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 "stabilised" from January 1915 to the end of 1916 but fighting continued throughout the period, with some particularly large and hard-fought battles, intended to make a breakthrough. Many of these "breakthrough" battles have become part of the language of the First World War. See map - clickable. The conflict now straddled the globe where the European Empires touched. Increasingly, the Home Front news also included accounts of naval battles around the globe, lost naval and merchant ships, and submarine attacks and losses.
Thankfully, the Kingsdown with Creekside Benefice suffered no losses during both February and March 1915. This may, in part, be due to the relatively static position along the Western Front and the randomness of actions seen by military units as each side probed for local tactical advantage from trench to trench. The regular exchange of artillery shelling and sniping took its toll along the whole Front.
This was also the period during which the "Race to the Sea" took place. Both sides needed to secure their northern flanks and ensure that access to the sea remained open (or closed, depending on your view-point). For British forces, this was of acute importance as any food and other essentials available locally were fast disappearing. The passage of shipping was also crucially important to Britain and the Commonwealth.
The realisation that we were "in it for the long haul" led to continuing debates locally and nationally about the shortage of farm-workers because so many had volunteered to serve in the new territorial formations ("the Colours"). Calls to allow children of school age (12 years old or more) to work on farms gained more ground. In Lynsted, matters come to a head with a Parish Council meeting minute later in the year in October seeking freedom to use child labour as the rural workers "Joined the Colours".
This period also saw calls in the House of Commons for information regarding disease, illness, and occupational injury that included frostbite (a report of 17th February pointed to a total of 9,175 cases up to 24th January). Measures were to be put in hand to improve the soldiers' lots with waterproofs, etc.)
Increasingly, the ill-fated attack on Turkey in The Aegean/Gallipoli emerged in public reporting too. This 'adventure' is associated with Winston Churchill, and stayed with him. Early in March (11th/12th) newspapers recorded as a "great success" the attack on German positions (reporting German prisoners numbering 17,000) around Neuve Chapelle - map.
Reported in the Kent Messenger on 9th March 1915 - FAVERSHAM COUNTY POLICE COURT. At the Sessions on Thursday [4th March], Captain Hooper presiding, Thomas Russell, no fixed abode, was charged, on remand, with stealing, at Lynsted, on Sunday, Feb. 28th, a horse and harness, value £27, the property of Albert William Clark, of Bredgar; also a cart, value £3 (to which the horse was attached, and which Clark had borrowed), the property of John Goodhew, of Bredgar. The horse and cart were taken from outside the Foxhunter's public house, Lynsted, on Sunday Afternoon, while the prosecutor Clark and some friends were inside having some refreshment. The prisoner left the house at about the time they entered. At about 5.30 the same afternoon the horse and cart were found unattended at Doddington, two miles from Lynsted, and the prisoner was also seen there. He was not, however, with the horse at that time. On the following day he was arrested at Wormshill, when he admitted taking the horse away the previous afternoon, and said he had been drinking and must have lost his senses. Prisoner now said he had no intention of stealing, and that it was merely a foolish act. The Bench thought he had not felonious intent, and dismissed the charge, the Chairman reprimanding him and pointing out that he had done a very serious thing.
6th March – Whitstable Times and Herne Bay Herald. “The Times” on Friday preached a lesson to Englishmen which they badly needed. There is abundant evidence, remarked the leader writer, that we as yet only realise in part what we are “in for.” Our troops, new and old realise it. Many of those at home who are not privileged to wear a uniform realise it; but we are afraid that many more do not. Certainly the nation, as a whole, does not realise that it is at war, as the French nation does. The French make no pretence of behaving as if they were at peace; they are in bitter earnest, and have no time to play. But what are we doing: What, for instance, has the house of Commons, which represents the nation so far as popular election can make it representative, been doing in the last few days? It has been wrangling over trifles – whether boys shall be allowed to work in the fields, what are the precise details of a Government contract for buying timber, and things of that kind. We do not deny a certain importance to these subjects, but it is a peace importance. In the actual circumstance in which we stand, to make a solemn fuss, spiced with rancour and ill-will, about this contract, reveals a lack of proportion which would not be possible to men in downright earnest about the war. They would brush such matters aside. Our politicians seem to think that everything ought to go on as usual, and that peace standards must be maintained in war. The question of boys on farms is typical. In France the harvest was got by women and children, as the British officer tells us; and we know it was so got in Germany. Both countries depend mainly on these forces for their coming harvest; but when it is proposed here to let selected boys of twelve and thirteen go and help the men – who would in most cases be their own fathers – if they can get the approval of the local education authority, a cry of horror is raised. The language and the arguments used show that what people are thinking of is not the actual situation and the merits of the case, but the maintenance of sound educational principle. All this is unreal and, in the circumstances, ridiculous.
