord Kitchener which appeared in The Times on 7 and 28 August. But mass recruitment came later, in the first week of September—when 188,327 men volunteered in just seven days. Page 54
George Singles, a regular soldier, was working at the recruiting office in Whitehall in early August 1914. He described to his mother how he was ‘sitting here like a stuffed mummy waiting for a few more straggling’ volunteers to turn up.‘They are all grumbling as most of them have had to leave good jobs.’ (222) Page 54
Recruitment in August 1914
Between 11 and 31 August 1914 the lowest daily national returns occurred on 23 August (2,571 men), 16 August (3,215), and 22 August (5,922). (225)
25 August 1914 – 28 August 1914
There are external factors which help to explain the low levels of recruiting during the third week of war. Many thought that Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener’s call for 100,000 men was the sum total required. It was announced on 25 August 1914, that the first 100,000 had almost been secured. It was not until 28 August that Kitchener appealed for a further 100,000 men, giving a further boost to recruitment. Page 55
No doctors to examine them. New recruits were faced with a system in utter chaos.
QQ JV Where did Lewes recruits go?
In the early weeks of the war, age and height regulations were carefully adhered to, and the medical examination was relatively thorough, leading to a high number of rejections which distorts volunteering (willingness) and enlistment (final result) statistics. Page 55
Pay and Allowances
Finally, there was much concern and confusion in the early weeks of the war over pay and allowances, especially for married men. During August 1914 separation allowances were still paid monthly in arrears, and it was not announced until 28 August 1914 that they would definitely be paid to new recruits. Page 55
QQ Was Lewes used to sending its young men away as reservists, and Territorials, even to Boys Scouts?
No major differences appear in the first phase of the chronology between regions, although military towns and naval ports did experience more concentrated activity. There is also a suggestion that these areas, used to sending their young men away as reservists at times of national emergency, responded to the outbreak of war in 1914 more calmly as regular contact with the military and navy had instilled in them a readiness and willingness to fight when war came. (229) Page 55
The outbreak of war had sent shockwaves through all communities: for many men it would take time for the dust to settle before life-changing decisions, such as volunteering, could be made. Page 55
REF: John Morton Osborne, The Voluntary Recruiting Movement in Britain, 1914–1916 (New York, 1982), 8–9.
REF: Peter Simkins, Kitchener’s Army: The Raising of the New Armies 1914–1916 (Manchester, 1988), 31–78, 106.
Quiet determination to see it through
CF. Novelist John Buchan—described the public mood: Almost everybody in Great Britain seems satisfied that there was no other course open to us but to go to war, and the people are taking it very quietly and with determination to see the thing through. Page 56
A volunteer spirit, an obsession with spies, a fear of enemy infiltration, and a sense of national community in wartime were becoming the basis of British wartime society.
The National Cause
Values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that were inherent and implicit in Edwardian society, became explicit. Page 57
6 August 1916
Addressing Parliament on 6 August, Asquith emphasised efforts made by Grey—who kept much of his diplomacy secret, even from most of the Cabinet—to secure peace in the face of German aggression. Page 58
He concluded that Britain entered the war with a clear conscience, to defend civilization in the face of unbridled aggression. (2)
Why Britain was at war.
The major ideas expressed in this speech—national honour, rule of law, justice, the rights of small nations, fair play, and anti-bullying—were reiterated in pamphlets, literature, lectures, newspaper editorials, and speeches throughout 1914, all grappling with the question of why Britain was at war. Page 58
The war was justified to the British public in three ways.
- Germany, which was seen as a growing menace to peace for years, was made responsible for the war. Britain had striven for peace until the last moment, but its duty was to stop Prussian militarism.
- Connected to this idea was Britain’s national honour. It could not stand by and let Germany dictate an aggressive foreign policy.
- Finally, this meant standing by both Belgium and France whose annihilation would be a disaster for British interests as well as honour.
Such sentiments were articulated across the class spectrum. Page 60
Parliamentary Recruiting Committee (PRC)
Private Thomas McIndoe, who fought with the 12th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, recalled the impact of Alfred Leete’s famous Kitchener poster, first issued in September 1914, on his decision to enlist:‘It was seeing the picture of Kitchener and his finger pointing at you—any position that you took up the finger was always pointing to you’. (17) Page 60
Public recruiting meetings were another significant feature on the PRC’s agenda.
