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:
While the Western Front had largely "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916, the new front through the Dardenelles Straits on the Gallipoli Peninsula turned inexorably into a costly error of judgement. The Allied attack on Gallipoli was insufficiently planned and resourced so very quickly fell foul of "mission creep". Transforming from a proposed 'gunboat diplomacy' through the Dardenelles 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.
Fighting in Western Europe was characterised by the continuation of the Second Battle of Ypres (opened on 22nd May), with its introduction of poisonous/corrosive gas as a weapon. On 9th May the Allied Spring Offensive began with the Second Battle of Artois, Battle of Aubers Ridge (9th) and Battle of Festubert (15th - 25th May). Further south, Italy declared war on Austria-Hungary in May.
Casualties within the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice continued through May with the loss of three men from Teynham Parish (one was naval, HMS Goliath) and one from Lynsted with Kingsdown Parish (HMS Irene).
The important injection of manpower through recruitment to Kitchener's New Army (the Territorial formations) was now increasingly expanded by the arrival of Commonwealth soldiers.
The ill-fated attack on Turkey gained an increasingly critical public debate through this and subsequent months after initial optimism. It became clear that progress against a strong Turkish army and their defensive positions would require significant increases in men, that could not be found and armed/supplied. You can read the Official Despatch, written early in May, that covers the conditions faced by Allied/Commonwealth forces on land and sea.
George Abraham HALL (of Teynham), Killed in Action, aged 31 years
Leonard TERRY (of Teynham), Killed in Action, aged 28 years
Reported in The Times on 7th May 1915-05-07 - ENEMY’S PRAISE OF OUR TROOPS. – “THE NEW ENGLISH.” (From our Correspondent.). NEW YORK, 6th May.
The opinion of a German officer who took part in the battle of Neuve Chapelle on the new British Army in France is quoted at length by Mr. Herbert Corey, who is with the German Army in France. Mr. Corey states that the battle of Neuve Chapelle is still a topic of constant conversation among the Germans. The officer in question declared:-
“There were two lessons to be learned from that engagement. The first is that an entrenched position can be taken if the price is paid. The second was a bit of a surprise for us. It is that the new English troops are better than the old. We hadn’t expected that.”
The Germans believed, incredible as it may seem, that the “new English” troops consisted of raw, undisciplined, gutter-snipes. After explaining this, Mr. Corey proceeds to quote the German officer as saying:- “These men who charged us at Neuve Chapelle were not gutter-snipes. They were not slum sweepings. They were the best blood in England.”
He said he saw their faces both in fight, as prisoners, and as they lay dead in the field. They were lean, full-templed, long-jawed men. Those who went first under that hellish fire were youngsters for the most part, men who looked as though they were sons of good fathers, or city clerks, or boys who had played in the open air. He was enthusiastic about them.
A WONDERFUL FEAT.
Let me tell you of one thing I saw. It was the most wonderful deed I have ever heard of on any field. I think it was the West Kent Regiment. They charged across the open field against us. Our fire was as though we had played a stream of bullets upon them. As they came across that open space, cheering and waving their rifles, I could see the men stumbling and falling forward on their faces and dropping sidewise. Gaps opened in the line, so that I can remember seeing the landscape behind them. But they always closed.
The Englishmen took cover at last, having gained the last possible inch; but they were hopelessly exposed; they could not get forward, and could not stay. Finally the order came to fall back. They had 100 yards to go. What do you think those brave god-like fools did? Instead of crawling back as the men of any other nation would have done – as trained soldiers are told to do – they rose to their feet, they walked back. No, by heaven, they strolled back. They stopped to light cigarettes, they picked up their wounded and carried them home. They were cut down by the score, but they did not hurry their pace. "
From the South Eastern Gazette of 11th May 1915 - EAST KENTS AT YPRES. HOW THEY SUPPORTED THE CANADIANS. 300 LEFT OUT OF 1,000.
