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:
Continental weather slows military movement in France and Flanders alongside the increasing dependence on entrenched positions. But casualties continue from shell barrages, sniping and local engagements. Those who relied on newspapers for information about the war were given a taste of what it might be like if Kent were invaded as a consequence of a lack of urgency from the "manhood of Kent". This coincided with the very real bombardment of the North East of England...
December sees two casualties in our Kingsdown and Creekside Parochial Parish - one from Lynsted Parish, the other from Newnham Parish. It was clear by now that the War was not going to end by Christmas (or even Easter). A much longer period of war was now being contemplated. More injured men are being cared for at home, in part by Voluntary Aid Detachments established in most large towns and all cities. The increased costs associated with injured servicemen led to many more calls for public donations and fund-raising (see below). You can follow the progress of the European and other theatres through our transcriptions of the relevant London Gazette Despatches from "The Front" which can be found in the left-hand column of this page.
At home, there were real fears of attack all along the east coast. The fear was realised this month as German cruisers bombard the coast around Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool. This very real attack took place a few days after the melodramatic 'mock report' on a supposed invasion of Kent in our own local newspapers. (see Artefacts - "Invasion of Kent!").
The Faversham and North East Kent News reported on 5th December 1914: "OLD MAN’S THEFT AT GREENSTREET. SPECIAL CONSTABLE’S VIGILANCE:
"Reuben French, an old man living at Greenstreet was charged at the Faversham Country Police Court on Wednesday (before E. Chambers, Esq), with stealing a quantity of hop poles, value 9d., the property of Mr. James French on December 1st.
Albert Ernest Ferris, of Woodthorpe, Lynsted, stated he was a special constable and was on duty at Greenstreet on Tuesday night. At about ten minutes past ten he saw the prisoner proceeding towards his home with what appeared to be a bundle of poles. A few minutes later he returned up the street and went towards Mr. James French’s hop-garden in about two minutes he returned with the hop poles produced. Witness followed him and stopped him at the passage where he lived and asked him where he got the poles from. He replied “Up in the hop-garden. Witness then asked him if anyone had given him permission to take them and he said “No, I can take them back.” Witness took possession of the poles and later on handed prisoner over to P.C. Hogg.
P.C. Hogg stated that when he charged prisoner he replied “All right, that’s the last place I worked.”
Mr James French, Jr., of New House Farm, Greenstreet, son of the prosecutor, valued the poles produced at 9d. and stated that they had missed a fair number of poles lately from the hop-garden.
Prisoner was remanded in custody to the Petty Sessions on the following day."
….. Petty Session Report …. "He had no excuse to offer. All he could say, he said, was that he took the poles, but he knew nothing about what had been taken before.
In reply to the Chairman, prisoner said he was 68 years of age.
Supt Lawrence said prisoner had been living alone and seemed to have been getting his living anyhow. In June last he was before the Court for stealing coal, and was bound over for six months, which period had not yet expired.
The Chairman suggested to the old man that the best thing he could do was to into the Workhouse where he would be properly fed and clothed, and would be able to keep out of trouble.
Prisoner expressed his readiness to go into the House, and on the understanding that he did so the Bench bound him over for a further six months."
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 8th December 1914: FAVERSHAM COUNTY POLICE COURT. At this Court on Thursday [3rd December], Reuben French, 68, who had been living alone at Greenstreet, was charged on remand and pleaded guilty to stealing a quantity of hop poles, value 9d., the property of mr. James French, at Greenstreet, on December 1st. It was mentioned that in June last the prisoner was bound over for stealing coal. The magistrates decided to bind the old man over again on the understanding that he went into the workhouse. He expressed his readiness to go there.
The East Kent Gazette of 9th January 1915 reported: "GREENSTREET. POSTMAN SOLDIER GAINS DISTINCTION.- The many friends of Corporal Bradford, of the Highland Light Infantry (who in civil life is attached to the Greenstreet Post Office), will be pleased to learn that he has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, for services rendered in action at the Front, on December 3rd inst."
An expanded Report appeared in the issue of 6th February: "At the Battle of Mons the Corporal was in the trenches for 62 hours at a stretch, under heavy fire; but it is for work done on November 14th, when the Germans were defeated near Ypres, that he has, more especially, been awarded the coveted honour. He had a very narrow escape then while on patrol duty, and, later, nearly the whole of a trench from which he was firing, was blown up by shell fire. Bradford was buried by the fall of earth, and the three men next to him were blown to pieces. The two officers were also killed.
Writing to his parents at Canterbury recently, Corporal Bradford says:- I have some good news to tell you, and that is that I have been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. I must tell how the good news was told me. Last night (New Year’s Eve) he returned from the trenches to a small village near the firing line after doing four days in the trenches, and we go back tomorrow night for another stretch. My company was billeted in a large house and I was sleeping with my section in one of the rooms. About ten p.m. one of my officer came and woke me up by enquiring, “Does Corporal Bradford stay here?” He then congratulated me. It took me some time to realise the good news after being asleep.
We relieved the Gurkhas (Indian Regiment) on Sunday night (December 27th). The weather during the whole of the time was very bad’ it was very cold and we had a lot of rain. The first night I was put in charge of an advanced post, with six men, quite near to the German trenches. To go to this post we had to go through a small trench and we were up to our knees in mud and water; we all got smothered from head to foot in mud, and when returning last night, I must say we looked pretty objects. On the morning of the 30th, at daybreak, I spotted a German running out of his trench, so I waited for him coming back to have a snipe at him. I think I caught him all right, as he fell down quick enough. I expect he thought we were not good shots. When so close it is dangerous for anyone on either side to put his head above the trench.
My Company Sergeant-Major has also been awarded the D.C.M. All the men – 13 in all who were left in the trench with me have congratulated me they saying I saved their lives by making them hold the position under an artillery fire which was nothing more nor less than murderous. I am proud to say that my regiment has not lost an inch of ground during the whole of the war. We have got officers whom any one should be proud of, and I am sorry that so many of our young promising ones have been killed."