Military pageants where bands paraded through the streets. Page 60
REF: Porter, The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society, and Culture in Britain (Oxford, 2004), 257. 17
7 September 1914
N.B. At a recruiting meeting in Brighton on 7 September, Rudyard Kipling argued that, as Germany was fighting to overthrow the civilized world, more British men were needed to ‘check this onrush of organised barbarism’. Page 61
To substantially increase the distribution of the message, these speeches were often reprinted in the newspapers, both locally and nationally, the following day. Page 67
A week later, Vera Brittain recorded the sense of strength and comfort this gave her, since it was ‘much finer to be fighting with Allies than to fight alone; to be united with so many nations is tremendously moving’. Page 68
W. Gamage Ltd, the London department store, produced a catalogue of Allied merchandise, including silk flags of all sizes, bunting, badges, rosettes, favours, and buttonhole badges—all available in the Allied colours. Page 69
6 – 10 September Battle of the Marne
The Anglo-French victory against the Germans at the Battle of the Marne (6–10 September) was one of the single most important events in the war, and a turning point in military history. Page 72
Acting in solidarity with fellow non-combatants and the needy was the appropriate way to behave.
N.B. In August 1914 the British population and its political representatives were faced with a choice: to either band together collectively in a time of need or not. (86)
Differences were set aside and Britain’s understanding of the righteousness of its cause manifested itself in positive behaviour. Page 73
Solidarity with the soldiers, wounded, disabled, refugees, and other war victims became the civilian substitute for action in combat. Page 75
Schools across Britain involved themselves in the war effort, not only through education and the singing of patriotic songs in assembly but by a variety of relief efforts. Page 75
14 December 1914
P. H. Pilditch, a Territorial stationed in Boxmoor, Hertfordshire, recorded how local people were less willing to billet the soldiers: The majority of the people I saw, rich and poor, were unwilling to put themselves out in the slightest degree to put up the men. It made me absolutely wild . . . They make me feel ashamed to be of the same nationality. Page 78
Sacrifice and Stoicism
N.B. Civilians were expected to demonstrate stoicism, selflessness, and endurance, and to go without luxuries, comforts, and frivolity. Peacetime pleasures like theatre comedies and trips to the seaside were avoided in favour of donations to war charities and patriotic concerts. Page 78
The Football Association (FA) came under fire from a hostile press whose contributors were incensed by the decision to continue to play the scheduled league games despite the crisis. They argued that, owing to the voluntary enlistment system, the FA should suspend games and encourage its players and supporters to enlist. Members of the public joined in castigating professional competitions for encouraging young men to ‘shirk’ their duty. (132) Page 78
REF: Colin Veitch,‘“Play Up! Play Up! Play Up! and Win the War!”Football, the Nation and the First World War, 1914–1915’, Journal of Contemporary History 20 (1985, 1985), 370–1.
The number of girls and young women ‘frequenting the vicinity of the various camps … in circumstances which certainly do not conduce to their moral welfare’. Page 82
November. He called for abstinence from alcohol for the duration of the war as a way of sharing ‘in the self-denial of those who are gallantly serving their country at the front’ Page 88
A‘fight to the finish’ and the crushing of Germany would only lead to its desire for revenge (and another war) in the future.
National identity is never more sharply defined than in times of conflict.
In peacetime ‘banal’ indicators, such as currency, a football team, or an anthem, cement feelings of belonging to a wider (and often imagined) national community. Page 92
War accelerates and intensifies the need to know who and what you are in order to defeat a dangerous enemy.
When societies go to war, their world-view becomes polarized into ‘us’ versus ‘them’. The positive collective self—the nation and its allies—is directly juxtaposed with the enemy. The latter exists both as an external threat to the very survival of the nation and as an internal, covert menace in the form of spies and foreign nationals—termed ‘enemy aliens’ in 1914. Page 92
REF: Michael Billig, Banal Nationalism (London, 1995), and Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991).
Marwick, The Deluge: British Society and the First World War (London, 1965), 49.
