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:
A change of theatre map (right), even if no great change in front lines! This map shows the major formations confronting each other over the Western Front in the run up to April 1917 (click map for enlarged image). Immediately following the Close of The Somme, military formations were reorganised, men entered into training in more flexible formations. However, assaults and attrition continued to take their toll on our local men; mostly on the Western Front, but as this period unfolds, naval losses also account for more local casualties. As 1917 unfolds we witness very costly actions for our communities to bear - Arras, Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele; more so than the Somme. What followed was a period of relative quiet but for a few limited actions and losses. The suffering would have been known about at home simply through the return of soldiers injured or on leave.
The German retreat from the Somme to the "Hindenberg Line" began during March (from 14th March through to 5th April).
The 'game changer' waiting in the wings was the declining reliability and effectiveness of the impoverished and ill-equiped Russian Army as well as the groundswell of popular opposition to the instruments of the Russian state. On 12th March, the Russian Revolution began. 13th March, Prince Golitsin, Russian Premier, and General Byelyaev, Russian Minister for War, removed from office by Revolutionary party. On 14th March, the new Provisional Government was proclaimed in Russia and the next day (15th) Nicholas II, Tsar of Russia, abdicated. On 16th, mutiny broke out in the Russian Baltic Fleet. With that decline in Russian structure and forces, through to June 1917, Germany was increasingly able to move some of its own military machine to its Western Front. As this story-line unfolded, the Allies also prepared themselves for an 'end game' to the War.
The 'game changer' during 1917 was the German implementation of their 31st January declaration on 1st February leading to a policy of "unrestricted submarine warfare". Norway forbade all submarines from entering their territorial waters on the same day.
America gets even closer to joining forces with the Allies. On 3rd February, the USA took the long-awaited severance of diplomatic relations with Germany. On 25th February, a German submarine sank the British S.S. "Laconia" and this proved the final straw for the USA. On 26th February, President Wilson asked Congress for power to arm merchant ships. On 27th February, President Wilson states that he considers sinking of "Laconia" the "overt act" for which he was waiting to justify American involvement - however, the Declaration of War did not happen until 6th April 1917. The position was escallated, on 28th February, when Germany made proposals to the Mexican Government for an alliance against the USA (published in the American Press).
In the absence of large engagements on the Western Front in Europe, the focus fell elsewhere. At sea, mines and submarines choked off some supplies but not all. Aircraft used for range-finding, surveying of trenches, bombing continued to grow - on 1st March, 1917, the number of military aeroplanes in existence was 1,614 abroad and 2,799 at home. On 16th March there took place an action between German raider "Leopard" and HM.S. "Achilles" and Armed Boarding Steamer "Dundee"; "Leopard was sunk. The following day (17th) German airship "L.39" destroyed at Compiegne when returning from raid on England. On 18th, there was a German destroyer raid on Ramsgate and Broadstairs. On 19th, French battleship "Danton" was sunk by torpedo in the Mediterranean. On 21st, British hospital ship "Asturias" torpedoed off Start Point, 8 miles off the Devon Coast, in spite of displaying the Red Cross and using the correct identification lights. Soon after, 30th March, British hospital ship "Gloucester Castle" was torpedoed between Havre and Southampton, but towed in.
On the political front, on 20th March, the first meeting of the British Imperial War Conference took place. On 30th March, secret proposals were also made by the Emperor of Austria to the French President (M. Poincare) to open conversations with a view to peace.
The number of riding horses purchased in United Kingdom from the date of mobilization to 31st December, 1918, is as follows:-
|1st, Mobilization period (5th August, 1914, to 16th August, 1914, inclusive)||49,131|
|2nd, Completion of mobilization period to 31st March, 1915||57,271|
|3rd, 1st April, 1915, to 31st March, 1916||21,337|
|4th, 1st April, 1916, to 31st March, 1917||20,583|
|5th, 1st April, 1917, to 31st March, 1918||10,646|
|6th, 1st April, 1918, to 31st December, 1918||15,697|
Private, Henry Mercer CHAPMAN, 15077, (of Newnham)
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917) was born in Konstanz, Baden on 8 April 1838 and was the first large-scale builder of the rigid dirigibles which eventually became synonymous with his name.....Learn more from FirstWorldWar.com website.
The Faversham and North East Kent News reported on 10th March on how parcels to POWs were highly valued.
"PRISONERS OF WAR. At Newnham and Doddington the local work of sending parcels to men belonging to those two parishes who are prisoners of war is still being carried on.
Lance-Corporal Henry Farbridge, Royal West Kents, one of the prisoners, writes a letter of thanks for the parcels sent and says:- “I have work on the land here and it is doing me a lot of good, after spending nearly two years in camp. My wound is getting quite strong now and does not trouble me. I am in good health and spirits….."
Formation and Growth of Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps. The decision to inaugurate the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps led (13th March) to the first batch of women (mostly original members of the Women's Legion) being enrolled and provided with Identification Certificates prior to departure for France, on 4th April, under Army Council Instruction 537 of 28th March, 1917.
Gunner, Daniel Thomas BAKER, 65738, (of Luddenham)
EAST KENT APPEAL TRIBUNAL.- MR. KNOWLES GRANTED SIX MONTHS' EXEMPTION.- John Knowles, 24, married, head man on fruit farm with over 1,000 trees, was appealed for by his father, Mr. Edward Knowles, of Uplees, Faversham and Lynsted, the local tribunal having withdrawn conditional exemption. The appeal was allowed, and local tribunal to grant six months exemption conditional on his remaining in present occupation in market gardening.
The Faversham and North East Kent News carried: "ROLL OF HONOUR. Mr and Mrs H. Feakins, of Four Oaks, have lost their eldest son, William Henry Feakins, Middlesex Regiment, who was killed in action on the 3rd February. In a letter of condolence to the parents Sergeant Williams, the deceased's platoon sergeant, speaks very highly of him. He says: Your son often impressed me with his soldierly qualities. He was very popular among the boys of the platoon, and we all feel his loss. He was considered by all a good soldier." The deceased, who was killed instantaneously, was23 years of age."