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 opening of the front through the Dardanelles Straits on the Gallipoli Peninsula was deteriorating. The Allied attack on Gallipoli was insufficiently planned and resourced and now "mission creep" meant the Allies were committed without the ability to retire easily. Transforming from a proposed 'gunboat diplomacy' through the Dardanelles Straits to 'boots on the ground' on the Gallipoli Peninsula against a formidably well prepared and entrenched Turkish fighting force. Our Commonwealth forces, alongside several British formations soon found themselves horribly exposed and vulnerable to huge loss of life.
Events during June showed how the War was becoming more diversified in terms of number of theatres and techniques - poison gas was now a very real part of warfare; cavalry was long forgotten in favour of the ever-increasing numbers of infantry brigades. In the Dardanelles, The Third Battle of Krithia opened (4th); followed by the short action of Gully Ravine (28th to 2nd July). Fighting in Western Europe needed greater coordination between Allied forces [the First Conference of British and French Ministers was held at Calais on 5th June]. On 18th June, the Second Battle of Artois ended.
Casualties within the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice continued in June with the loss of a Lynsted man (19th June below).
Reported in The Times of 1st June 1915:
400 VICTIMS OF GERMAN GAS POISON.
The casualty lists published to-day, which will be found on p.12, contain the names of 89 officers and 1,630 men. The latter figure includes 403 men suffering from gas-poisoning, of whom all but two belong to the 2nd Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers; and in addition three men of various regiments are reported to be both wounded and suffering from gas-poisoning.
The other principal regimental losses are as follows:-
|R. Warwick Regt.||9||15|
|R. Irish Regt.||17||42|
|West Kent Regt.||-||46|
Of 369 Australians in the total, 50 are reported dead and 319 wounded.
Among the officers who have died of wounds is Lieut.-Colonel G.F. Steele, C.M.G., 1st Royal Dragoons; the wounded include Brigadier-General R.L. Mullens and Lieut.-Colonel W.J. Napier, R.F.A.
Reported by Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald on 3rd June 1915.
THE OVER AGE SLACKER
Men over military age have too long regarded it as a right to enquire of likely men – men who look under 41 – why they have not joined the Army. They have too frequently asked the question “Where’s your armlet?” never taking the trouble first to find out whether their question is justified, and always regardless of the pain they may cause. It is unfortunately a fact that a very large number of young men have endeavoured to shirk their responsibilities, but the Government and the military authorities may be trusted to look after such. By the time these bodies have finished there will be very few eligible men left.
Just in the same way as there are young men who are slacking so there are many men over age who are just as guilty. We wonder how many men over 41 and 48 would rush to join the colours? Doubtless there are many who would, in fact, we may say the majority would, but quite a large section would raise every effort to get out of an obligation and in fact do something similar to that recently done by the married attested men.
But the door is open to those men over military age who wish to help in the defence of their country if necessary. There are Voluntary Corps in nearly every district in the country consisting of men who have regularly trained in military methods; they have drilled, been out on route marches and manoeuvres in all kinds of weather, and thousands have put up with the discomforts of camps; they also know how to shoot and dig trenches. In fact we know that one of the most prominent officials at the War Office recently expressed considerable astonishment at the excellence of the work of Volunteers in this direction. The time is coming when some use will be made of every man in the country who can do anything. If we are to win this war we must all work and work hard and in the right spirit. If we are bearing a great burden we must remember that future generations will benefit from our efforts and look back upon the people of the present generation as heroes. Probably the whole world may some day have to thank the British people of these times for saving them from the shackles of militarism and oppressions.
The East Kent Gazette published on 5th June 1915: DEATHS – MACDONOGH – May 30th, George Alfonso, the only child of Brigadier-General Macdonogh, C.B., and Mrs Macdonogh, of Nouds, Lynsted, aged 7 years.