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 8th December 1914: COTTAGE FIRE AT TEYNHAM. Early on Friday [4th December] afternoon a fire, caused by a spark from a chimney alighting on the thatched roof, broke out at a pair of cottages at Barrow Green, Teynham. Fanned by the gale of wind that was blowing the flames quickly spread, and in a few minutes both cottages were ablaze. The Sittingbourne Fire Brigade were summoned, and with Captain Peters in charge, and the steamer, they were soon on the scene. But by the time the brigade arrived, so quickly had the fire done its work, both cottages were burned out, only the walls remaining. One of the cottages had been vacated only on the previous day, and the other cottage was occupied by a family named Hopkins, Some of the furniture was saved. The cottages were hired by Mr. H.T.Bensted, of Teynham Court, for his employees. The total damage was £200.
Reported in the Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald of 5th December 1914:
"DEFENCE TACTICS. LATEST ORDERS TO SECURE PUBLIC SAFETY. The new order for the defence of the realm and the protection of British citizens is issued. It takes the form of a third supplement to the "London Gazette." and was issued on Monday night. The order states:-
"The ordinary avocations of life will be interfered with as little as may be permitted by the exigencies of the measures required to be taken for securing the public safety and the defence of the realm, and ordinary civil offences will be dealt with by the civil tribunals in the ordinary course of law."
The order further indicates that the severest penalties will be imposed upon all classes of people who without authority are found in the possession of searchlights, semaphores, wireless instruments, false passports, or literature containing false statements. The regulations cover the gamut of possible offence which may endanger the safety of the loyal citizen."
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 8th December 1914:"THE DURATION OF THE WAR. The probable duration of the war is a topic which is being much discussed at the present time. Latterly there has been a revival of the optimism which was so much in evidence during the first few weeks of the conflict, and dogmatic assertions are frequently heard to the effect that next spring will see the signing of peace between the Allies and the German and Austrian Governments. This sort of talk is much to be deprecated; firstly, because there is insufficient ground for a belief that the war is within measurable distance of coming to an end; and, secondly, because such idle assertions are calculated to cause grave injury to the recruiting campaign. That Germany will be crushed eventually there is, happily, but little doubt, but before that day arrives the full fighting strength of the Empire will have been put to a severe test. Many more men are needed for our new armies; the earlier they can be put into the field the sooner will final victory be achieved. What is more likely than anything else to lengthen the war is the easy conversion that the Germans are on the point of relaxation and will be unable to keep up the struggle for many more months. We cannot better state the true position than by quoting two passages from a recent narrative from the Eye-witness who is with the headquarters of our Expeditionary Force. After describing the recent extremely sever fighting near Ypres the writer says: "The fact that the situation has now been relieved is no reason for assuming that the enemy has abandoned his intention to press through to the sea; and the same task lies before the British Army of maintaining its share in the struggle until the nation in arms shall come to our support."
Then at the end of his narrative the writer tells us that the war is "going to be one of exhaustion" and that "after the regular armies of the belligerents have done their work it will be upon the measures taken to prepare and utilise the raw material of the manhood of the countries concerned that final success will depend. This implies trained men - hundreds of thousands of trained and disciplined men."
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette on 8th December 1914: KENT VOLUNTARY AID DETACHMENTS. - THE APPEAL FOR FUNDS. We would again direct the attention of our readers to the appeal which is being made for funds on behalf of the Kent voluntary Aid Detachments. In view of the fact that the Kent V.A.D. Hospitals, now accommodating 2,500 wounded, will be regularly used for all kinds of troops, including Territorials, the amount estimated to be required for the current year's work is £25,000 at least. Between £17,000 and £18,000 is still needed. It is earnestly to be hoped that the public of Kent will not allow the work of the Hospitals to be crippled for want of funds. All who can possibly afford to do so should give something, and give it at once. In another part of this paper we publish the complete list of subscriptions to date.
Reported in the South Eastern Gazette, 15th December 1914 - FAVERSHAM. COUNTY COURT. At the Faversham County Court on Friday [11th December], his Honour Judge Shortt refused to give judgment in a claim by G. Thurston Clarke, house furnisher, against E.G. Boorman, farm labourer, of Oare. The claim was for £1 19s. 2d. Balance of account. The goods, it appeared, included a gramophone at two guineas, and were ordered by the defendant's wife. His Honour disallowed the claim on the ground that a labourer's wife, while having implied authority to order necessaries, had no implied authority to order such a thing as a two guinea gramophone, which was not a necessity.
A list of serving men (Navy and Army) from our Creekside Cluster was carried by the Faversham and North East Kent News on three dates - 12th December 1914 (Norton, Lynsted and Teynham); 2nd January 1915 (Davington and Oare); and 6th February (Newnham and Doddington).
FEVER HOSPITAL FOR SOLDIERS.
The efficiency of the preventive measures of the Royal Army Medical Corps against epidemic disease has been abundantly proved, as the smallness of the number of cases of typhoid fever and dysentery in the Army shows. Nevertheless, it was fully recognized in September last that a fever hospital for the exclusive use of the troops would be necessary at home to meet possible emergencies. It was also recognized that a fully equipped pathological laboratory should be in readiness.
An offer of civilian help to meet these needs was therefore at once accepted by Sir Alfred Keogh and his staff, who, together with Sir Frederick Treves, have given the project every possible assistance, and a committee, of which Queen Alexandra is president, was formed to make the necessary arrangements. Suitable hospital accommodation has now been provided for about 150 acute cases, and, in order to reduce the danger from convalescent carriers to a minimum, the hut system is being installed on a scale sufficiently large to enable a practically unlimited number of convalescents to come under observation, if the need for this should arise.
The use of the necessary house and grounds has been placed at the disposal of the committee by the trustees of Addington Park, the property of the late Mr. F.A. English, and the expenses of the undertaking have been mainly provided by the War Office, supplemented by contributions from the Red Cross, and from private individuals. The hospital was opened for the reception of patients on December 13. Reported by The Times on 26th December.