The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) covered themselves with glory in the battle north of Ypres last week. According to one account "they saved the Canadian line from a great disaster.
The above paragraph appeared in the "South Eastern Gazette" last Tuesday, and a letter sent by a non-commissioned officer of the Regiment (2nd Battalion) to friends in Maidstone proves its correctness. The Battalion suffered great losses. "I must say I am very lucky," says the writer, whose brother was wounded, "for we have had it about as hot as one could wish for. We were just on 1,000 strong when I wrote you last, and now we cannot muster 300, so you will guess what it has been like. We have had just twenty-three days of it, and now we are back for a rest, and to make up our strength."
Dealing with events on April 23rd the writer goes on: "We had been out all the night before, and were returning, almost waling in our sleep, when we had orders to reinforce the Canadians. It was then daylight, but, of course, we had to go. We had not marched far before we came under heavy rifle fire, just enough to wake us up. That was in the road, and my brother was the first to go down. He shouted "Oh, oh!" and fell. It seemed hard not be able to attend to him, but, of course, when advancing no one except stretcher bearers must stop. However, I fancy he was soon picked up and got away. After that our men began to drop all round, so we extended and took cover behind a hedge. But we were no good there; it was a case of getting right on. We had about another thousand yards to go, over almost flat ground, and we did it in short rushes. Oh, what a hailstorm we had when we started to advance! I can tell you it's a sensation you don't want every day. I managed to reach the trench safely, and I shall never forget the sight when I looked back over the ground we had covered."
For four days the Battalion remained in the trench they had been sent to occupy, and one Company, the writer states, came away only nine men strong. Then the East Kents were moved to another position, and here they lost all but sixteen men of another Company. "No doubt," the writer continues, "you will guess where we were by reading the papers ...... You can take it from me that the Canadians are all that the papers say of them; but they might just mention the Regiments that helped to save the Germans breaking through; it was a near thing. You should have seen the poor Frenchmen that retired when the Germans used poisonous gases. It played our eyes up where we were. What were left of us came away pretty nearly done up; what with very little to eat and not much sleep, I can tell you it is very trying to the nerves and system. My opinion is that it will be a long job yet. We have got a hard nut to crack, but we must keep at it till we've done the job properly."
I have seen some terrible artillery duels and shelling," the writer further states, "but the things I dislike most are those awful trench mortars used by the Germans; it's all up with the men and the trench if they get the proper range. If you keep a careful watch you can see them coming both night and day, and when the explode the report is deafening ....... We are in the middle of a wood at present. Every place for miles has been either shelled or burned down. It has been an awful sight at places to see the poor women and children running for their lives."
Reported in the East Kent Gazette on 11th May 1915: ALLEGED ATTEMPTED SUICIDE.
Emmeline Ada Barling, who has been residing at Faversham, was charged before Captain Cheetham at the County Police Court on Thursday, with attempting to commit suicide. It appeared that on Thursday evening, April 29th, prisoner went to her aunt's at Lynsted. She went into the garden, subsequently returning to the house and informing her aunt she had taken "the poison." Archibald Barling, a brother, went for a doctor, and Dr. J.P. Henderson attended. He found prisoner in a collapsed state, and administer an emetic, and she afterwards became better. In a bag prisoner had left in the garden were found torn packages bearing the labels "Salts of lemon." The brother also found in the garden a note in pencil addressed "To the Coroner." The papers and the note, it appeared, were afterwards thrown into the fire by the brother, who now stated that "he did not think they would be required." On the following day the prisoner was removed to the Infirmary. When apprehended she denied taking the salts, stating she bought them and threw them away just to frighten her brother. Prisoner was committed for trial at the East Kent Quarter Sessions.
Later Reported in the Kent Messenger on 3rd July 1915 - "East Kent Quarter Sessions. Emmeline Ada Barling, aged 46, a music hall artiste, was indicted for attempting to commit suicide by taking salts of lemon at Lynsted on April 29th. Mr. Gibson appeared for the prosecution, and prisoner pleaded not guilty.