In 1911 there were over 53,000 German immigrants in Britain, the highest number for fifty years. The majority lived across London, their occupations including hairdressing, baking, and waiting tables. Hostility towards them was often intertwined with anti-Semitic feeling. From the late nineteenth century up until 1914 the Jewish population in Britain had increased from around 60,000 to 300,000, and consisted mainly of East European Jews fleeing anti-Semitic Russia. 34 Anxiety over this level of immigration, particularly of Russian Poles, led to the Aliens Act of 1905. This hostility increased when Anglo-German diplomatic relations deteriorated during the opening years of the twentieth century. Economic fears were now bolstered by a conspiracy theory that Germans were in Britain in order to ‘take over’ control of the country. Page 99
24 August 1914 internment
Although universal internment of all males of military age did not take place in Britain until May 1915 after the Lusitania riots, the first wave of arbitrary arrests and internment began on 24 August when around 4,500 German reservists were rounded up. (43)
28th August – 16 September
Between 28 August and 16 September 6,700 Germans were arrested, bringing the total number of civilian internees to 10,500. Page 99
In 1858, passports became a standard document issued solely to British nationals. Until 1915, they were a simple single-sheet paper document and included a photograph of the holder. The British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 was passed on the outbreak of the First World War. At this time a new format was introduced, a single sheet folded into eight and containing a cardboard cover. It included a description of the holder, as well as a photograph, and had to be renewed after two years. Page 99
REF: Nicoletta F. Gullace,‘Friends, Aliens, and Enemies: Fictive Communities and the Lusitania Riots of 1915’, Journal of Social History 39 (2005), 355. 44 Panikos Panayi, The Enemy Within: Germans in Britain During the First World War (Oxford, 1991), 81, 95.
The accommodation problem had become so acute by December that McKenna had to agree to the release of over 1,000 prisoners on parole. (46)
Civilian internees were held in makeshift, temporary camps based ‘on board ships, some in barracks, some in large buildings …and some in huts’ around the United Kingdom until the system was formalized in 1915.Page 100
19 August 1914 Punch
To protect themselves, Germans anglicized their names, people got rid of their dachshunds, and in Essex butchers changed the name of ‘German Sausage ’to ‘Dunmow Sausage’. (53) On 19 August Punch featured the ‘spot-the-difference’ cartoon shown in Figure 3.2.
Note – Page 100
JV QQ Where there in Lewes any German tradesmen?
REF: Peel, How We Lived Then, 1914–1918: A Sketch of Social and Domestic Life in England During the War (London, 1929), 40.
Cecil Holt, serving with the 6th Cyclist Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment in Norfolk, regularly lavished his sister, Iris, in Lewes, Sussex, with exciting espionage stories. 73
Liddle: AIR 224: A.H. Morton, August and September 1914.
The depressing turn of events in Belgium was personified for the British people by the arrival of thousands of Belgian refugees at British ports. These refugees were full of terrifying stories of German atrocities and German military strength. Page 113
Once interned, people could ‘visit’ prisoners in the POW camps. This was in a similarly voyeuristic manner to people‘visiting’Belgian refugees. Beatrice Trefusis, a London resident, lived near a large detention camp of German prisoners on Frith Hill. She recorded in her diary on 11 October how ‘people go in hundreds to gaze at them as if they were animals at the zoo!’ (131) Page 114
Interned by the Germans by December 1914. 133 It is also due to timing. Thefirst arrivals of prisoners of war in Britain occurred in August and September 1914. Page 115
Brutality. We would make ourselves just as bad as those concerned. (139)
Not everyone ostracized German and Austrian enemy aliens. German immigrants had successfully integrated into British life over the course of sixty years. British people had German friends, neighbours, employees, and colleagues. They shopped at German-owned shops. Some people had German family, either by blood or marriage, including the British Royal family.
Encountering Violence: Imagined and Real
This explosion of violence extended to the British.
9 August 1914
The size of the original BEF that embarked for France on 9 August consisted of four infantry divisions and one cavalry, totalling around 81,000 men. However, in the first five months of the war this small army was involved in some of the most crucial and bloody areas of fighting on the Western Front. For the British experience, this period was bracketed by the Battle of Mons at the end of August and the First Battle of Ypres in November, with little respite in between. Page 118
The casualty figures were far from abstract for contemporaries.
News about big battles and ever-increasing casualty lists, published in the British press, drew the attention of all sections of Britain’s home-front society. Page 119
QQ JV When did the first casualty lists appears.