Report from the Daily Express on 17th December 1914 - "GERMAN NAVAL RAID ON THE ENGLISH COAST. SCARBOROUGH, WHITBY, AND THE HARTLEPOOLS BOMBARDED BY BATTLE CRUISERS: ESCAPE OF THE ENEMY'S FORCE. - HUNDREDS KILLED AND WOUNDED -
FULL ADMIRALTY ACCOUNT (9.20p.m.). The Secretary of the Admiralty makes the following announcement:- This morning a German cruiser force made a demonstration on the Yorkshire coast in the course of which they shelled Hartlepool, Whitby, and Scarborough [See right: Illustrated London News photo]. A number of their fastest ships were employed for this purpose, and they remained about an hour on the coast. They were engaged by the patrol vessels on the spot.
As soon as the presence of the enemy was reported, a British patrolling squadron endeavoured to cut them off. On being sighted by British vessels, the Germans retired at full speed, and, favoured by the mist, succeeded in making good their escape. The losses on both sides are small, but full reports have not yet been received.
The Admiralty take the opportunity of pointing out that demonstrations of this character against fortified towns or commercial ports, though not difficult to accomplish, provided that a certain amount of risk is accepted, are devoid of military significance.
They may cause some loss of life among the civil population and some damage to private property, which is much to be regretted; but they must not in any circumstances be allowed to modify the general naval policy which is being pursued.
THE NEW ARMY UNDER FIRE. 11.35 p.m. The following statement has been received from the War Office for publication:-
At 8 p.m. to-day three enemy ships were sighted off Hartlepool. At 8.15 they began the bombardment. The ships appeared to be two battle cruisers and one armoured cruiser.
The land batteries replied, and are reported to have hit and damaged the enemy. At 8.50 the firing ceased and the enemy steamed away.
None of our guns were touched. One shell fell into the Royal Engineers' lines, and several in the lines of the 18th (Service) Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry, the casualties among the troops amounting to seven killed and fourteen wounded.
Some damage was done to the town and the gas works were set on fire. During the bombardment, especially in West Hartlepool, the people crossed in the streets, and approximately twenty-two were killed and fifty wounded.
At the same time a battle cruiser and an armoured cruiser appeared off Scarborough and fired about fifty shots, which caused considerable damage, and thirteen casualties are reported.
At Whitby two battle cruisers fired some shots, doing damage to buildings, and the following casualties are reported: Two killed, two wounded.
At all three places there was an entire absence of panic, and the demeanour of the people was everything that could be desired."
Reported in The Times of 18th December 1914 - "ENGLAND IN TIME OF WAR. [PART] IV.- THE COAST OF KENT. – FROM DOVER TO THE NORTH FORELAND.
FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENTS.
Confidently, and with a comfortable sense of security and livelihood assured, the coast of the Cinque Ports looks out across its heritage of the seas. As one contemplates the great fleet of merchantmen which daily crowd the sheltered moorings of the Downs, and all the busy traffic of these ancient towns between the Forelands, it is difficult to bring one’s mind back to the reality of the devastating war which lies so close to us over yonder. But one realizes with a feeling of thankfulness something of the deep-rooted instance which has taught the people of England that the safety of their Empire lies in their ships and the gallant sailors who man them.
The coast of Kent is watchfully waiting, as it watched a hundred years ago, as, indeed, it has always watched since the days of the Roman, against the coming of the invader; but it shows no signs of nervousness nor any disturbance of its wonted activities. Indeed, it contemplates the possibility of a German raid or bombardment with an equanimity which other less vulnerable places in England might well emulate. It accepts cheerfully the various precautionary regulations prescribed by the authorities in the matter of lights and early closing and military defence schemes, mentally classing many of them with the Press Censorship as evils necessarily pertaining to a state of war, things to be endured without attempting to fathom their ultimate purposes. From Dungeness to Margate the people have displayed a keenly patriotic and zealous spirit of cooperation with the “preparations by the civil authorities for action in the event of a hostile landing” (to quote the title of an official memorandum issued for the guidance of local emergency committees), although not one Kentish man in a hundred will admit that any such landing is even remotely possible. For carrying out the measures contemplated as “ancillary to the preparations of H.M. Forces” more than 50,000 special constables have enrolled themselves in Kent, men of all classes and conditions, whose expert local knowledge and organized services should prove of the very highest utility in the event of a raid or sudden alarm, the more so as many of them are in a position to work in intelligent cooperation with the military authorities of their districts.
This is not the time or place, even were it permissible, to discuss the measures proposed, or the local regulations actually enforced, by the civil and military authorities. It is interesting, however,, to observe that the problems with which the local emergency committees have to deal are in many cases complicated, not only by the peculiar privileges and liberties vested in the burghers of the ancient towns and limbs of the Cinque Ports, but by a certain absence of coordination between the measures contemplated respectively by the Home Office, by the Admiralty, and by the War Office. And, behind and above all these, an elusive and perplexing factor, lurks the mysterious, medieval shadow of the Chief Constable of Kent. The plain citizen, anxious above all to be helpful in war time and to do the duty which lies nearest to his hand, frequently finds himself lost in the fog of official instructions which refer to restricted, specified, prohibited, and proclaimed areas, to the treatment of aliens therein, and many other complex matters, especially as those instructions have a desultory manner of their own in coming to hand, and often appear to reach those concerned solely by the good grace of Providence.
I hope that I am revealing nothing that can be of advantage to the enemy if I mention, for example, that the new regulations in regard to the registration of Belgians had not come into the hands of the police at Deal three days after their publication in The Times, and that certain towns of the coast have not yet been able to ascertain whether their marine craft, piers, and harbours are controlled for defence purposes by the Admiral at the Nore or the Admiral at Portsmouth. Talking to all sorts and conditions of men, discussing with them the feasibility of a programme of “desertion and devastation” in the event of a German raid. I find a very general readiness to make the best of such difficulties as must necessarily arise from the simultaneous activities of different authorities, from local interpretations of the Defence of the Realm Act, or from the differences (let us say) between the instructions upon which a force of marines might be cooperating in defence schemes at Deal and those which might be prescribed by an adjoining force of Territorials at Sandwich. The zealous special constable may not be quite sure whether the motor-cars and vehicles of his district are to be available for the removal of the sick and the aged or whether they are to be requisitioned for military purposes, but he proceeds none the less energetically with his duties of watch and ward.
