As the Centenary unfolds, a range of newspaper and other records will appear here to give an idea of how the war was revealed at home primarily focused on Kent for our purposes .... fairly random. If you have other snippets to share, please let us know using the dedicated email account:
The Western Front "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916 but fighting continued throughout the period, with some particularly large and hard-fought battles, intended to make a breakthrough. Many of these "breakthrough" battles have become part of the language of the First World War. See map - clickable. The conflict now straddled the globe where the European Empires touched. Increasingly, the Home Front news also included accounts of naval battles around the globe, lost naval and merchant ships, and submarine attacks and losses.
After a short period of three months without a local casualty within the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice, April saw three casualties from Teynham. This was the month in which the Germans introduced poisonous gas into the trenches at the opening of the Second Battle of Ypres. There are harrowing descriptions of French Colonial Troops walking in ragged groups across open fields away from the Front - it was not understood straight away just what had happened to these soldiers. There followed some brutal fighting that took the lives of the Teynham men.
Increasingly, home reporting in newspapers included accounts of the German/Russian Front.
Kitchener's New Army (the Territorial formations) reinforced the hard-pressed soldiers that had taken the brunt of initial fighting in 1914. These drafts into the Front Line included forces from around the Commonwealth. The shortage of farm-workers continued to stoke the debate about children of school age (12 years old or more) going to work on farms; an issue that was never far away in rural communities, including Lynsted Parish. The debate about 'filling the gap' left by enlistment included a debate about the vulnerability of women whose husbands signed up for the Front.
The ill-fated attack on Turkey in The Aegean/Gallipoli gained an increasingly critical public debate after initial optimism. It was very soon understood that progress against a strong Turkish army and their defensive positions would require significant increases in men. The balance of argument fell in favour of commitment to the European French/Belgian territories. The tone of reporting, starting as optimistic in March, begins quickly to turn to withdrawal with as few losses as possible. You can read the Official Despatch, written early in May, that covers the conditions faced by Allied/Commonwealth forces on land and sea.
This is also the month when a blackbird was killed by a German bomb dropped on Faversham - no other casualties.
Reported by the Kent & Sussex Courier on 2nd April 1915. [King George] BLACKSMITHS are URGENTLY REQUIRED for service in Royal Engineers for duration of War.
Men desirous of enlisting as Blacksmiths in Royal Engineers are put through a test at their trade, which is less difficult than the test for Shoeing Smiths; they might, for example, be required to cut off from 1/2-inch sound bar iron, bending into ring of 5 inches diameter, and weld complete. For terms of pay and service, apply to Recruiting Offices: Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells [also repeated in other papers across Kent].
George Lovett Sattin (b 1891; parents John Sattin) married Elizabeth Ridley (b 1878; parents George Ridley) in Lynsted.
Two years later, almost to the day, his brother John Lovett Sattin, originally of Lynsted [466904 - 7th Battalion - Canadian Infantry] was killed at the Front. John Lovett Sattin was himself married in the second quarter of 1907 in registered in Faversham and was one of several local men who chose to emigrate to Canada in search of a better life. Their parents were John and Elizabeth Jane Sattin, Coalyard Clerk for the County Council, living in Greenstreet (Lynsted Parish side).
Elizabeth Ridley's brother, Ernest Ridley, lost his life three weeks later on 20th April.
Progressively through this period of history, the interconnectedness of local families and the pain they shared becomes clear; suggesting that very few if any families went unscathed by the First World War.
Reported in the Daily Express of 8th April 1915. The longest list of casualties among N.C.O.s and men issued by the War Office since the beginning of the war was published last night.
It contains 1,843 names, and represents part of the price of our victory at Neuve Chapelle. The details of the casualties are as follows:-
Losses of individual regiments in N.C.O.s and men are as follows:-
The casualty list was then added in full ...... it would not take long for these figures to be shaded by the scale of future losses.