[Note: An illustration of the belief in some quarters that the dwelling on bye-laws and other ‘barriers’ was a matter of pettifogging. 'Turn a blind eye to the letter of the law.']
A later attempt to make it possible to employ 12-year old boys was proposed by the Kent Education Committee.....
The West Kent Gazette reported on 20th March 1915: "A GREENSTREET OFFICER WOUNDED. We regret to learn that Lieut Gerard P. Selby, RAMC, the eldest son of Dr and Mrs. Selby, of Greenstreet, Teynham, was wounded on March 7th, Lieut. Selby, who is attached to the 1st Battalion, Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, was standing near a shell which burst, and he was wounded in the leg. The young officer is now in hospital at Farnborough, and is progressing so well that he may shortly be expected home."
On 31st March he was promoted to Captain - Reported on 3rd April 1915 in the West Kent Gazette: "Lieut. Gerard P. Selby, RAMC, son of Dr and Mrs Selby, of Greenstreet, has been promoted to the rank of Captain, the promotion to date from March 30th."
26th March - Dover Express - At the meeting of the Kent Education Committee on Monday the Elementary Education Sub-Committee reported that they had considered further the question of the employment, during the present exceptional state of affairs, of children who had not obtained exemption from attendance at school under the Committee’s by-laws. They recommended that children of not less than twelve years of age should be allowed to be absent from school during the period commencing on the 1st May 1915, and ending on the 30th September following, provided that certain regulations were complied with in each case. These regulations included the following:-
1.- The parent shall present an application or a form to be prescribed by the Committee, and signed by himself, for the release of the child from attendance at school, stating the nature of employment, and undertaking that child shall be employed only under the immediate supervision of the parent or some other guardian to be approved by the Committee, or the Local School Attendance Committee, and only in wok that is suitable to its age and physical condition.
2.- The parent shall, for the purpose of this application, obtain, at his own expense, and present with the application, a certificate from a duly qualifies medical man that the child is physically fit to undertake the proposed employment, and shall also at his own expense produce, if required, a birth certificate or other satisfactory evidence of the age of the child.
3.-Absence from school shall not be allowed under these regulations for any employment that is not of an agricultural character.
Alderman Marsham moved that the recommendation of the Sub-Committee be referred back. The matter, he explained, was still under consideration.
Miss Wigan seconded, and the motion was agreed to, power being given to the Committee to act.
IF YOU WANT TO READ MORE ON THIS TOPIC, WE HAVE CREATED A DEDICATED PAGE TO CONTAIN THESE AND OTHER REPORTS ON THE POSITION OF RURAL CHILDREN DURING THE WAR
Reported in the Kent Messenger of 23rd March 1915: FAVERSHAM COUNTY COURT. At the sitting of the Faversham County Court on Friday [19th March] (before his Honour Judge Shortt), Walter Neal, farm bailiff, sued Robert Montague Mercer, of Sunderland Farm, Lynsted, for £5 10s., being one week's wages owing, and also a month's wages in lieu of notice. - William Neale, son of plaintiff, also sued defendant, through his father, for £1 6s., a week's wages owing, and also one week's in lieu of notice.- The defendant sued for possession of a cottage occupied by Neale. Plaintiff stated that he was summarily dismissed on February 19th without any reason being given. he called witnesses who stated they heard defendant tell Neale on the 19th to go at once.- Defendant, on the other hand, stated that on the 23rd January he gave Neale written notice to leave his employ on February 20th, and to vacate the cottage. Neale declared that he never received any notice.- His Honour remarked on the fact that he had simply oath against oath, and reserved his decision. In the case of the boy he gave judgment for the amount claimed, as it appeared that he, like the other hands on the farm, were discharged by his father, as bailiff, and left on his father's instructions.
Reported in the Herne Bay Express on 27th March 1915: Twenty-four wounded soldiers, direct from the front, have been admitted into the military hospital at Faversham. There are now just over fifty men in the hospital.