The war has produced little or no economic distress on the coast of Kent; on the contrary, there is a very lively business boom, and a certain deficiency of labour, in many of the sea-coast towns. Certain places (especially Folkestone) whose livelihood is mainly derived from the business of boarding-houses and pleasure-boats for summer visitors were seriously affected when the war broke out, but they have since more than recovered their losses by the entertainment of well-to-do Belgian refugees and by the billeting and supplying of the Territorials and other troops in their districts. At Deal and Sandwich even those trades which in other parts of the country have felt the effect of the war, such as jewellers and photographers, have done good business with the “absent-minded beggar” and the girl he proposes to leave behind him. So great has been the rush for photographs in this district that certain special constables engaged in this trade have been relieved from duty for six weeks at a time as a matter of public urgency.
At Deal, Dover, Whitstable, Folkestone, and other places the fishing industry has a naturally suffered from being restricted to the three-mile limit, but, on the other hand, much good money has been earned by the owners of galley punts and motor-boats by reason of the large and lucrative pilotage business which sprang up with the laying of mine-fields and the removal of lights in the Channel. Until a few days ago, then new conditions and sailing directions were issued, for reasons that need not here be specified, the hardy pilots of the Cinque Ports were getting as much as £40 for taking a ship from the Downs to the Tyne, part of which money went, as usual, to the shore boats. Unskilled day labour has found well-paid work in the preparation of defence ditches and trenches in several places, so much so that many farmers, between the coast and Canterbury, have bee, and still are, very short of hands.
In the opinion of many with whom I have discussed the problem of farm labour, as well as the dearth of women workers in certain local industries, it would seem feasible to introduce remedial measures by closer consultation and cooperation between the Belgian Refugees Committee and the Local Government Board and Labour Exchanges. Amongst the working-class refugees who are now being compulsorily directed inland by the authorities, to enjoy the hospitality of our provincial towns, there are undoubtedly many who would prefer to remain and to find work in or near the seaboard, and who might reasonably be permitted to do so, to the general advantage of all concerned. In one case for instance, which occurred recently at Deal, several Belgians who were doing good work for an Admiralty contract in a sprat-packing factory, able and only too willing to support their families in this way, have been sent to live in enforced idleness in the wilds of Lancashire. In a pathetic letter addressed to a member of the Refugees Committee, this little group of exiles have begged to be permitted to return to Deal and to the dignity of labour.
The Local Government Board’s policy is broadly based on the ground that, to provide against all emergencies, it is desirable to limit as far as possible the number of aliens within prohibited areas. Nevertheless, until the prohibited areas regulations come to be uniformly and strictly enforced, it would appear to be to the general advantage to discriminate and to allow respectable self-supporting Belgians the option between continued residence where they have found asylum or employment, and acceptance of the hospitality offered them in other parts of the country. I propose to deal more fully with the problem of the Belgian refugees in another article."
Charles Alfred TOLHURST (of Lynsted with Kingsdown), Killed in action, aged 30 years
Walter George Smith (of Newnham), Killed in action, aged 25 years
Reported in The Times on 26th December 1914. TWO GERMAN AIR RAIDS.- AEROPLANES AT DOVER AND OVER THE THAMES. – INVADERS DRIVEN OFF. FIGHT IN THE AIR NEAR SOUTHEND.
The following announcements are issued by the Secretary to the War Office:-
FRIDAY. [25th December 1914]
A hostile aeroplane was sighted to-day at 12.35 p.m. flying very high east to west over Sheerness. British aircraft went up in pursuit and engaged the enemy, who, after being hit three or four times, was driven off seaward.
THURSDAY, 1.55 p.m. [24th December 1914]
An enemy’s aeroplane was seen over Dover this morning about 10.55. It dropped a bomb which fell in a garden and exploded, but did no damage. The aeroplane was only seen for a few seconds, and left again over sea. British aircraft went up at once, but did not see the enemy again. The weather was foggy and cloudy.
(FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.)
SHEERNESS, DEC. 25.
The threatened German air raid has to some extent become an accomplished fact. On Christmas Eve and again yesterday a German aeroplane visited these shores, but in neither case was any damage done. On Christmas Eve an aeroplane appeared over Dover and dropped a bomb in the garden of a local resident, and then, pursued by British aircraft, was forced to beat a hasty retreat to its base in Belgium. Yesterday, however, the German airman was more venturesome. Under the cover of a dense fog he succeeded in eluding the watchers on the coast as far as Sheerness, and was there lost sight of. The aeroplane was next seen flying over the S.E. and C.R. pier at West-street, Gravesend, and continued up the river as far as Erith. Here the aeroplane was located, and the visitor was forced to turn, being pursued by a British biplane some distance down the Thames and across Essex towards the North Sea. The enemy had to run the gauntlet of a heavy fire from anti-aircraft guns at different points from Erith down the Thames, and it is reported that one at least of the guns found a mark.
SIGHTED OVER SHEPPEY.
At 12.45 the enemy aeroplane was sighted over Sheppey, slightly to the south of Sheerness. The machine was flying at a great height, estimated at about 9,000ft. Just when it was approaching the water, anti-aircraft guns fired upon it, but without effect, as far as could be seen, the great height of the enemy’s machine apparently being out of range of the guns. Seven rounds were fired, and the machine, obscured by the fog, continued its flight. As soon as an alarm could be given, three British aeroplanes went in pursuit. One of them made directly for the German, while the other two went in other directions for the purpose of outflanking if possible. Owing, however, to the great speed and high altitude at which it was flying, the German machine was lost in the fog.
The weather condition were certainly favourable to the German. Hidden by the fog, and with practically no wind to contend against, he was able to make his way across the Kentish marshes before he was rediscovered. Just before 1 o’clock, the German machine was seen over the West-street Pier, flying towards London.
Six rounds were fired by anti-aircraft guns while warning was immediately conveyed by telegram to the other anti-aircraft gun stations. In spite of the misty weather, it was possible to distinguish the machine, which was of the Albatross type. The shells from the aircraft guns could be seen bursting above and around the machine, which immediately made a complete half-circle and, apparently mounting to a higher altitude, turned and made its way back.