(of Teynham), Killed in Action, aged 30 years
Reported in the Dover Express on 19th April 1915: TEYNHAM, NEAR SITTINGBOURNE. MODERN BRICKFIELD PLANT. Messrs. JACKSON & SONS. Are instructed by Messrs. Mr. Mercer and Co. (owing to the closing of the Upper Field), to Sell by Auction, at the Frognal Brickfields, Teynham on Friday, 16th of April, 1915, At 11 o'clock precisely, the EXCELLENT BRICKFIELD PLANT, Including 5 single pug mills (by Gardiner), 500 feet of 2½ in. shafting and plumber blocks, quantity of 4 in. cast iron socket pipes, 8 h.p. portable engine (by Marshall), pumps, a large quantity of CREOSOTED TIMBER that has been used as permanent hacks, and is suitable for general building purposes, and about 1,500,000 bricks (grizzles, place, etc.). Also the TOP-SAIL BARGE, "OAK," of Faversham, 44 tons register. Further particulars may be obtained of the Auctioneers, Sittingbourne.
(of Teynham), Killed in Action, aged 34 years
This claim came one week ahead of the first use of poison gas on 22nd April 1915 - by the German Army.
This postcard presents the German attack on 15th April 1915 as futile - from their perspective they were just unlucky and they had established the principle that aerial attacks were possible. The plight of the blackbird was reported as far away as Aberdeen. It does appear that several sorties were made at this time by German aircraft and some reports of British aeroplanes inpursuit.
Fuller accounts of this and other airborne attacks (from December 1914) have been collected together into a dedicated page that will be added to as this WW1 Project unfolds.
Reported by the Dover Express on 16th April 1915 - KENT AIR RAID. GERMAN AEROPLANE OVER THE SITTINGBOURNE DISTRICT."Yesterday, between twelve and one o'clock a German seaplane made a raid on Kent. It was first seen at Faversham where five bombs were thrown, but no damage was done as the bombs fell in fields. Two more were thrown at Sittingbourne and raider then went on to Sheerness where it was received with gun fire. After suddenly dropping, it turned back, and there is a report that it was seen over Kingsdown at one o'clock, returning. One blackbird killed and several holes in fields are the only things it accomplished."
16th April 1915 - Sheffield Evening Telegraph
AIR RAID. TAUBES DROP BOMBS ON KENTISH TOWNS. ENEMY EXCAPES. Futile Visit of German Aviators. BLACKBIRD KILLED.
The Exchange Telegraph Company's Sittingbourne Correspondent telegraphing this afternoon, says just after 12 o'clock a German Taube flew over that district, coming from the direction of Deal.
First of all it flew over Faversham, from where shots were fired at it. The aeroplane reached Sittingbourne it was flying at great height. It then turned inland and returned again, flying at a much lower altitude.
One bomb was dropped in the vicinity of the town falling in an orchard and doing no damage. It made a hole three feet deep knocking off some branches of a fruit tree and killing a blackbird.
When the aeroplane returned a second time it was only about 600 feet up and was easily visible. Another bomb was dropped in a chalk quarry without doing any damage.
Then the Taube seemed to make a semi-circular movement, going off in the direction from which it had come.
Shortly before one o'clock this afternoon, says an Exchange message, a German aeroplane passed over Sheerness. It was fired at by anti-aircraft guns. A later message says the machine, which was a biplane, dipped after being fired on, and a cheer rose from the spectators. Subsequently, however, the machine ascended again and travelled at a high speed across Sheppey in the direction of the sea.
No bombs fell on Sheerness, and as far as is known no bombs were dropped anywhere in Sheppey. The German aeroplane escaped.
On inquiry (says an Exchange message) the Faversham and Sittingbourne police state that British aeroplanes went up in pursuit of the Taube, which fled towards the coast. The result of the chase is unknown.
The "London Echo's" Sittingbourne correspondent say that bombs were dropped by a German aeroplane near Sittingbourne soon after noon to-day, thought, so far as can be gathered, no damage has been done.
Two machines were seen, one flying from south-west to northeast and another from east to west.
It is not certain whether both were German, but the first at least dropped bombs.
One fell on the south-east side of the grounds of Gore Court Park, and one near the house belonging to Messrs. Charles Budley, Limited, some distance away.
The hostile aeroplane was fired upon, and then travelled away in the direction of Faversham.
Gore Court Park, where the bombs fell, is situated on the outskirts of the town, about three-quarters of a mile from the High Street.
