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 continued largely "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916. The continuing mood surrounding events in the Gallipoli Peninsula is revealed by General Ian Hamilton in his Despatch of 26th August 1915:-
"Finally, if my despatch is in any way to reflect the feelings of the force, I must refer to the shadow cast over the whole of our adventure by the loss of so many of our gallant and true-hearted comrades. Some of them we shall never see again; some have had the mark of the Dardanelles set upon them for life, but others, and, thank God, by far the greater proportion, will be back in due course at the front."
The war expanded in central Europe as Italy engaged more fully with German and Austro-Hungarian forces. Not always successfully at first. Italy further expanded her engagement by declaring war on Turkey on 21st August.
Newspaper reporting on the Russian experience on the Eastern Front and the addition of Italy on the Western Front gains more column-inches. Following the "Great Austro-German Offensive on the Eastern Front" that began on 13th July 1915, Warsaw falls to German forces on 1st August. The successful German attack on Kowno/Kovno forts 17th/18th August on Russian soil reverberated in the psyche of Russian forces that had been overwhelmed. Further losses continued as Germany stormed Osovets (22nd August, Poland),Brest-Litovsk (25/26th August, Poland), Byelostok (26th August, Poland).
The Dardanelles engagement moved firmly away from the initial idea of a naval attack into 'boots on the ground' with landings at Suvla (15th August) and the Battle of Sari Bair (9th/10th August). Italy and Austro-Hungary locked horns along the Isonzo River on 18th July and again on 10th August - there followed a series of Battles in the mountainous valley in following months and years.
Naval engagements became more important as Germany strove to strangle Britain and other Allies using ships and submarines. The entrenched front lines in France and Flanders did not entirely define the confrontation as aircraft and zeppelins extended the impact of each side. On 21st August, there was the first authenticated case of a German submarine firing on a merchant marine ship's crew who were in open boats after being torpedoed (S.S. Ruel). British submarine "E-13" was attacked when it was aground in Danish waters. The traffic was not all one way - HMS "Baralong" (special service ship) destroyed the German submarine "U-27".
August also saw significant Allied aerial bombing raids on Germany.
Thankfully, for those who were living within the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice communities, August was free of losses.
Newspapers were continuing to report under censorship - so Zeppelin raids were recorded as "East coast" rather than confirm key locations to German spies for future raids....
The "Munitions of War Act, 1915," gained traction as British means of production were diverted to meet the need for all manner of armament and munitions. This included the shifting from 'cotton powder' to T.N.T. (of which more will be revealed in the 1915/1916 account of the tragic loss of Alice Post of Greenstreet/Teynham).
On 2nd August 1915: Charles Alfred Channon (b 1889) married Edith Mildred Kimber (b 1894) in Lynsted (her father was Thomas Benjamin Kimber, blacksmith - recorded in HM Dockyard, Sheerness, in the 1911 Census).
Reported by Herne Bay Press on 7th August 1915, SITTINGBOURNE. Volunteers in Camp. A numerous section of the Sittingbourne, Milton and District Volunteer Training Corps went into camp on Saturday at Blue Bell Hill, spending the week-end training with the 4th Buffs.
For many weeks, the local and national papers carried the story of George Joseph Smith, serial killer and bigamist who gained notoriety drowned his brides in their baths at home. From February 1915, the story took a local twist with the death of Alice Smith (nee Burnham) at the seaside resort of Herne Bay ... The Kent Messenger of 14th August ran the final story - SMITH EXECUTED AT MAIDSTONE - THIS MORNING - What happened? - The "Brides in the Baths Case". Smith, the villain of the "brides in the baths" dramas, paid the penalty of his crimes this (Friday) morning, when, at eight o'clock, he was hanged in Maidstone Prison.
The condemned man, since his removal to Maidstone on Wednesday week, had been visited several times daily the the Rev. J. Stott (one of the Bishop of Southwark's ablest missioners), who has been acting as Chaplain in the absence of the Rev. E. Stephens, who is with the troops at the front.
The Rev. R. J. Wardell, Wesleyan Minister of Maidstone, has also visited the culprit, who claimed to belong to the Wesleyan Methodist persuasion.
We understand that Smith welcomed the ministrations of both these gentlemen, and that during the last few days of his life he appeared to be in a penitent from of mind.
The usual officials were present at the execution, but for the first time for many years - for no particular reason that we can gather - the representatives of the Press were excluded; so that, from the public point of view, the arrangements for the execution were not so satisfactory as has been the case hitherto in the County Town.
A couple of London Press photographers arrived in Maidstone on Thursday afternoon, and one of them at once proceeded up the County Road to take a snap-shot of the entrance to the Gaol. He had scarcely got to work when a constable made his appearance and requested him to accompany him to the Police Station, where he was informed that as Maidstone was a prohibited area, it was an offence to take a snapshot of any of the buildings.
Both photographers returned to London without any pictures.
The Last Scene. It was a brilliantly fine morning - one of the few brilliant mornings of this summer - when Smith took his last limited view of the things of this world.