No information useful to the enemy was published. Unfavourable news was passed over or delayed. Page 120
The truth about casualties and its importance for moral
Alfred Milner, the German-born British statesman, felt that the concealment of negative information, particularly casualty lists and defeats, only acted to demoralize people who felt like they were being kept in the dark. Page 120
22 August 1914 – 12 September 1914 The Times
An analysis of articles in The Times that dealt with the war on the Western Front between 22 August and 12 September reveals that any reports of Allied defeats or retreats were tempered by emphasizing higher German losses. Page 120
August, September 1914
National newspapers like The Times and Daily Mail, provincial papers like the Scotsman and Western Mail, and, above all, local papers, featured columns of front-line soldiers’ correspondence.
QQ JV Front-line soldiers’ correspondence in the local papers
Between 22 August and 12 September The Times featured twenty maps illustrating Allied and German troop movements on the Western Front.
On a number of occasions Punch satirized the attempts of ordinary people to follow the latest war developments in this way.
DRO: Violet Clutton: 6258M/Box 1, Vol II, 19 October 1914.
Gathering these pieces of information about life on the front line allowed people to imagine what it was like for their soldiers. Page 123
Whilst civilians could not experiences first hand the life of a soldier in 1914, nothing suggests that they were not willing or able to reach some level of empathy.
The gulf between ‘home’ and ‘front’ was not as wide as commonly believed. (34) Page 123
REF: Jay Winter, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge, 1995).
In 1914 invasion preparations and home defence measures were taken all along the east coast of Britain from Scotland to Sussex.
Invasion preparations in Sussex
REF: Catriona Pennell, ‘“The Germans Have Landed!”: Home Defence and Invasion Fears in the South East of England, August to December 1914’, in Untold War: New Perspectives in First World War Studies, ed. Heather Jones, Jennifer O’Brien, and Christoph Schmidt-Supprian (Leiden, 2008).
31 August 1914
A typical story published in the Daily Mail on 31 August carried the headline:‘Holocaust of Louvain—Terrible Tales of Massacre’.( 57) The contents of these stories were similar—graphic, brutal and terrifying—and permeated into British imaginations.
On the morning of 16 December Britain’s impenetrable island fortress was brutally violated.
December 16, 1914 Scarborough raids
Wharton, a Scarborough resident,‘We can now realise what the poor Belgians have suffered … we shall never feel safe till the war is over’.
The French Ambassador, Paul Cambon, believed that it was this moment, four and half months into the war, which brought the reality home to the British people: Page 133
Balury Morton, serving in France with the Royal Field Artillery, told his fiancée, Iris Holt, in Lewes, Sussex on 18 December how he hoped that the bombardment would ‘wake people up a bit’ to the realities of war.
Letter to Lewes 18 December 1914
Liddle: AIR 224: A.H. Morton, 18 December 1914.
Consequently, the majority of the British public were made unequivocally aware that this was a war in which civilians suffered as well as soldiers. Moreover, these civilians had suffered at the hands of Germans, cementing their reputation as a brutal enemy. Page 138
Along with caring for the wounded, dealing with refugees—whether positively or reluctantly—became a part of the process of settling into war. Instead of lamenting the situation and discussing frightening horrors, people got on with the job at hand. Page 140
Iris Holt, in Lewes, Sussex, wrote on 30 September how she lived in terror of the casualty lists. Her cousin Nell had been left a widow two months after her wedding. (146) Page 140. Liddle: AIR 224: A.S. Morton, 30 September 1914.
A Volunteer War
However, in the eyes of Lord Kitchener, who was appointed Secretary of State for War on 5 August, Britain was vulnerable to invasion and the reserve Territorial Army was inadequate for its defence. Page 143
It was Kitchener more than anyone who turned spontaneous volunteering into a concerted attempt to raise a mass, continental-style army by voluntary means, beginning with his declaration at the end of the first week of the war, on Friday, 7 August. 1
August, 7th 1914 – Kitchener’s first appeal for recruits.
On 25 August the government issued The Belgian Official Report, which summarized German actions in Belgium and recounted the wave of atrocities against civilians, shortly followed by the publication of the Mons Despatch in The Times on the same day.
Arthur Moore of The Times, who was with the British forces, wrote a depressing account of the BEF in retreat:
Our losses are very great. I have seen the broken bits of many regiments . . . To sum up, the first great German effort has succeeded. We have to face the fact that the BEF, which bore the great weight of the blow, has suffered terrible losses and requires immediate and immense reinforcement. (4)
It ended with a stark appeal for more men to join up.( (5)
The Times article had an instant effect. (6)
Over the next four days more than 10,000 men enlisted.