Lord Harris, in summing up the evidence, said it must be equally distressing to the jury, as it was to himself, to find a member of a family of such old standing and so respected in the neighbourhood of Sittingbourne in such a position. Of course they must not allow any feelings of sympathy to govern their decision, but he pointed out that prisoner was very emphatic in her statement that she did not take the poison.
The jury found her not guilty."
Stephen CHAMP (of Teynham, Barrow Green), Killed in Action, aged 40 years
Reported in The Times on 21 May 1915: INCREASE IN NUMBER OF REGISTRATIONS. - A HUNDRED SHIP CLEANERS. The latest available figures of women who have registered for war service at the different labour exchanges, up to May 14, is 65,700. There has been a steady average increase of 5,000 a week.
So far the number of women placed, 1,250, bears no relation to the number of women registered, because the need for which they were mobilized, though within a very short time of realization, is not yet imperative, and the ordinary register of the labour exchanges is being used for most of the applications which are received. There has been as yet no canvassing of employers. In spite of this, however, last week 300 women were drawn from the war register for employment. The number asking for ammunition work now stands at 13,700, for clerical work at 10,000, for agriculture 8,000, and for tailoring and allied trades 6,000. Over one hundred women have so far been placed in agriculture, about one-half of whom have gone to dairying; one hundred have been drafted to clerical work - some in Government offices; and another hundred to leather-stitching.
The Glasgow exchanges report a demand for about a hundred women for leaning work on board a big liner in the docks - work usually done by men - and also a demand for women in forestry. About 20 women for cleaning work on board a big liner in the docks - work usually done by men - and also a demand for women in forestry. About 20 women gardeners have taken the places of men and the employment of women as porters, lift-men, &c., already noticed in The Times, is steadily going on. A large number of women are employed in the War Office, in the Censor's Office, in the Board of Trade, and in clerical work in the House of Commons. The displacement of men in shops is not very great, but will be much increased in a week or so. Many women packers have taken the place of men, but here there is some difficulty owing to the attitude of some men. From Manchester a case is reported in which an employer, being unable to get men, took on four women. The 14 men packers already in his employment immediately struck and in this way lost him a big order.
A new hotel which has just been started is entirely staffed by women. Women commissionaires are to be seen at some of the big houses, and in the North, 50 women have been taken on as motor-drivers.
A resolution was passed by the committee of the Women's Liberal Federation at the annual meeting yesterday, under the chairmanship of Lady Aberconway, pointing out that at a time when war was causing such grievous loss of life it was pre-eminently war work for women to safeguard the conditions and improve the health of the new generation.
It was also unanimously decided to send to the Government a copy of a resolution emphasizing the preventive and protective side of police work and urging the appointment of women police constables, with powers equal to those of men constables, in all county boroughs and metropolitan boroughts of the county of London.
An unfolding story of the place of Womens' War Work is being developed through a dedicated page of miscellaneous observations and statistics (for those who like that kind of thing!). That record has been inspired by the sad story of the death of Alice Post in 1916 (through TNT poisoning).
Reported in The Times on 18th May 1915: "THE ZEPPELIN RAID IN KENT.- LITTLE DAMAGE DONE. – INVADER BOMBED OFF NIEUPORT. A measure of retaliation has overtaken the Zeppelin which, as stated in our later editions yesterday, passed over Kent coast towns early yesterday morning [17th May] and dropped a number of bombs on Ramsgate.
An Admiralty message, published on page 8, states that after being chased by aircraft from Eastchurch and Westgate as far as the West Hinder Lightship, she was attacked and bombed off Nieuport by British naval machines, and is believed to have been severely damaged."
p8. BRITISH BOMBS ON A ZEPPELIN - CHASE OF RAMSGATE RAIDER.
The Secretary of the Admiralty made the following announcement yesterday:-
The Zeppelin that attacked Ramsgate early this morning was chased off by Eastchurch and Westagte machines as far as the West Hinder Lightship.