BRITISH BIPLANE’S PURSUIT.
Within a few minutes a British biplane appeared from a westerly direction in full pursuit of the German airman, although not flying at so great a height. At 13 minutes past 1 the German aeroplane was seen, closely followed by its pursuer, who was evidently endeavouring to head the enemy off. Eight minutes earlier warning had been received in the town of the presence of an enemy aeroplane in the Thames district. At the time at which the Albatross passed over the town on its return journey the first intimation that they had that the aeroplane was an undesirable visitor was the firing of guns lower down the river a few minutes later.
The pursuit of the Albatross from this point is described as follows by a member of The Times staff, who was an eye-witness:-
“Just before a quarter past 1 I heard from a westerly direction the heavy droning of a biplane, and looking up saw an aeroplane flying almost against the clouds, while some distance behind was a biplane, which I immediately made out to be a British craft. While watching he flight of the two machines, which I thought was really that of two machines making their way from one base to another. I was startled to hear the boom of a gun, followed in quick succession by other reports. Going to the top room of my house I was able to see the first fight and pursuit between German and British aircraft and British gunnery in Great Britain. For observation purpose the weather was distinctly unfavourable, for the morning fog, which had been particularly dense, had left a white mist behind it over river and countryside. High ground which on a normal day can be easily distinguished was barely visible, but practically the whole great reach of the Thames at this spot could be made out.
The aircraft moved at a great pace. The British craft had a decidedly more southern station when I first saw it, while the other machine, which I afterwards heard was an Albatross, kept a line nearer the centre of the river. The drone of the machines continued, broken only by the guns which were firing with great rapidity from the forts. From my window I saw distinctly shells bursting high in the air in the vicinity of the Albatross.
Far below seagulls were flying inland, apparently startled by the firing. Although the pursued and pursuer were flying at a great height – the German must have been at least 4,000ft. up – the British craft seemed to be gaining. ‘Boom, boom,’ went the guns, and the hills around re-echoed the sounds of the first of real warfare heard in the Thames estuary for centuries. Higher and higher went the Albatross as it passed over the forts. Suddenly it appeared to take a wide sweep in a north-easterly direction, in order evidently to elude British aeroplanes. The British biplane also made a sharp turn, continuing its pursuit of the Albatross, and within a few minutes both machines were lost in a mist, but from the lower reaches of the Thames one could continually hear the boom of guns.
The machine seemed to have a miraculous escape from the shells which burst quite close around it. One onlooker was emphatic that the British gunners scored a hit, but against this must be places the fact that when I last saw the machine disappearing in the mist there was no apparent diminution in its speed. The Albatross continued its way towards Southend, and by this time was sighted by the three aircraft which had set out earlier in the morning from the Isle of Grain, and the chase was continued across Essex.”
[This Issue of The Times also included references to the first REAL bomb to land on British soil in the back garden of a Dover auctioneer (Mr. T.A. Terson), leaving a hole of 14ft. wide and 4 feet deep."]
FAVERSHAM POLICE COURT. At the Borough Police Court on Saturday, James Hayward and George Byrd, of the 3rd West Lancashire Brigade, R.F.A., which is billeted in the town, were charged with stealing of chicken and a duck, value 6s., the property of William George Marsh, landlord of the Abbey Tavern, Faversham, on December 24th. The chicken and duck, it appeared, were missed about 9.30 p.m. from the scullery at the Abbey Tavern, where they had been left hanging. The police were informed, and as a result of inquiries by P.C.s Burgess and Bowsher the prisoners were apprehended at one o'clock on Christmas morning at their billets, the duck being produced by Byrd and the chicken by Hayward. The birds were subsequently identified by the owner. When charged with the theft Byrd replied "We were both together." Hayward made no reply. P.C. Bowsher stated in evidence that both men looked as though they had been drinking. The Magistrates, taking into account that prisoners had been drinking, and apparently had not premeditated the theft, also the fact that they would be dealt with by the military authorities, decided, after some deliberation, to dismiss the case.
SITTINGBOURNE PETTY SESSIONS. ROYAL MARINE'S BAD CHARACTER.- At the Sittingbourne Petty Sessions on Monday, Ernest Herbert Williams, alias Cullum, a private in the R.M.L.I., stationed at Chatham, was charged with fraudulently obtaining a quantity of bread, cakes, biscuits and chocolates from Mr. Cramp, baker, and with obtaining lodgings by false pretences from Mrs. Mary Hains, at Rainham. Prisoner came to Rainham on December 11th and represented himself as a sergeant in the Royal Marines, though he was only wearing one stripe. He said his father was an officer, and that he (prisoner) had been wounded at Antwerp. He was stated to have walked with a limp, but when spoken to by Sergt. Ashton, who ordered him to take off his bandage, it was found there was nothing the matter with the leg. An officer in Court said prisoner only enlisted on November 10th, and he was not entitled to the stripe he was wearing or the ribbon of the medal of the Royal Humane Society. Supt. Crowhurst said he had taken the prisoner's finger prints and sent them to Scotland Yard. By this means it was found that he had been convicted at Bristol and Dover for theft, and four other convictions had been recorded against him.- Pleading guilty, prisoner was sentenced to three months' hard labour.
In the region of Ypres our artillery effectively returned the fire of the enemy, and succeeded in making very good practice on the German trenches.
From the Lys to the Oise: In the region of La Boiselle our troops seized a trench after violent fighting.
North-east of Soissons, on Spur 132, our troops repulsed yesterday a German attack. Then they attacked in their turn and carried two lines of trenches of the enemy on a front of about 1,000 yards, extending towards the east the trenches captured on January 3, and ensuring for us the complete possession of Spur 132.
On the Aisne and in Champagne as far as Rheims there have been artillery duels. From Rheims to the Argonne our artillery bombarded the first line of the enemy's trenches and the shelters of the reserves.
North of Perches, after having beaten back the counter-attacks reported yesterday evening, we made progress and captured a line of 220 yards of trenches.
To the north of Beausejour the enemy made stubborn endeavours to retake the little fort which he had lost. His counter-attacks were each made with two battalions, the second one in close formation.. Both attacks were repulsed after having been very severely punished.