An aeroplane, continues the message, flew over Faversham at one o'clock.
As it approached it was immediately attacked by anti-aircraft guns.
So far as I can ascertain it has only dropped one bomb which fell into a field and did no damage except to dig a great hole in the ground.
Two or three aeroplanes from Sheppey have gone in pursuit. There was no undue excitement in the town, people only coming into the streets in a spirit of mild curiosity to see the aeroplane.
When last seen the machine disappeared in a cloud in the direction of Canterbury.
A later message say the bomb fell in the London Road upon a hedge, which was set alight, but no further damage was done.
A police-constable who was within a hundred yards at the time has a portion of the bomb in his possession. He states that he heard two other reports a considerable distance away.
The aeroplane came from the direction of Sittingbourne, and after circling round Faversham sped away, but returned shortly and again encircled the town. The fragment of bomb picked up was the bottom portion, which is intact. It bears a German name.
The London "Star" says: Our Sittingbourne correspondent wires that another aeroplane believed to be British was seen in the sky shortly afterwards. It was flying at a lower level as if coming from the flying depot at Eastchurch in the Maidstone direction.
It was thought that the second aeroplane was out searching for the first, but had not sighted it.
It is also reported that a German aeroplane has been brought down at Eastchurch, but this is unconfirmed."
20th April 1915 - South Eastern Gazette reported on the path of the bombs. "It cannot be said, our Faversham correspondent writes, that the inhabitants were much alarmed by the presence of the German airman over the town. There was nothing approaching panic; indeed, the sense of danger was exceeded by curiosity, and the people flocked into the streets. The actual number of bombs dropped was five - roughly, in a line of about a mile and a quarter. The first fell in the meadow in front of the Mount Military Hospital (where there were 30 wounded soldiers), and within only a few feet of the railway line and a signal box. The second dropped in the centre of the Ashford Road, and set fire to the fencing of the football ground. The outbreak,, however, was very soon extinguished. Several people had narrow escapes from this bomb, including a local clergyman (the Rev. F.H. Barnett), Mrs. Philip Heath (wife of a Factory Inspector), and Police Constable Hopper. They were within a hundred yards or so of the bomb when it fell. The third bomb fell in a field behind some cottages and the engine sheds of the County and Rural Councils; the fourth fell in a fruit plantation at Macknade; and the fifth and last in a hop garden at Colkins. Not one of the bombs, therefore, caused either personal injury or damage - remarkable sequence of good fortune.
Our Sittingbourne correspondent says that directly after the appearance of the Taube over that town, another air machine, flying considerably lower and carrying a pilot, was seen following it. The Taube could barely be distinguished; but when it executed a circling movement its wings glittered in the sunlight. The German circled the district twice, during which three bombs were dropped, and then he darted off in the direction from which he had come, leaving his pursuer - said to be a Frenchman - far in the rear. One bomb fell in an orchard near Gore Court Park, where it exploded and damaged a tree, killing a blackbird. Some people were walking about 50 years off, but they were unhurt. Another bomb fell in an earth-pit in Messrs. Burley's brickfield at Cryalls, Borden, a mile westwards from Gore Court Park. This exploded and threw up a cloud of earth, but that was all. The third bomb fell in a brickfield at Grovehurst, Milton, two miles due north of Gore Court, in the direction of Sheppey. This bomb embedded itself in the earth without exploding. The whole raid lasted about twenty minutes. Before one could realise what had happened the daring raider had gone, and, in spite of rifle and gun fire at Sittingbourne, Faversham, and from some guns at Sheerness, the German succeeded in quitting Kent unscathed.
From the course taken by the Taube, it is thought that the machine came from Zeebrugge. It is described as a biplane fitted with floats. The opinion is held that it was on a scouting expedition.
At Deal, shortly before one o'clock, the buzz of an aeroplane caused many of the inhabitants to go into the streets and stare at the clouds, but nothing was to be seen, even with the aid of telescopes, as there were heavy banks of clouds. People at Kingsdown, a little village two miles away, claim to have seen a German aeroplane emerge from the clouds, and they say that it came south at a great height - a mere speck in the sky - and was apparently travelling towards Dunkirk. Shortly afterwards a number of British airmen were seen giving chase.