When off Nieuport she was attacked by eight naval machines from Dunkirk. Three machines were able to attack her at close range by fire.
Flight-Commander Bigsworth dropped four bombs when 200ft. above the airship. A large column of smoke was seen to come out of one of her compartments.
The Zeppelin then rose to a great height, 11,000ft., with her tail down, and is believed to be severely damaged.
All our machines were exposed to a heavy fire from the Zeppelin. No casualties.
p5. BOMBS ON RAMSGATE.- FOUR PEOPLE INJURED. (From our Special Correspondent..) RAMSGATE, MAY 17.
The damage caused by the Zeppelin which dropped bombs on the north-eastern corner of Kent early this morning appears inconsiderable when the distance the invader had flown to carry out the attack is taken into account. Most of the bombs which were thrown on the undefended towns fell upon Ramsgate, where a hotel was wrecked, two or three shops were damaged, and three people were injured. The injured are Mr. and Mrs. J. Smith, of Hythe-road, Thornton Heath, London, who were staying at the Bull and George Hotel, and Miss Kate Moffett, a barmaid at the same hotel. I hear, too, that a sentry who fired on the airship was slightly hurt.
The approach of the Zeppelin was made known to the inhabitants of Ramsgate by the roar of engines at 1.30 a.m. Eye-witnesses agree that she was flying swiftly and at a very great height. A look-out had been kept for the Zeppelin from midnight, as news had reached the town that she was in the neighbourhood and making for the English shore. As soon as she had got a short distance inland the rain of bombs began. Both explosive and incendiary missiles were thrown, but the damage they did, at least as far as Ramsgate is concerned, was ridiculously small.
To-day I visited the hotel and saw, in the heaped up wreckage below the road level, mattresses, furniture, bedsteads, and clothing. The explosions had brought down the entire from part of the house - ceilings and floors and everything between. Later I saw Mr. Smith in the Ramsgate hospital. He is cut about the body and very much shaken, but none the less cheerful. "Wonderful thing I wasn't killed," he said. It certainly was. His wife, who is more severely hurt, has been taken to the V.A.D. Hospital. Miss Moffatt and Miss Pilkington, the assistant housekeeper, had wonderful escapes. Miss Pilkington said:-
I heard the nose of the Zeppelin's engines, and go out of bed to draw up the blind and see what was going on. I went at once to call Miss Moffatt. I pulled her out of her room, the next one to mine, and we had scarcely got beyond the door when the fits bomb fell. A second later came the other. We were on the fourth floor. We rushed down the corridor and got out into the yard. All these bedrooms in the front are gone, and with them the coffee-room and the commercial room. Half the plate used in the hotel is buried. The bomb passed clean through Mr. and Mrs. Smith's bedroom, and carried them into the cellar, where they were found by the police.
Miss Moffatt was taken to the General hospital, where she will be detained for some days, suffering from shock and injury.
Opposite the Bull and George Hotel there is one of Messrs. David Greig's provision shops. The glass was blown in from all the windows here and the children of the manager, Mr. Banell, woke to find their beds covered with splinters, but they were unhurt. Another bomb fell on a ship called the Imperial Bazaar near the front, and damaged the roof, walls and stock, and in Cavendish-street a number of windows were broken. In the harbour, too, there was slight damage to shipping.
Italian Government orders general mobilization followed on the 24th May by Italian forces crossing the Austrian border. On 27th May, British squadron joins Italian Fleet in the Adriatic.
Arthur Harold HUGHES (of Lynsted), Killed in catastrophic explosion, aged 30 years
At his time Winston Churchill was the First Lord of the Admiralty. The catastrophic loss of men arose out of 'mission creep' from what was originally planned as a broadly navy-based bombardment of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The engagement of large numbers of troops without armament to support them lay Churchill open to attack.
On 15th May, the First Sea Lord, Lord Fisher, resigned too.
Mr. Balfour, First Lord; Admiral Sir H. Jackson, First Sea Lord.