In the Argonne there were some slight engagements. Our front was maintained. Between the Meuse and the Moselle the day was calm. In the Vosges there was a heavy fall of snow. Some shells fell on Old Thann and on Hill 425.- Reuter. Reported in the Daily Express on 12 January 1915
"Reported" by the South Eastern Gazette on 8th and 22nd December 1914:
"IF THE GERMANS CAME TO KENT. What might happen in the Event of Invasion. - THE CONSEQUENCES OF UNPREPAREDNESS.
We give below the first part of an article which is intended to show the perils to which Kent is exposed while the manhood of the County, and of the rest of England, still hesitates to respond to the Call to Arms. The object of what follows is not to create alarm, but to cause all who are capable of bearing arms to prepare themselves to do their duty in this time of crisis, either, if of military age, by enlisting in the Regular or Territorial Forces, or, if over Military Age, by joining the Volunteer Training Corps now in the process of formation.
Suppose the Germans favoured greatly by circumstances (as they would need to be) succeeded in defeating our Fleet in the North Sea an thereby obtained command of the English Channel. This would give them the opportunity for putting into effect one of the different schemes for an invasion of England on which the best brains in their Navy and Army command have been concentrated for years past. It cannot be doubted that one of these schemes contemplates a landing on the shores of Kent by reason of the important strategical position of the county in relation to London. An invading army on the Kent coast would be within a few days march of the capital of the British Empire!
If the Germans came to Kent, where would they land, and what would happen to the county and its people?
It is not unlikely that the spot chosen for putting the Germans ashore from their flat-bottomed transports, under the protection of warships, and probably on Zeppelins also, would be that at which St. Augustine landed when he came to convert England to Christianity. The neighbourhood of Ebbsfleet, in Thanet, as a landing place, would offer no geographical difficulties, and it is far removed from any coast fortifications. The guns of Dover could not cover it, and there are no forts on the Kentish side of the Thames estuary which could keep the invaders on. They would, of course, have to face strong forces of entrenched troops, hurried forward from various inland stations, as well as other parts of the coast, and might find it impossible to throw men ashore with sufficient rapidity to overpower the defending army, even with the assistance of the powerful guns of their convoying warships and the bombs dropped from their zeppelins. For the purposes of this article, however, we assume that a landing has suddenly been effected and that an infacing army of from 70,000 to 120,000 men is ready to move forward, fully equipped with artillery, ammunition columns, and all necessary impedimenta.
The first thing undertaken by the invaders as a preliminary to commencing the march for London would be to sack the coast towns of Ramsgate and Margate. Already the population of these towns, or the great bulk of it, would have fled in panic, or at least would as could be carried. The work of movements as they could carry. The work of movements of the defending army would thus be hampered, for all the roads in Thanet for the time being would be choked. It is certain that with the invading army established at Ebbsfleet, nothing could be done to save either of the two towns named. They would fall an easy prey to the Germans, and everything of value to the invaders would be mercilessly commandeered. Any hesitation even, on the part of the inhabitants remaining, to hand over goods or money on demand would be punished by rifle shots or bayonet thrusts, and nether sex nor age would be spared by troops stained with the blood of the women and girls - and even children - of Belgium. In the London papers on the following day we should see paragraphs such as this:
A young woman at Margate, on approaching a body of German troops to implore them not to take the food she had obtained for her sick mother, was ruthlessly bayoneted.
A boy, eleven years of age, crossing a street after an order had been given by the Germans that the inhabitants were not to leave their houses, was shot dead.
An old man who ventured to protest against the brutality shown by German soldiers in forcing their way into a room where his wife was lying on the point of death, was clubbed with the butt-end of rifles, and left for dead.
or we might read something like the following:-
The German Army, which has effected a landing at Ebbsfleet, as reported yesterday, took up quarters for the night at Ramsgate and Margate, neither of which towns could be defended. On leaving, they deliberately set fire to all the public buildings, as well as to hundreds of private houses, and the two towns are a mass of flames. A large number of the inhabitants, unable from various reasons to escape, have been burnt to death. All the shipping in Ramsgate Harbour has been sunk, while the jetty at Margate has been entirely destroyed.
Commencing their advance towards London, the invaders would probably make for Canterbury, having seized the main road leading to that place from Ramsgate, and also that from Sandwich, which place they would doubtless have occupied previously. The Ashford an Ramsgate branch railway line would also be in their possession, though they would be unable to make any use of this owing to the lines having been destroyed by the defending troops on falling back the previous day. Nearing Canterbury the enemy would find our troops in increased numbers and strongly entrenched, with artillery placed in commanding positions. They would commence a terrific battle, starting with a furious cannonade. The German artillery would be directed not only against the troops opposed to them, but also against the city of Canterbury in their rear, and the Cathedral would be chosen as a special target. The famous Bell Harry Tower would soon be in ruins, the shrine of Thomas a Becket wrecked, the whole roof from one end of the sacred place to the other in flames. And the more stubborn the resistance of the still insufficient force of the defending troops, the more complete would be the destruction of the Cathedral rising majestically behind their positions and of other property within reach of the German guns. Civilians hurrying through the streets in order to escape from the city would be killed by fragments of "Black Marias" and failing masonry; sick people - men, women and children - would be burnt to death in their beds through their homes being set alight by bursting shells.
The German attack against such numbers of defenders as would be available under anything like present conditions, with our manhood only half awake to the national peril, would be irresistible. The highly-trained troops of the enemy - an only highly-trained, seasoned men would be included in the army of invasion - would in this early stage of their advance carry all before them. The defending force would fight desperately, but they could be overcome, and at length, having suffered enormous losses, they would be forced to retreat, leaving Canterbury completely at the mercy of the Germans. They would seek to retire by way of the main London-Dover road, in the direction of Faversham and Sittingbourne, but the Germans would rapidly push troops forward to prevent this, and would probably succeed. Then it would become necessary for the defenders to swing round on to the road over Charing Hill to Maidstone, with the Germans pressing them closely.