Marriage on 17th April 1915 LYONS - SWAN: Ernest William Lyons (b. 1886) married Elizabeth Swan (b 1885) in Lynsted (parents Thomas Henry Lyons).
Kent Messenger reported on 17th April 1915: ROYAL EAST KENT MOUNTED RIFLES. A depot is being formed for the Royal East Kent Mounted Rifles at Canterbury, for which 220 recruits are to be raised, and Lieutenant A. Faunce de Laune, of the 2nd Regiment, has been appointed recruiting officer. Lieut. de Laune will take a troop from the 2nd Regiment on a recruiting march into some of the rural districts of the country next week. On Thursday Chartham and Chilham will be visited; on Friday the troop will go to Charing and Lenham; on Saturday, Ulcombe, Sutton Valence, Leeds and Hollingbourne will be taken in turn; on Sunday morning, after a church parade at Hollingbourne, the troop will march through Doddington and Newnham to Greenstreet; on Monday, Bapchild, Rodmersham, Bredgar, and Eastling will be visited; and on Tuesday the troop will return to Herne, via Hernhill. Another similar march in East Kent is being arranged.
Reported by the Folkestone, Hythe, Sandgate & Cheriton Herald on 17th April 1915
There was a crowded house at the Folkestone Town Hall on Saturday evening [10th April], when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle delivered his lecture on “British Battles of the War, to in Detail for the First Time.”
Major-General J.M. Babington, C.B., C.M.G., (G.O.C. Shornecliffe) presided, and the large audience included many officers and men of the different regiments stationed in the district.
Sir A.C. Doyle’s story of the heroic achievements of the British Army in the campaign was marked by much interesting detail which has not been made public before, and the house followed with close attention the accounts of the battles, which were illustrated by diagrams thrown on the screen. Frequently the audience were stirred to enthusiasm, as Sir Arthur told of some incident of gallantry and devotion on the part of various regiments.
Major-General Babington, in introducing the lecturer, said Sir Arthur was going to tell them something of the great struggle that was raging not so many miles from where they were now sitting. He would also tell them of the magnificent work which had been performed by the British Forces, and also what remained of the great task before them.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in his opening remarks, said he desired to express his thanks to General Babington for his kindness in presiding that evening, because he appreciated how onerous General Babington’s military duties were, and how difficult it was for him to get away. He was honoured by General Babington’s presence. The lecturer went on to say that in the course of his inquiries to acquire information for the history of the War which he was writing he had learned a great deal which was not generally known, but he did not see why he should not make it public, because he was sure that the more people knew about the War the more they would appreciate the magnificent conduct of the British troops, and the more prepared they would be to back those troops up and to see that we brought the War to a worthy conclusion. (Applause.) Sir Arthur then proceeded with the aid of his diagrams to explain the dispositions and movements of the troops at the various battles and how the result of each conflict was arrived at. He dealt first with Mons and told how the retreat had to be undertaken. Passing on, he described the battle of Le Cateux, and in dealing with subsequent engagements re-told the story of the famous stand by “L” Battery, R.H.A. Coming to the turn of the tide that occurred as the result of the Battle of Marne and the German retreat of forty miles, he spoke of how the troops were wonderfully cheered as soon as the Allies advanced again. The Battle of the Aisne was next described, and Sir Arthur paid a tribute to the magnificent work of the Royal Engineers in rapidly erecting numerous bridges so that the British could cross to attack the Germans. In the concluding part of his lecture he spoke of the warfare in Flanders and the splendid achievements of the British Forces in successfully resisting the great German advance in the direction of the coast. Referring to the attacks on Ypres and the Battle of Gheluveldt, he said that 600,00 Germans set out to reach the sea, and there were opposed to them only 150,000 British and Indians. The Germans failed, and lost 150,000 killed and wounded in doing so. That was one of the greatest victories ever achieved by British arms, and we should realise the gravity of the position at the time, and the undying gratitude we all owed to the gallant soldiers who saved the British Empire from the greatest danger that had ever threatened it. We should pray that never again might the Empire be in such danger as it was then.