On 7th June, German airship "LZ 37" destroyed in mid-air by Lieutenant Warneford, near Ghent. (First occasion of airship successfully attacked by aeroplane). A writer, Major Charles C. Turner (late of the RAF), in 1919 recalled this man's accomplishments - see below.
Lieutenant Warneford, V.C., was regarded as something of a folk-hero for this achievement, perhaps because flying was still an exotic activity. He did not see the end of June.
On 14th June, it was officially announced that the French Minister of War handed the Cross of Chevalier of the Legion of Honour to Lieutenant Warneford.
[Western Daily Press, 21st June, p5] Paris Reuters - "On Thursday, after lunch, at which he had been entertained by a few of his fellow-countrymen, Lieut. Warneford went to Buc in order to try a biplane. He was accompanied in the machine by an American journalist named Henry Beach Needham. The aviator described several large circles and rose to a considerable height, making several rapid descents. The machine answered marvellously. When plying at a height of 200 metres Warneford tried to make a sharp turn to the right, but this time the aeroplane turned completely on its side and fell heavily. Neither the lieutenant nor the passenger was stripped in, and both were thrown out. Warneford was picked up 90 metres and Needham 35 metres from the biplane. Aviators on the spot picked up the two men. Needham had already ceased breathing, but the Lieutenant was breathing feebly. He was placed in an automobile and driven to the British hospital at Versailles, but when he was lifted out of the car he was already dead." .... "The 'Figaro' says:- "For a week Warneford lived in a blaze of glory, and now he dies the victim of ridiculous common place accident, from the shot he had so often braved, and which he hoped to face victoriously in a few days. The whole of France will deplore this sad end, and will weep for the death of a young hero as for one of her greatest children."
Funeral Reported on 22nd June 1915 - Exeter and Plymouth Gazette
"LAST JOURNEY. FUNERAL TODAY.- The coffin containing the remains of the late Lieutenant Warneford arrived at Victoria Station at 9.15 last evening, and a detachment of naval men drew it on a naval gun carriage to the mortuary at Brompton Cemetery, where the funeral takes place today. Thousands of people were at Victoria Station to witness the arrival, but only a few friends of the late aviator were allowed on the platform. The coffin, draped with the Union Jack, bore the floral representation of an aeroplane which had been given by the non-coms, and privates of the British hospital in Paris, and on the gun carriage was an airman's helmet devised of white flowers.
Some fifty men from the Royal Naval Division, commanded by Lieut. Bishenden, followed behind, and a large detachment of the Naval Air Service, including a section under Lieut. Thurston, which had accompanied the body from Paris, was present on the platform. The deepest sympathy was felt for two ladies clad in deep mourning, sisters of Lieut. Warneford. They were accompanied by Lieut.-Colonel Coerkery, of the R.A.M.C., stepfather of the dead hero. The scene at the station was over in a few minutes, but crowds watched the procession along the line of route to the cemetery. Everywhere there were manifestations of profoundest respect and sorrow."
Reported in the Faversham and North East Kent News of 12th June 1915:
GREENSTREET. A section of the Sittingbourne and District Volunteer Training Corps has been formed at Greenstreet, and already has 50 members, among whom are the Vicar of Teynham, Rev. W.A. Purton, and his curate, Rev. A.B. Cole, Mr. W.R. Stonhame, of Scuttington Manor, has undertaken the temporary charge of the section, and Mr. R. Seager, of the Dover Castle, is acting as Hon. Sec. The Section meets for drill on Mondays at 8.30 p.m., Wednesday at 7.30 pm and Sundays at 9 am.
TEYNHAM. Colonel and Mrs Honeyball last week entertained at Newgardens about 100 wives and dependents of men belonging to the Teynham district who are serving their country. The gathering was under the auspices of the Faversham Division of the Soldiers’ and Sailors;; Families Association, and Lady Violet Milles, the Hon. Secretary of the Division, was present. The guests greatly appreciated the hospitality of Col. And Mrs. Honeyball and very much enjoyed the gathering.