The situation would be put in a communiqué issued by the Press Bureau in London in some such words as these:-
The German advance continues. Our troops gallantly maintained their positions outside of Canterbury all day yesterday, but at night were compelled to fall back. They now hold Charing Hill, which offers good defensive advantages and are being reinforced from Dover and elsewhere. A large part of Canterbury is in flames, while the Cathedral has suffered great damage from the German bombardment. Most of the villages in the neighbourhood are destroyed, and it is feared that considerable numbers of the civil population have perished. Owing to the exigencies of the military situation, it is deemed necessary to advise the inhabitants of Maidstone to leave, as that town cannot be defended should a retreat from Charing Hill become necessary.
This is as far as the story of what might happen if the Germans came to Kent need be carried to-day. It will be resumed next week.
[Follow-up "report" delayed to 22nd December – perhaps because of the real attack on Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool? - A very good account of this shelling of the North East Coast can be read on this excellent website - www.naval-history.net]"
Published by South Eastern Gazette on 22nd December 1914: "IN CASE OF INVASION. Some weeks have elapsed since instructions in respect to the civil population in the event of a landing of an enemy force on our shores were forwarded by the Home Office to the Lords-Lieutenant of certain counties which were considered to be directly affected. There is not the slightest doubt that Kent is one of these counties, but what action has been taken in Kent up to the present? The public still remain entirely in the dark as to what course they should follow should a German raiding force effect a landing on the shores of the county. We do not hesitate to say that this is most deplorable. It is true that what are called Emergency Committees have been formed, but these committees have been told to observe secrecy with regard to their instructions. Why is secrecy necessary? Surely to avoid hopeless confusion in a sudden emergency the public should be plainly told beforehand what they are expected to do. This course appears to have been wisely adopted in other countries. In Lincolnshire, for instance, information has been circulated through the medium of the police. Failing special military instructions to the contrary being issued hereafter, the inhabitants of villages and districts immediately affected by an attempted invasion are advised to stay by their homes, farms, or villages, and as far as possible carry on their usual vocation. Nothing, it is pointed out, could be more harmful or dangerous than a general movement in the nature of a flight under the influence of panic on the part of women, children, or old people. Any movement ordered by the military will be properly controlled, ordered, and directed by the police, and nothing else should be attempted. Further, it is pointed out that it is of the utmost importance that the movements of troops and artillery should not be hampered by the presence of numbers of civilians on the roads. Any person leaving the district should avoid the roads required by the military forces of the Crown. These will be, as far as possible, indicated to them by the police. Finally, it is urged that every man of proper age and physique should enlist in the Regular Army or Territorials. If not of proper age and physique, it is suggested that he should join the nearest Volunteer Training Corps. In Norfolk, where instructions have been issued to civilians on similar lines, the public are prudently advised that the contingency of an invasion, or an attempt at invasion, is “no more likely to occur at the present time than in the earlier stages of the war and is still, happily, a remote one; but at the same time the Government are of opinion that every precaution should be adopted.” We strongly urge that what has been done in Lincolnshire and Norfolk should also be done in Kent. The authorities should take the public into their confidence; unless this is done, if an emergency should suddenly arise, disaster will be the inevitable result. It does not seem to be fully realised in official quarters in Kent what a valuable instrument the Volunteer Training Corps, consisting of active, drilled men, would assuredly prove, if it became necessary to get women and children away from a particular district, to keep roads required by the military forces of the Crown unimpeded, and to destroy any property that might be useful to an invading force. In fact, in their whole conception of what is due from them to the public the Kent authorities at present seem to be grievously at fault, and it is not at all surprising that the feeling in the coast districts in particular should, as Mr. Ronald McNeill, M.P., testifies, be one of “dissatisfaction and misgiving.”
The German raid on the east coast has probably done more to bring home to the people of these islands the stern realities of war than anything that has been previously said or written on the subject. While the raid was a complete failure so far as creating panic was concerned, it has awakened the stolid and complacent section of the public to a full realization of the tremendous issues at stake. Likewise it has removed any lingering doubt as to the determination of the Germans, either within or without the rules of civilised warfare, to strike a staggering blow at the very heart of Great Britain. It is eloquent testimony to the virile qualities of the British people that the raid should have had an immediate and stimulating effect upon recruiting. Since Wednesday there has been a gratifying increase in the number of men offering themselves for enlistment, and recruiting is likely to be well maintained for a considerable time to come. At the moment the authorities are obtaining as many men as they can comfortably accommodate, but by the New Year the machinery for absorbing recruits for the new armies will be materially strengthened. Thousands of men will be wanted to fill up the new cadres, and the sooner they are forthcoming and trained into a state of efficiency the sooner will Germany’s resistance be crushed. Happily there are ample signs that men will come forward at the required rate. There has been in some quarters far too much pessimism about recruiting, and the pessimists deserve the rebuke that was administered to them last week by mr. Bonar Law. “Never in the whole history of the world,” said the speaker, “has an army such as we require been raised by voluntary enlistment. That system failed in the American Civil War, but is has not failed here. We have got so far, and I am sure we shall get all the men we need.”
"IF THE GERMANS CAME TO KENT. – STORY OF AN ASSUMED INVASION CONTINUED – PROBABLE LIMIT OF THE ADVANCE – WHAT MAIDSTONE MIGHT EXPECT.
In the first part of this article, written to show the perils to which Kent is exposed while the manhood of this County and the rest of England still hesitates to respond to the call to arms in sufficient numbers, we showed how the Germans, landing at Ebbsfleet in the Isle of Thanet, might proceed to sack Ramsgate and Margate, and then advance on Canterbury, capturing that place after a big battle. This week we show what might happen till a sufficient force could be concentrated at Maidstone to meet and defeat the invaders in the attempt to reach London.
Having entered Canterbury the Germans would naturally make the most of their success, and so would proceed to collect from it as much booty as possible. Soldiers individually would take any money or valuables they could lay their hands on, and probably the inhabitants collectively, or those of them still remaining, would be called upon by the German Commander for a war contribution forthwith. An order such as the following would be delivered to the Mayor, or, failing the Mayor, some other civic dignitary:
“The General Commanding the Army of Invasion order the City of Canterbury to pay without delay the first part of a war levy of £200,000. This first instalment is fixed at £50,000, which sum must be delivered to the officer sent to receive it one hour after sunrise to-morrow. The city will be set on fire and totally destroyed if the payment is not made.