August, 25th 1914 Times article on BEF and Mons.
Thus, far from signing up in an initial burst of enthusiasm, the largest single component of volunteers enlisted at exactly the moment that the war turned serious. Page 145
Gregory,‘British “War Enthusiasm”’ in 1914: A Reassessment’ (81).
Henry Williamson, who departed for the front in September,‘had a feeling from having talked to chaps from Mons in the local hospital [in East Sussex] that it wasn’t altogether going to be a picnic’. Page 146
Wounded soldiers and Belgian refugees were conveying terrifying stories of German atrocities to the British people. Casualty lists were being printed and they, along with the frightening Mons Despatch, shocked Britons.
REF: Arthur, Forgotten Voices of the Great War, 48.
Men from urban communities were more likely to enlist than those from agricultural ones. Page 147
These included the five main industries in Scotland: coal-mining, engineering, shipbuilding, iron and steel, and building. These were precisely the industries that had suffered a contraction in trade. Page 154
Lord Derby was the first to test the idea when he announced at a recruiting meeting in Liverpool on 28 August that he would try to raise a battalion in Liverpool, comprised solely of local men. Within days, Liverpool had enlisted enough men to form four battalions. age 157
11 August 1914
Robert Graves was outraged to read about the German atrocities in Belgium, and even though he discounted ‘twenty percent’, he enlisted and began training on 11 August. Page 157
Belgium, not ultra-patriotic motives . . . it was the chance of adventure, of getting out of a rut’. (82)
There was often an economic enticement to enlist. Jim Davies ‘couldn’t get in the army quick enough’ because he was going ‘to get a shilling a day’ Page 159
Probably only a small number had a single overriding motive for enlistment, most recruits being driven to join by a combination of external pressures and personal desires and loyalties’. Page 159
This is expressed in a letter from Robert Graves, stationed at Wrexham Barracks with the Royal Welch Fusiliers on 25 October. Having seen the latest ‘awful’ casualty list of his old school, Charterhouse, he began to question why he had enlisted: ‘I can’t imagine why I joined: not for sentiment or patriotism certainly … France is the only place for a gentleman now, principles or no principles’. Page 159
The bulk of Kitchener’s volunteers were motivated by a sense of well-considered duty and necessity, not excitement and an impulsive desire to fight.
Settling Into War
18 September 1914 Mills running down
In a letter to his cousin dated 18 September, J. Wallace, from Chorley, Lancashire, informed him that most of the mills in the area were ‘working less than half time, and nearly everyone is suffering more or less from the effects of the war’. Page 203
Organizations, such as the Vegetarian Society, published recipes and pamphlets with guidance on economical living in wartime. Page 203
REF: GMRO: G24/1/1/9: Vegetarian Society Minute Book, May 1912–December 1914.
8 August 1914
As early as 8 August the Barrow News appealed to townspeople to assist in housing the workmen who were flooding in to work at the Vickers naval and munitions works. Page 205
London was blacked out, and instead people looked fearfully to the skies for any sign of an impending air raid. Page 207
The second million will be coming as soon as we can get accommodation for them. (61)Page 207
The populations of small towns and villages, unaccustomed to large numbers of people, mushroomed as men were put up across the United Kingdom.
Around 1,600 men were billeted in the small market town of Tring in Hertfordshire, with another thousand or so in nearby villages. (64) L. D. Jarvis recalled in 1990 how his village
Pinney, ed., The Letters of Rudyard Kipling (London, 1999), 271–2.
Increased from 1,000 to 2,000 people overnight when the 7th Battalion Warwickshire Regiment arrived at the end of August. (65)
In September Iris Holt told her fiancé how her home town of Lewes, Sussex, ‘had her population doubled at a days notice’. In October she added that she had no idea that that many men existed in the country.
Iris Holt, diarist living in Lewes.
There was a landscape of sound which was also changed by the war. With the influx of Belgian and French refugees, and foreign soldiers, foreign accents were further evidence of the changes the war was bringing, along with the dialects from across the United Kingdom. Page 208. Liddle: AIR 224: A.H. Morton, September 1914.
Guy Fawkes’ night was celebrated on 5 November without the usual fireworks and bonfires owing to the threat of invasion and aerial bombardment.