The East Kent Gazette on 12th June 1915: DEATHS – CHAMP. On May 13th, 1915, Stephen Champ, of HMS Goliath the beloved husband of Frances Champ, Barrow Green, Teynham, age 44 years. Service to be held Sunday, June 13th, at 4.30 pm at St. Mary’s Teynham.
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 15th June 1915: CHARGE AGAINST A DEBT COLLECTOR. At Sittingbourne Petty Sessions yesterday (Monday), before Mr.G.H.Dean (in the chair) and other Magistrates, John Ware, aged 38, debt collector, of Sittingbourne, was committed for trial at the East Kent Quarter Sessions on a charge of having, on various dates, received sums of money amounting to £3 4s. 6d. on account of Mrs. Mary Thomsett, shopkeeper, Sittingbourne, and converting the money to his own use.- A similar charge, in respect of various sums amounting to £7 8s., was preferred against Ware by Mr. J.S.Read, a Greenstreet tradesman, and on this charge prisoner was put back for further investigation.
- Public events like cinemas and sports fixtures were used frequently during the war to 'shame' individuals and communities into "stepping up to the mark" -
Reported in the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald on 19th June 1915: AN APPEAL FOR RECRUITS FOR “THE BUFFS". Speaking at a recruiting picture show performance at Dover on Thursday evening [17th June 1915], Colonel H.D. Hirst, commanding the 3rd Battalion (Reserve) of The Buffs, East Kent Regiment, said that it seemed almost superfluous to appeal to such an audience when there were so many present who were in uniform. But he thought it was very much to the purpose to appeal to the ladies to very strongly use all the influence which they had – and which was a very strong influence indeed – that they would persuade all their friends who were of serviceable age to join the forces in one form of the Service or another. We could not go on with the campaign we were waking now, with the loss it entailed, without a continuous supply of recruits. Their casualties at the Front had been a quarter of a million, and that number wanted some replacing. Those figures, surely, did not want enlarging upon. Anybody with intellect could see how absolutely necessary it was to keep it going; therefore, he appealed to the young men to come forward and help their country in her hour of need, and to the ladies to use their influence and make it felt more strongly than any words that he could utter. Colonel Hirst made a special appeal for recruits for his own regiment, The Buffs, a grand old regiment, which had been on continual active service since 1572. Recruiting was difficult in Kent, but they were getting them and turning them out as quickly as they could, but they would want many more for it would be some time before they would get their enemy under their heels. They had got to keep the pressure up, and they could not maintain the pressure without the recruits to do so. He earnestly begged everyone to use their influence in getting recruits.
Frederick Percy CARLTON (of Lynsted, Greenstreet), Killed in Action, aged 19 years
Reported by the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald on 3rd July 1915.
NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC IN THE EVENT OF AIR RAIDS.
Kent County Constabulary,
Maidstone, 23rd June 1915.
In all probability if an air raid is made in will take place at a time when most people are in bed. If the Aircraft is over a town or village, no alarm will be sounded as it would warn the enemy of the proximity of a town or village which otherwise might be passed without damage.
When a signal is given or anti-aircraft guns or the dropping of bombs are heard, the public are warned not to go into the streets where they might be struck by falling missiles; moreover, the streets may be required for the passage of fire engines, etc., and should not be obstructed.
In many houses there are no facilities for procuring water on the upper floors. It is suggested, therefore, that a supply of water and sand might be kept there so that any fire breaking out on a small scale can be dealt with at once. In villages where water is drawn from wells, a supply should be drawn by each householder and kept ready for immediate use.
All windows and doors on the lower floors should be closed to prevent the admission of noxious gases. An indication that poison gas is being used will be that a peculiar and irritating smell may be noticed following the dropping of the bomb.
It has been ascertained that a good respirator can be made from a pad of cotton wool waste contained in gauze and tied round the head. It should be damped when required for use, and should be large enough to protect the nose as well as the mouth, the gauze being so adjusted as to protect the eyes.