“The General Commanding further orders that every effort shall be made by the inhabitants to provide proper treatment and accommodation for the whole body of his troops for one night, and for such numbers afterwards as he may determine to leave in the city. Any person showing unwillingness to carry out this order will be considered as hostile and immediately shot.”
The decision of the German General to rest for a night at Canterbury would be dictated by reasons of necessity. His troops would be tired out from their long march from the coast and the severe fighting they had had to engage in before entering the city. He would, moreover, be expecting news of the coming of further troops from Germany to make good the heavy losses he would so far have suffered, and also to strengthen his force for the big tasks in front of it. He would have realised already that he could not hope to reach London with an army of the strength of that with which he had landed, but he would feel confident, in the German way, that nothing could happen to prevent many thousand more troops landing on our shores, either in Kent or on some point on the East coast within a comparatively short distance of London.
THE ADVANCE RESUMED
Assuming that no definite news of the coming of these fresh troops had reached him by daybreak in the morning, the German Commander would then have to decide whether to remain inactive in Canterbury till he was assured of the necessary support, or to rush on to the attack of Charing Hill. He would realise that if he resolved on the former course he would have to divide his troops in order to throw out a force on his right to guard against a possible movement against his flank from Chatham, via the railway to Faversham. Here there would be sufficient men posted for garrison duty and the defence of the Dockyard to admit of considerable numbers being despatched to seriously worry him, and he would be fully aware of the fact. The position of the enemy would be one of anxiety if the order to advance were given, but the enemy would be influenced by the unequivocal terms of his instructions from the Kaiser, and so would, no doubt, resolve on pushing on further at all cost.
The frontal attack on Charing Hill would cost the invaders dearly, but the Germans would not miss the opening which would present itself to them for an advance at the same time via the road to Ashford on their left. And unless this wing of their Army could be met and driven back – an event not likely to happen in the absence of fresh troops to strengthen the force at the disposal of the home Commander – the defenders would eventually find themselves attacked from the rear via the Ashford-Maidstone Road. Then an abandonment of the position would become inevitable and a retreat before the enemy in the direction of Maidstone would commence. There would be a stand at Lenham, and as a result that village would suffer the fate which so many villages in Belgium have suffered. There would not be a house standing when the Germans had done with it, and every farm-house in the neighbourhood would be in flames. Harrietsham, Hollingbourne, and Bearsted in succession would suffer much the same fate, although there would be no sound military reason for the destruction of these villages since the defending force, continuing its retreat after finding it impossible to successfully resist the Germans at Lenham, would have left them open.
INVADERS AT MAIDSTONE
By nightfall the defenders would be pouring into Maidstone, but only to pass hurriedly through it, either to make for Chatham or to get into touch with reinforcements, which by this time might be expected to have got into position across the London Road at Wrotham. Advance parties of the enemy would report Maidstone unoccupied by troops, but nevertheless the Germans would consider it good policy to terrorise the inhabitants remaining there before entering the town, and so would turn their guns upon it. Having shelled the town for an hour or so, they would march in and proceed to distribute themselves over the place. Public buildings, churches, private houses, all would be occupied, and everything that could be had in the way of provisions would be commandeered for the refreshment of the invaders. The first thing the German General would do on his arrival would be to cause a notice to be posted on the Town hall warning the inhabitants of the consequences they would have to endure if a single German soldier was injured in the town. This notice would be in some such terms as the following:
The German guard will take ten hostages from each street, whom they will keep under surveillance. If there is the slightest disturbance in the street the ten hostages, together with as many other civilians as the General may determine, will be shot. No civilian must be in the street one hour after the issue of this order under the penalty of death.
Having at daybreak told off a certain number of troops to remain behind, charged with the duty, amongst others, of collecting a war levy of £250,000 from the town and accumulating supplies, the German General would give the order to his army “Vorwarts.” But it is likely that by this time he would find, not only that his further advance was barred, but that he was in a position of great jeopardy. His scouts would probably be coming in to report that there was a strong concentration of defenders at Wrotham, and that a considerable force, will now held back, was issuing from Chatham and working along the crest of the hills to the east of Maidstone, thus threatening his rear. He would, it may be, also learned that a force had been sighted coming across the Weald on the other side of the town. Thus he would find himself threatened with complete envelopment, and this is exactly what might be expected to happen, assuming, as may fairly be done, that Germany had found it impossible to get more men across, owing to the reforming of the British North Sea Fleet, and the arrival of vessels from other stations, as supports. There would be no help for it. The Germans would have to remain at Maidstone and fight to the death there, or surrender.
LAST DESPERATE FIGHT.
It is certain that, although in a hopeless position, the German General would not allow his army to be taken unresisting, nor would he wait to be starved into surrender. Having been sent on a desperate enterprise, he would adopt the most desperate measures. Having set fire to Maidstone in every part, and blown up the bridges over the Medway, with a view to delaying as far as possible the advance against him from Wrotham, he would seek to hack his way back to the coast, in the hope that he would find transports there to enable the remnants of his force to escape. To some extent he might succeed, but if any part of his army managed to get clear of Maidstone and reach the coast it would be too late.
Thus in complete disaster for the enemy the invasion enterprise would end. But what a price would have been paid for our unpreparedness to meet and defeat it at the outset! Ramsgate and Margate sacked, a large part of Canterbury, including the Cathedral, in ruins, Maidstone a mass of burning debris, villages completely blotted out, and every street or road in the track of the invaders strewn with corpses of innocent civilians, including men, women and children, to say nothing of the bodies of the men who had died fighting the invaders at the different positions taken up during the retreat before them.
This is not an overdrawn picture of what might happen if the Germans found an invasion possible by reason of there being an insufficient number of trained men to keep our shores inviolate in the event of a serious mishap to our North Sea Fleet. If anything, we underestimate the consequences that would be entailed on Kent if a German Army succeeded in effecting a landing on any part of its coast."