- Greetings card from 1915. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
Happy New Year readers, welcome to 2015! I’ve no idea what this year holds but as with everything in life, best ‘roll with the punches’. I have never been a fan of making New Year’s resolutions but am rather partial to writing endless lists. One such list I have compiled contains historical anniversaries coming-up over the next twelve months, there are quite a few of them, here’s my top selection:
- January 24th (50th) death of Sir Winston Churchill;
- April 25th (100th) start of the Gallipoli Campaign in World War One which ended on 9th January, 1916;
- May 7th (250th) launch of the HMS Victory, (100th) sinking of the RMS Lusitania, (70th) 8th V.E. Day, (75th) 27th-4th June – Dunkirk invasions;
- June 2nd (175th) birth of Thomas Hardy (1840-1928), 16th (100th) foundation of the British Women’s Institute, 18th (200th) Battle of Waterloo, 15th (800th) Magna Carta issued;
- July 10th-31st October (75th) Battle of Britain;
- September 6th (100th) first Women’s Institute meeting held in Llanfairpwllgwyngyll, Wales;
- October 12th (100th) British nurse Edith Cavell (1865-1915) is executed by a German firing squad for helping Allied soldiers escape from Belgium, 15th (600th) Battle of Agincourt.
- Battle of Britain Memorial, unveiled in 1993, situated on the white cliffs near Capel-le-Ferne between Dover and Folkestone, Kent.
- Engraving (1873) featuring King John (1166-1216) signing The Magna Carta (1215).
I thought it would be interesting to have a look at some newspaper reports from a hundred years ago:
A New Year is dawning – a year of great possibilities, great responsibilities, and, we believe, great achievements. The year of 1914 has marked an epoch in the history of the world, and as it recedes into the shadows of the past our thoughts go back to its early days, before the German war of aggression darkened the peaceful lands of Europe.
At the beginning of January, 1914, the British public, which dearly loves deeds of adventure, was thrilled by the news that Sir E. Shackleton had decided to lead another expedition to the South Polar regions, and in November tidings were received that the party had reached Sydney on its journey southwards.
Scarcely a year has passed, and Great Britain is engaged in the greatest venture she has ever undertaken – a venture which has stirred the imagination, the sympathy, and the loyalty of Britons all over the world. As the bells welcome in the New Year the sons of the great World Empire are fighting with the Allies in France and Belgium; against the Germans in Africa; and Volunteers are devoting themselves to strenuous exercise in the Dominions and in the training camps of England, preparing themselves for active service in the early spring.
- August 1915: Posters at Marylebone Station advertising war loans. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
Day by day tales of unflinching courage, resourcefulness, and heroism reach us from the theatre of war. The news of the great air and sea battle of Cuxhaven, which came filtering through on Sunday night, outvied for sheer daring, skill, and ingenuity the most romantic story of adventure penned by novelists of any age. And while Great Britain can produce men like these she is able fearlessly to bring to a successful conclusion tasks, however difficult, with which she may be confronted in the immediate future.
Therefore, with high hopes, unbounded enthusiasm, and never-faltering optimism, she greets the New Year of 1915. British commerce is satisfactory in spite of the depression caused by the war, and British goods are in ever increasing demand all over the world. The great British Fleet is patrolling the seas, and merchant ships pass to and fro to neutral countries carrying their freight to distant parts. German and Austrian goods, which were stocked in quantities by many English shops, have now been largely superseded by British, bearing a label “British Made”. For quality, finish, and general workmanship they cannot be equalled.
(Preston Leader, 13.2.1915)
- Soldiers reading the Suffragette newspaper, April 1915. That week’s editorial by Christabel Pankhurst expressed intensely anti-German sentiments typical of the time. The front cover image is a reproduction of a French cartoon of Joan of Arc (St Joan) in full military armour, hovering as an angel above Rheims Cathedral, which had been badly damaged in September 1914. The headline screams: ‘That which the fire and Sword of the Germans Can Never Destroy’. (Photo by Museum of London/Heritage Images/Getty Images)
Votes for women announced at the beginning of 1915. We may claim that our efforts to keep the suffrage flag flying in spite of the war have met with a gratifying and stimulating measure of success. In several instances we have through the columns of the paper and by means of meetings, deputations & etc been able to draw public attention to serious abuses which have made the lot of women in wartime harder even than in peace; but never for a moment have we lost sight of our single goal; the enfranchisement of women.
The Woman’s Right-To-Serve Demonstration: A Great Procession. The demonstration, on July 17, of thousands of women from all classes-aristocrats, professionals, workers in many forms of art and industry, women who rejoice in demonstrating, and women whom nothing but clear conviction and a strong sense of duty would draw from their quiet homes into the glare of publicity – which was organised to demand as a right that women should be allowed to take their share in munition and other war work, was a success in every detail, except the weather, which was deplorable.
….it was picturesque, enthusiastic and impressive, and drew a concourse of many thousands, some of whom may have “come to scoff”, and when the story of the World War comes to be written, the patriotic part played by women of the Empire, of France, of Belgium, of Italy, of Russia, will be chronicled, and this great demonstration of women craving to work for the war will find honourable place.
(The Illustrated London News, 24.7.1915)
- A lithographic comical postcard promoting an anti-suffrage sentiment concerning women’s rights, published in New York City (1915). The husband washes clothes and watches the baby and cat at home. (Photo by Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images)
- Suffragette Rally, Trafalgar Square, London, ‘Suffragettes Help The War Effort’ (1915). British Pathe – Uploaded to You Tube 13.4.2014.
Undoing the Dardanelles blunder: The withdrawal of the British troops from two of the three points held on the Gallipoli Peninsula may be taken as a sign that the Government has at least realized the stupendous blunder is committed in venturing upon this expedition, the earlier phases of which Mr Churchill described as a ‘gamble.’ A gamble it has proved in the lives of the most heroic of our race. The casualties at the Dardanelles numbered up to November 9 no fewer than 106,000 officers and men. In addition, sickness on this front accounted for 90,000 down to October. A loss of nearly 200,000 men was thus incurred without any adequate result.
Not only did the Government despatch to the Dardanelles forces which, judiciously utilized at other points, might have achieved the greatest results; not only did it divert to the Near East munitions at a time when we were perilously short of high-explosive shells. It also deceived the nation as to the position and prospects after its strokes had signally failed through initial mismanagement or the inadequacy of the army employed. The public has not forgotten the optimistic assurances of Mr Churchill, Lord Robert Cecil, and Lord Kitchener.
Mr Lloyd George’s speech last evening really contains the gravest indictment that has as yet been drawn against the Government. Here is a confession that when the Germans were in May making 250,000 high-explosive shells a day the British production was only 2,500. Even now he implies that, despite great efforts, we have not equalled the German output. Shall we ever overtake it? Only if the nation works its hardest. The fatal words of the war, he said, were ‘too late’. These words have dogged the Allies’ every step.
(Daily Mail, 21.12.1915)