Persons purchasing portable chemical fire extinguishers should require a written guaranteed that they should comply with the specifications of the Board of Trade, Office of Works, or some approved Fire Prevention Committee.
No bomb of any description should be handled unless it has shown itself to be of an incendiary type. In all other cases a bomb should be left alone and the Police informed.
(Signed) H.M.A. WARDE, Lt. Col.
Chief Constable of Kent
Reported in the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald on 26th June 1915. “WAR BABIES” – INQUIRY INTO WIDE-SPREAD BELIEF. – UNCONFIRMED RUMOURS.
The Committee on Illegitimate Births during the War, of which the Archbishop of York is chairman, has considered the report of Mrs. Creighton’s sub-committee who undertook to investigate the allegation of a large prospective increase of illegitimacy owning to the quartering of troops in camps and billets throughout the country. The Committee accepts and endorses the sub-committee’s conclusion that “the rumours which have been circulated have been proved beyond doubt to have no foundation in fact.”
The sub-committee made special inquiries in 62 towns and districts through branches of the National Union of Women Workers, the Women’s Patrol Committees in large military centres, and other agencies possessed of special local knowledge, and by a skilled lady investigator. In no case has any confirmation been obtained of the rumours which have been circulated. The returns of other independent inquiries, including those instituted by the Local Government Board, were seen, and these returns entirely confirm the conclusions of the Committee. The sub-committee gives the following instances of the results of their investigations:-
“We were told that in many places the Local Government Board was making large additions to the lying-in wards of the infirmaries. Not a single new bed has been ordered. We were told that in a well-known maternity hospital preparations were being made to add 15 new wards and that 50 beds had been placed at the disposal of our informant. We learned that the additions being made to the hospital were begun in 1913 and that it had received no ore illegitimate cases than usual.
“In a northern city, where the wildest statements had been made, inquiry at a manufactory employing 3,000 girls showed that there was only a single case among them, and that a doubtful one. In another place, where it was said that 500 cases were known and that 200 had already been received into homes, investigation has shown that there are not more than three.
“Of those individual cases reported to us, very few are under 16; many are girls known as having already borne a bad character and as having had illegitimate children previously. Place after place reports ‘nothing abnormal,’ ‘no increase expected,’ ‘no appreciable increase.’
“The general conclusion that we have arrived at, therefore, about the reports that have been circulated as to the large numbers of ‘War Babies’ is that they are without foundation, and reflect unfairly on the characters of our soldiers and our girls. We do not mean to deny that there has been grave cause for anxiety on account of the prevailing low moral standard, as well as on account of intemperance, often the result of thoughtless treating, nor that there has been much giddiness and foolish excitability among the young girls leading often to most undesirable conduct ... But we feel that the way in which the subject has been treated in many quarters is likely, as some of those who have answered our questions have said, to do incalculable harm.
“For those, and we know there must be some who will need special help, we believe that existing agencies are amply sufficient. What is needed is that these agencies should receive more adequate support.”
The report is signed by Mrs. Creighton, Adeline Duchess of Bedford, Mrs. Carden, Commissioner Adelaide Cox (Salvation Army), Mrs. Randall Davidson, Miss M. Rosamund Ffrench, Mrs. James Gow, Miss Nora hall, and Mrs. George Morgan.
On June 7th, at 2.30 a.m. Flight Sub-Lieutenants Wilson and Mills flew on separate machines on a raid to Brussels. They destroyed a Zeppelin shed and the airship in it at Evere. At the same time two other airmen started for another airship harbour. Flight Sub-Lieutenant R. A. J. Warneford, flying a Morane monoplane, at 3 a.m. sighted a Zeppelin returning from a raid on England. It was the long-desired opportunity. Alone in the sky, and with nothing to rely upon save the frail aeroplane and himself, he shirked not the issue. He knew that the Zeppelin could bring rapid fire to bear upon him, and that it was extremely doubtful whether he, while controlling his machine, could make any effective reply. Filled with a single purpose, and putting aside all thought of personal safety, he planned his manoeuvres and method of attack, with what success we all know.