Children and Belgian Refugees
Belgian refugees were integrated into local schools, teachers enlisted, lessons were adapted for the war, and children were heavily involved in relief efforts, such as Belgian Flag Days, knitting, and local concerts. Page 214
The images demanded their audience to question: what kind of a world would these children live in, if their elders failed to fulfil their national duty? By using the technique of a child’s standpoint, ‘adult’ war issues, such as volunteering, duty, shirking, greed, and espionage, were made explicit through the frank exchanges between children. The adult audience were left in no doubt as to what was expected of them during this national crisis. Page 215
Settling Down to the Business of War
People experienced what Rudyard Kipling described as ‘settling down to the business of war’ in various ways. (117) By late August, early September, public opinion appeared to be calming down. This assessment was supported by the public’s behaviour which was often described as orderly, cool, and with ‘quiet restraint’.
REF: Peel, How We Lived Then, 1914–1918: A Sketch of Social and Domestic Life in England During the War, 20.
Moreover, the ‘spirit of the people was being slowly trained’ to meet the hardships of wartime. (125) Page 218
Overall, from September 1914 onwards, or whenever individuals realized personally that they were at war, there appears to be a sense of settling down, and getting used to the changes and disruption. Page 220
Although people attempted to carry on as normal in 1914—such as attending or continuing to play in football matches—a new wartime society, and the rules of moral conduct that came with it, meant there was a continual tension between the rally-cry of ‘business as usual’ and respecting the soldiers’sacrifice. These decisions were difficult to make. When was it appropriate to‘carry on as normal’and where did changes in behaviour have to be made? Page 220
7 October 1914
On 7 October, John Evans, Deputy Town Clerk for Aberystwyth, pleaded with the secretary of the Welsh Army Corps to billet a few thousands troops in the town during the winter months because the town, which depended on its summer trade, had suffered because of the lack of visitors owing to the war. Without the soldiers the outlook was‘a gloomy one’, with many Boarding and Lodging House Keepers ‘facing the winter with very little resources to fall back upon’. (162) Page 221
‘Settling into war’ was an ambiguous process. It could suggest that the excitement of August was only transitory, and that the public had slipped back into their old ways as the months passed. Yet in reality it was impossible for people to return to their old ways. Too much had changed. Instead, the phrase suggests a nation accepting the situation and steeled for conflict. Page 221
Normality may not have existed, but it was a good way for non-combatants to stand up to the enemy in their own way. Page 221
In reality, contemporaries frequently speculated over the length of the war; there was a variety of opinions as to the duration of the war in 1914 rather than any sort of consensus, let alone around a short war. Page 221
REF: Stuart Halifax,‘“Over by Christmas”: British Popular Opinion and the Short War in 1914,’ First World War Studies, Issue 1, no. 2 (2010), 104.
7 August 1914 Recruiting
By November, people had readjusted their temporal horizons to expect a long and drawn-out struggle for victory. The first recruiting appeal that appeared on 7 August stated that the terms of service would be for a‘period of three years, or until the war is concluded’.
A week later, in an analysis of the current situation, the editorial of The Times concluded that ‘in such conditions the war may be long, very long’. (175) Page 222
JV QQ What did a newsstand look like in August, September and November 1914? Which papers were selling? How widely were papers read by the population?
25 August 1914 Kitchener
On 25 August, in his first appearance in parliament as Secretary of State for War, Kitchener repeated his prediction that the war would last at least three years; his statement was widely publicized in the local and national press the following day. People trusted Kitchener and believed what he was telling them. Page 222
Kitchener’s statement was substantiated by his call for another 500,000 volunteers. People were able to infer from the sheer quantities of men being called upon—and who would require at least six months’ training—that this war would not be over quickly. Page 223
In his foreword to the first edition of The War Illustrated published on 22 August, H. G. Wells described the war as‘the vastest … [and] greatest armed conflict in human history’. 182 Both The Times and the Manchester Guardian started publishing‘instant histories’of the war in 1914.
August, 22nd 1914 the War Illustrated – Time and Manchester Guardian on WW1.
Across all sectors of society the war was described as ‘great’, ‘significant’, ‘unprecedented’, ‘a moment in history’: language that does not suggest something short and compact, over in a couple of months. Page 223
The fact that a number of people started diaries on 4 August 1914 solely to record the events of the war indicates that people believed this to be a life-changing, momentous occasion. Page 223
August 4th, 1914 – people started Diaries – any from Sussex and Lewes in particular?