Between half-past seven and the fatal hour of eight a considerable crowd collected in the County Road, outside the prison walls. The military element was conspicuous, and a number of the civilians were also evident strangers. They passed the time discussing the strange man whose mortal moments were now so few, and in conferring with the residents of the locality, who, from previous experience of such occasions, were able to impart quite a lot of information as to that might and might not be expected to happen. The police view of possibilities was indicated by the presence of a sergeant and several constables. Nothing but the formal regulation of the traffic, however - including clearing the way for the arrival of a motor car - called for their attention. This car contained the Under Sheriff for Kent and the under Sheriff for London.
Early in the morning the Chaplain visited the culprit, and administered such consolation as was possible. Then a light breakfast was brought, and the solid portion was sent away untouched. At last, at a few minutes to eight, the executioner (Ellis) arrived to perform the grim task of pinioning the prisoner and preparing for the last rites.
Almost on the stroke of eight a little procession emerged from the condemned cell into the great yard of the prison. The central figure was the condemned man, with faltering steps, between two warders; and at the head was the chaplain reading portions of the Burial Service. The procession made straight for a little shed, containing the gallows and the pit. The officials gathered round while the executioner conducted the culprit to the mark. Then a cap was pulled over the man's eyes, the noose adjusted round his neck, and the bolt drawn, which unloosed the door beneath his feet, and sent him into space with his neck broken. The thud of that opening platform was all the sound that was hear.
The officials present were the Under Sheriff of the County, the Governor of the Prison (in this case a deputy from the North owing to the newly-appointed Governor being on a visit to his son in hospital in France), the Medical Officer, the Chaplain, and a few warders.
This was the simple scene amid which one of the greatest criminals of the century met his just doom. Whether he confessed or not is known only to the authorities, but it is believed that he felt such contrition as a man of his ghoulish nature is capable of.
Outside the gaol the sun still shone, the crowd lingered until dispersed by the police, and many persons passed on their way to work apparently unconcerned with the official tragedy which had taken place "over the wall".
No bell was tolled on this occasion (out of consideration for the convicts in the adjoining prison), nor was the black flag hoisted, but in due course the certificate notifying that the process of law had been duly complied with was affixed to the outer gates.
HISTORY OF THE CRIMES
It will be recalled that Smith was tried at the Old Bailey before Judge Scrutton. There were indictments for the murder of three women whom he had married, viz., Beatrice Constance Mundy, on July 13th, 1912; Alice Burnham, on December 12th, 1913; and Margaret Elizabeth Lofty, on December 18th, 1914.
The indictment proceeded with was that concerning Miss Mundy, who was murdered at Herne Bay. Hence the execution of the culprit in Kent.
The evidence showed that Smith, who was already married, went through a form of marriage at Weymouth in 1910 with Miss Mundy, who was possessed of between £2,000 and £3,000. He lived with her for a short time and then deserted her and rejoined Miss Pegler, with whom he had cohabited at Bristol. He, however, made reconciliation with Miss Mundy, and with her, in 1912, took a small house at Herne Bay. A bath was put in on his behalf, although there were no means of filling or emptying it in the ordinary way with a tap or plug, At an early date during their residence there he took her to see a doctor, telling him she had had a fit. The doctor failed to discover any particular symptoms of this, but he prescribed for her. A day or two later - on July 13th, 1912 - Smith went to the doctor and told him that the woman had died in the bath, presumably from a fit. Prior to the occurrence miss Mundy and Smith had made wills leaving all the money of which they were possessed to each other. Smith, by the way, had practically nothing. After a long trial the jury found him guilty and he was condemned to die. The other crimes followed at intervals, at Blackpool and Highgate, and it was his cupidity over the insurance money that led to his ultimate detection. He had the effrontery to demand commission on the insurance of one of his victims after he had been paid the death claim. He appealed against his conviction on the grounds of the admission of evidence concerning the deaths of the two other brides under precisely similar circumstance.
The appeal was heard before the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Reading), Justices Darling and Lush. Mr. Marshall Hall, K.C., who had a defended him upon his trial, appeared for the culprit, but the appeal failed - to the satisfaction of everybody who had read his terrible record of crime."
The South Eastern Gazette reported on 17th August: A FOURTEEN-YEAR OLD SOLDIER. Alfred Thompson was probably the youngest recruit that joined the new Army. He enlisted when he was fourteen, spent his fifteenth birthday in barracks at Dover, and was in the fighting line before he was fifteen and a half years of age. He is now home "on leave" with his parents at Brighton, pending his discharge from the Army as being too young.
The South Eastern Gazette reported on 24th August 1915: WAR PASSES IN THE ISLE OF SHEPPEY. The military form which has been in force for the Isle of Sheppey since May became obsolete on Friday [20th August], and a new series is in course of issue. This change of passes, the third since passes were first issued for the island in November last, is dictated by military considerations. There has only been one serious abuse of the pass system during the ten months, and in that instance heavy fines were imposed upon the offenders.
Visitors to the Isle of Sheppey by road are required to obtain their passes at Sittingbourne Police Station, and those travelling by rail and desiring to enter those portions of the island outside of the military canal at Sheerness can obtain them only of the Mayor of Queenborough.
