Top spin lob, smash and POW!

18th January 1915

Monday morning and back to work for the Dorsets. Route marches and musketry training was the order of the day with bomb throwing chucked in for good measure. That must have gone down like a lead barrage balloon.

I find myself reading only one newspaper these days. I take the Daily Telegraph. The Daily Telegraph 1915 that is. In today’s paper, 100 years ago, there’s an interesting story about the internment of Germans in the UK. It will please the great niece and nephew of Frank Crawshaw very much – my mother and uncle respectively.

In 1914 tennis fans were treated to a five set thriller in the Wimbledon Championships Men’s final. The winner was Norman Brookes of Australia. He beat Otto Froitzheim, German tennis champion and World Number Four, 6-2, 6-1, 5-7, 4-6, 8-6. Leaving England, Froitzheim travelled to America to play in Pittsburgh. When war broke out he returned to the Motherland but his steamer was intercepted off Gibraltar by the Royal Navy and he was taken prisoner on the Rock.

Froitzheim was then taken back to the UK and interned in a German prisoner of war camp. The Telegraph states that it was in Bray, Maidenhead. I would suggest this is actually Holyport, perhaps less than a mile to the north of Bray. My mother and Stepfather lived at the end of Holyport Street until recently, and, in the field next door, was the ruins of an old POW camp, half-hidden in an old unkempt orchard overrun by brambles and nettles. The camp spilled out into the grounds of Philberd’s house, now, I believe, converted to rather swish flats.

Image showing The Eagle in Holyport
The Eagle in Holyport before 1916. Subsequently renamed the Belgian Arms.

The pub on their street is called The Belgian Arms. A local story, possibly apochryphal, claims that the pub, named The Eagle prior to World War One, changed its name because the German POWs saluted the pub sign every time they marched past.

Now that story should please my mother and Uncle John!

Waiting for Spring

14th January 1915

The Dorsets spent the day in billets in Dranoutre.

The Daily Telegraph journalist, and ex-Bedfords officer, Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, summaries the war so far in a prescient article entitled “Waiting for Spring” on page 10 of today’s newspaper. He writes that “this strange war is drifting through a dull period.” and so he turns to speculate on the outcome of the war. He goes on to ask the reader “which nation will produce the great man, the inspired genius, who will devise a means of making modern warfare decisive?”

The title of the article echoes Kitchener’s recent alleged soundbite (overheard secondhand from a British officer in a French mess) that “I don’t know when it [the war] will end, but I know when it will begin, and that is in the month of May!”

Ashmead-Bartlett went out to Gallipoli as a war correspondent for the Daily Telegraph and even filmed the only movie footage of the battle. He was very critical of the Dardanelles campaign and its commander, General Sir Ian Hamilton. He later spent time on the Western Front. After the war he went off to fight Bolsheviks in Hungary, as you do, returned to become a Tory MP and died in Lisbon at the early age of 50.

Photo showing Carles Bean and Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, war correspondents in 1915.
Australian official historian Charles Bean (front) and British war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett (rear) at Imbros during the Battle of Gallipoli, 1915.

Storm in a tea cup

30th December 1914

The Dorsets remained in billets for the day.

The 5th Division’s diary writes that men were “repairing damage done by storm”. There’s no other mention of this storm in the other diaries. In the Telegraph, however, much of the paper is given over to covering the storm which affected the South East of England on Monday 28th December 1914. Much damage was done to property, including Southend Pier, the longest pleasure pier in the world, which was “breached in three places”. Winds reached almost 40 miles an hour and, in typically English aggrandisement, the storm is described as “very nearly a gale”.

I wonder if this is the same storm that had toppled over precarious sandbags and parapets in Belgium.

There’s an interesting advertisement in the Telegraph today. You could now book tickets to sail to America on January 16th from Liverpool on the RMS Lusitania.

Cat amongst the turkeys

27th December 1914

The Dorset patrols came back from their night time assignations and reported that everything was very quiet.

Later on that day, at 5.25pm the Dorsets submitted their daily report to the 15th Brigade HQ, saying that the situation as unchanged but they had experienced fairly heavy shellfire during the day. There were no casualties.

The 5th Division diary confirms enemy shellfire landing in Sector B and also in Neuve Église.

At home the nation’s ability to be distracted from the war was epitomised by the lead story in page 3 of the Telegraph where the photo is that of a woman dressed as a cat who is collecting money for the Belgian refugee fund. Pauline Prim is “the first lady who has ever impersonated a cat or any other animal upon the stage”. The Telegraph attributes her feline performance to her husband’s acting abilities and explains that “it was probably though watching her husband’s rehearsals that she was, in a very short time, able to represent a cat in the most lifelike manner.” Thank goodness for men says the Telegraph. Roll on votes for women I say. We also learn that posting amusing cat pictures is not just an internet phenomena.

Another phenomena we think is just a modern one, is that of shopping madness at Christmas, especially when it came to buying turkeys. Here women did rule the (poultry) roost. If they weren’t driving hard bargains in London’s street market (“where the poor buy”), they were accompanying their loved ones on leave to Smithfield, Billingsgate and Leadenhall markets, to choose a bird for the Christmas table. Turkeys were very expensive when compared to beef and pork at this time; over double the price per pound, especially French ones  – Italian ones being in “far inferior condition”. Turkeys, then as now, were being gobbled up.

Mad men & English togs

21st December 1914

The Dorsets sent in their nightly reports to the 15th Brigade HQ and this filtered through to the 5th Division.The diary entry reads (I think) “patrols report of wounded”. What could this mean? Were there wounded out in No Man’s Land? Or were some of the Dorsets wounded while they were out and about?

Rifle fire at intervals was the order of the day. The response from the Germans was to heavily shell the Dorset trenches. Six men were wounded. The shellfire came from a new enemy battery to the north and British guns were asked to locate and engage it the following day.

In today’s Telegraph one hundred years ago, all the Christmas consumerism we seem to think is just a modern phenomena is there to see in all its greedy glory in 1914. On page five, a full page advert*, which is titled “What they need most at the front” begins with a “remarkably enlightening Letter from an Officer”. The letter goes on to recommend Christmas gifts men really needed at the front. Underneath in five columns, run adverts for a range of products, ranging from Oxo, Aquascutum overcoats, Horlick’s malted milk tablets and vaseline. In one of the panels is a pull quote. It reads “–but what they need most of all is MORE MEN”.

The addition of the call to arms message recalls the broohaahaa over this year’s Sainsbury’s advert. Presumably the copy was devised by ad men who were still a long way from signing up to the war effort.

The page uses a no holds barred advertising trick still used today; namely tug at the consumer’s heart and then hit them over the head with the product. John Lewis is still doing it every Christmas.

* Dorland advertising agency placed the advert in the newspaper. They went on to be one of the UK’s, and indeed the World’s, biggest ad agencies. They made the iconic Castrol GTX ad in 1980.