The audience’s appreciation of the lecture was expressed by enthusiastic applause at the close.
Sir A. Conan Doyle’s visit was arranged through the agency of F.J. Parsons, Ltd."
Reported by The Times on 19th April 1915 - "AFTER THE AIR RAID. - THE "MYSTERY" CAR OF MALDON. - A BERLIN FABLE. (from our Special Correspondent). MALDON, APRIL, 18.
Since the visit of the Zeppelin early on Friday morning the Maldon district has been full of rumours of mysterious motor-cars with flaming headlights which, passing along the highways, guided the airship to the area where the majority of bombs were dropped.
Of all the stories of motorist spies which have been retailed during the last day or two the only one which has a plausible appearance is that of a car with exceptionally brilliant headlights which is alleged to have passed along the road through Lathington a short distance in front of the Zeppelin. To this there are several independent witnesses who all agree in their story. Two London ladies staying at the Hut, which s about 300 yards from the road, say that this car passed along in front of the Zeppelin. At about midnight Mr. and Mrs. Woods, who live at the Cottage, both saw the flaring headlamps, which lit up their bed room, some time before they heard the engines of the car. It was travelling quite slowly. A few minutes later the car was heard by an old couple in the village of Mundon, two or three miles away. Nearly half an hour later it was heard by the same people making its return journey, but, as was noticed, with headlights of much diminished brilliance.
But this mysterious car, the existence of which a number of people are prepared to swear to, apparently came from nowhere and vanished into thin air. Before it passed the Cottage and the Hut it was seen about a mile distant as it came along from near the junction of two roads, one of which comes from Burnham, and the other from Southminster. Near the junction of these roads is a fairly populous district, and there were many people awake on Friday morning who are prepared to swear that no car passed along either road in the direction of Lathington. On the Maldon side of Lathington nearly a mile from the spot at which the motor-car was seen is a police station. The officer who was on duty along this stretch of road states quite definitely that no car from Burnham was seen by him between 11.30 and 12.30, but that at about half-past 12 a car passed him from the opposite direction containing several Southminster people whom he knew.
Altogether the evidence is very contradictory. If the car really existed it cannot have gone so far as Lathington police station, and there is no side road upon which it could have turned off. It may be said that the lights could have been extinguished and the car taken into one of the fields, but in that case it could never have passed through Mundon, where the inhabitants believe it went to pick up the men who, according to their firm belief, had been signalling to the Zeppelin."
With the opening of the Second Battle of Ypres (22nd April - 15th May 1915), the Germans introduced poison gas against French trenches. The impact of this weapon is discussed in the context of the death of Private Leonard Terry (a Teynham man) that occurred on 3rd May.
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette of 27th April 1915: DISCOVERY AT NORTON. While removing a portion of a bank at Buckland Corner, Norton, where the Faversham Rural District Council is carrying out a corner improvement, the workmen on Tuesday [20th April] came across the skeleton of a human being. The skeleton was embedded in the chalk. The Highway Surveyor had the bones collected.
Later reported [4th May]: SKELETON AT NORTON. The skeleton found at Buckland Corner, Norton, is thought to be probably that of a person who committed suicide, and, in accordance with the old custom, was buried at the cross-roads.
Reported by the Dover Express on 23rd April 1915: FORMATION OF FIELD COMPANIES FOR THE KENT (FORTRESS) ROYAL ENGINEERS. 150 smart young men required as Drivers. Must have some knowledge of horse Work not necessarily able to ride.
200 more sappers also required. The following trades preferred:- Carpenters, Bricklayers, Plumbers, Fitters, Blacksmiths, Handymen, also a certain number of Draughtsmen, Surveyors and Clerks. These receive extra engineering pay, according to their qualifications, beyond the usual Regimental pay.
Beside the above, 50 Pioneers are also required, sho will receive Pioneer pay in addition to Regimental pay. To all the above Separation allowances will be paid on the usual scale. Recruits must be between the ages of 19 and 35 years. Written application should be made to Major H.F. Stephens, Commanding Kent Royal Engineers, Sub-Mining Depot, Gillingham, Kent.