The British population greeted the outbreak of war with a multitude of reactions, including anxiety, excitement, fear, enthusiasm, panic, uncertainty, and criticism. Page 227
August 4, 1914
Overall, there were more similarities than differences in how different parts of the United Kingdom entered the war in 1914.
Compounded people’s understandings of what modern industrial warfare entailed. The peak of this understanding in 1914 for the British people was on 16 December when German submarines bombarded the coastal towns of Scarborough, Hartlepool, and Whitby, killing over 150 people and injuring hundreds of others. Page 231
By September 1914 the war had become a central feature of everyone’s lives.
The conflict had impacted on jobs and employment; it defined what leisure pursuits were acceptable or not; it prescribed appropriate behaviour; it changed what people could wear and the language people used; it altered landscapes and sounds; food scarcities and increased prices changed the way people ate; children’s playtime evolved; families were dislocated; and by December over a million men were under canvas across the United Kingdom.
Appendix I: Dramatis Personae
Blunt, Wilfred Scawen (1840–1922) British poet and writer. He was born in Sussex and, along with his wife, Lady Anne Noel, founded the Crabbet Arabian Stud. Blunt opposed British imperialism and his support for Irish causes led to his imprisonment in 1888. Page 242
Cowell, Mrs G. M. Aged 17 in 1914, she was on holiday at Frensham, Sussex, the weekend before war broke out. She immediately returned home to Walthamstow, London, and witnessed King George V and Queen Mary stepping out onto the balcony of Buckingham Palace on 4 August 1914. Page 248
Haldane, Richard Burdon (1856–1928) Liberal and Labour politician and lawyer, and brother of the author Elizabeth Haldane. Liberal MP for Haddingtonshire since 1885, he was appointed Secretary of State for War in 1905 and undertook major army reforms including the creation of the BEF. His tenure also saw the creation of the Imperial General Staff, the Territorial Army, the Officer Training Corps, and the Special Reserve. In 1912 he was appointed Lord Chancellor but was forced to resign in 1915 after being accused of pro-German sympathies. Page 250
Holt, Cecil Brother of Iris Holt (see below), he was serving with the 6th Cyclists Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment in Norfolk on home defence duty in 1914. Holt, Iris Living in Lewes, Sussex, she was engaged to Alan Handfield ‘Balury’ Morton serving with the 40th Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery in France in 1914. Sister of Cecil Holt. Page 250
Hulse, Edward H. W. (1889–1915) Born in Westminster, he graduated from Balliol College, Oxford in 1912. After a period of training with the Coldstream Guards he was given his commission in the 1st Battalion Scots Guards in March 1913. He fought at Mons in August 1914. In November 1914 he transferred to the 2nd Battalion Scots Guards. He was killed at Neuve Chapelle on 12 March 1915. Page 254
Lody, Carl Hans (1877–1914) Born in Berlin, he was executed as a German spy byfiring squad in the Tower of London on 6 November 1914. Page 265
Roome, J. Aged 16 when war broke out in 1914, he was living in Walthamstow, London. He enlisted in 1916. Page 271
Walker, Reverend A. C. A schoolboy in the south of England in 1914. Page 273
Whitham, Grace Born 1902, in Hexham, Northumberland, her family moved to Worsall, North Yorkshire when she was 8 years old. In 1914 she was working in the mill in the centre of the village. Page 274
Woolf, Virginia (1882–1941) English novelist, essayist, and publisher, she was a significant figure in London literary society and a member of the Bloomsbury Group. From 1911 onwards, although based in London, she had started renting small houses near Lewes in Sussex, particularly Asheham House. She was there when war broke out, recuperating from a series of mental breakdowns that had begun in 1895 following the death of her mother, half-sister, and father.
Appendix IV: Anti-German Riots and Western Military Events, October 1914
Sources and Bibliography
Lancashire Bolton Archives and Local Studies Centre Greater Manchester Record Office, Manchester Imperial War Museum North, Salford John Rylands University Library, University of Manchester Lancashire Record Office, Preston Liverpool Record Office, Liverpool Manchester Archives and Local Studies Library, Manchester North West Sound Archives, Clitheroe Oldham Local Studies and Archives Salford Diocesan Archives, Burnley University of Liverpool, Special Collections
Census of England and Wales, 1911, Preliminary Report: Session 1911, Vol. LXXI, Cd. 5705.