Living in tense moments, his mind under discipline through almost 'unimaginably distracting events, he flew close enough to his powerful enemy to drop six bombs accurately, close enough to be almost shattered by the explosion and flame that followed, and turned completely over by the whirlwind that followed the fire. He righted his machine, but was forced to land in enemy territory.
Here fortune favoured him, for he was able to re-start his engine and fly away. The debris of the Zeppelin fell on a convent near Ghent killing two nuns. Only one of the crew escaped death.
The same officer was on one occasion flying with an observer when they sighted an enemy aeroplane. The observer fired, but his gun jammed. Warneford took a second gun, stood up, fired, and brought the enemy down, his own machine meanwhile getting out of control and beginning to dive. He just had time to get into his seat and resume control and right it. The knowledge of what was happening and of the mere instant of time at his disposal had not paralysed action or aim. His victory over the Zeppelin was recognized by the King, who sent the following message :
"Most heartily congratulate you upon your splendid achievement of yesterday, in which you, single-handed, destroyed an enemy Zeppelin. I have much pleasure in conferring upon you the Victoria Cross for this gallant act.
Flight Sub-Lieutenant Warneford was born in India, but was a member of an old Yorkshire family. He had spent some years in Canada, but came to this country when the war called the sons of the Empire together. He joined the 2nd Sportsmen's Battalion. When he transferred to the R.N.A.S. he at once showed marked ability; and his trainer, Flight-Lieutenant Merriam, one of our pioneer instructors of flying, once remarked of him that he would "either break his neck or do big things."
He was certainly a very fine aerial jockey; but his skill did not avail him a few days after his success against the Zeppelin, when, flying near Paris, he crashed and was instantly killed.
There was a Zeppelin raid on the East Coast on August 9, 1915, and one of the raiders was so seriously damaged by anti-aircraft guns that she only just managed to stagger to Ostend, the last part of the journey being by water, and in tow. News of this having been sent to our aircraft base at Dunkirk, Flight-Commander Smyth-Piggott went up on a B.E.2c and flew over to Ostend, where he sighted the Zeppelin about three miles off-shore and in process of being hauled in. He at once attacked, dropping three 20-lb. bombs, and then went up into the clouds and prepared for another attack. The Zeppelin was escorted by four destroyers, which opened fire on the British aeroplane whenever it came into view. The rear compartment of the airship had been damaged by one of our bombs.
From Dunkirk other machines were sent up. A Bristol scout, piloted by Flight Sub-Lieutenant Besson, caught the airship at the moment it was being towed between the harbour piers. The pilot dropped bombs from a height of about 1,000 feet, and one of them exploded near enough to damage the Zeppelin. Following Besson came Flight-Lieutenant Bettington on a Bristol scout, and he nearly fouled some kites sent up by the enemy for that purpose.
He dropped several bombs but with no apparent success. The enemy were making great efforts to haul the airship in, and the workmen engaged on this task were over and over again dispersed by our airmen. The latter in their successive reports were able to set any doubt at rest. Total destruction was not effected, but the enemy were able to save only a few pieces of the airship intact.
Sometimes the official announcements of aerial encounters need no embellishment: they convey a sufficiently vivid picture of the reality. Thus, on August 1, 1916, the Admiralty issued the following:
"At 5.15 this morning one of our aeroplanes pursued and attacked a Zeppelin 30 miles off the East Coast. The pilot had fired over two trays into the Zeppelin, when he was temporarily incapacitated by a portion of his machine-gun flying off and stunning him. The Zeppelin was nowhere to be seen when the pilot regained consciousness, and he was therefore forced to return to his station."