No pass is required to enter or leave Sheerness by persons travelling by rail, but this does not apply to any one entering Sheppey on the King's highway via the Swale Bridge."
Reported in the Kent Messenger on 28th August 1915: An inspection of the men of the 4th Kent Division Voluntary Aid Detachments took place on Saturday afternoon (21st August) at Sittingbourne by Lord Chilston, the new county director. Accompanying him were Dr. Yolland (Chief Staff Officer), Dr. Selby (Assistant county Director), Dr. Noble (Commandant of Kent 3 Area), Dr.Henderson (Commandant of Kent 7 Area), and Dr Harper. There were 150 men on parade from Sittingbourne, Greenstreet, Faversham, Doddington, Boughton, Sheppey, Gillingham, Dartford and Gravesend, Lord Chilston congratulated them on their smart appearance, and hoped that many of the younger men would see their way to join the R.A.M.C., who were in need of recruits.
Reported by the South Eastern Gazette on 24th August 1915: MILK ADULTERATION IN KENT.- A HIGH RATE. A report from the County Analyst (Mr F.W.F. Arnaud) that milk adulteration in Kent was on the increase and inferior quality milks were more numerous than usual. "Of the 290 samples of milk submitted by the police during the quarter, 21 were adulterated, giving an adulteration rate of 7.2 per-cent. "This rate percent," says Mr. Arnaud, "is very high, particularly as there were in addition 34 samples of inferior quality."
Six of the adulterated samples were found to contain added water, 14 were deficient in cream, and one sample contained boric acid added as a preservative. Some of the samples were found to be very deficient in cream, the deficiency in a Sittingbourne sample exceeding 30 per cent. A Chatham sample was deficient in fat and also contained added water, other milks showing large fat deficiencies being submitted from the Elham, Malling, Penge, and Wingham Divisions."
No samples of adulterated milk were received from the Bearsted, Cranbrook, Faversham and Home Divisions."
Reported by the Daily Express on 28th August. DAILY RAIDS BY THE ALLIES ON GERMAN POSITIONS FROM FLANDERS TO ALSACE. AVALANCHES OF BOMBS.- POISON FACTORY AND ELECTRIC WORKS BOMBARDED. The great aerial offensive by the Allies on the west, begun on August 24, was continued yesterday, and now for four days there have been daily raids on a large scale, against which the Germans seem to be helpless.
Yesterday's raid was on Mulheim, in Baden, where a squadron of aircraft bombarded the railway station and electrical installation.
On the night before ten bombs were dropped on a poison gas factory at Dornach, and earlier on Thursday a number of other raids were made.
Sixty French, British, Belgian aeroplanes on Wednesday bombarded the Forest of Houthulst, near Ypres, and set it on fire, and on Wednesday night 127 bombs were dropped on the station of Noyon.
It will be seen from the map [below] that the allied airmen are active all along the line from Flanders to Alsace.
Reported by the Kent Messenger of 28th August 1915: RETURN OF BRITISH WOUNDED - ARRIVAL OFF GRAVESEND. Shortly after 2.30 on Wednesday afternoon [25th August] the "Princess Juliana" arrived at Tilbury with 258 wounded British officers and men, whom the Germans had released because they considered them unfit for further military service. There were also 27 unwounded Army medical men.
Amid cheers, the boat put into Tilbury Dock, where two special trains were drawn up. One train was for those who could move about by themselves or with assistance, and the other - a South-Western ambulance train - fitted with beds for the conveyance of the helpless. About the first and larger class, belonging to many regiments, the most noticeable feature was their high spirits. Number os them had been prisoners for 12 long months, since Mons and Landrecies; they were clad in a combination of very tattered khaki and raiment unknown to the British Army, some wearing black corduroy trousers and clogs or German side-laced boots. Many bore on their faces the strain of the sufferings they had endured, but they were one and all delighted with a word of kindly welcome, and many were quite jubilant. They had heard wonderful stories of the fate of England, and seemed surprised and relieved to find Tilbury intact."
The South Eastern Gazette on 31st August: TENTH SERVICE BATTALION R.W.K. REGIMENT. A further appeal is now being made for recruits for this Battalion, which has its encampment on Penenden Heath, Maidstone. Another 500 are wanted immediately, and, as will be seen by an advertisement announcement in this issue, it is open for any man between the ages to 19 and 40 to join. The recruiting office is at the Barracks, Maidstone, or at the Camp, Penenden Heath."
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 31st August: DARDANELLES OPERATIONS - THE TRUE OBJECTIVE NOT YET REACHED. The Press Bureau on Wednesday night issued a frank statement with reference to the recent British operations in the Fallipoli Peninsula. The public are informed that, the true objective has not yet been reached, and that further serious and costly efforts will be required before a decisive victory is won.
It appears that the attack from Suvla was not developed quickly enough, with the result that the dominating ground gained, mainly by the Australasian forces, at Auzac, had to be abandoned. A renewed attack on the 21st inst., did not meet with success, except on the Anzac left. The losses on both sides were heavy.