Birmingham at War 1914-1918

Birmingham Evening Mail (England), January 18, 2014 | Go to article overview

Birmingham at War 1914-1918


CARL CHINN ............... 3-4 THE LAST POPPY.......... 5 HARRY PERRINS ........ 6-7 DANIEL FARRINGTON . 8 REGIMENT AXED.......... 9 WARTIME FOOTY .. 10-11 JAMES CROSS ........ 12-13 BLACKADDER.............. 14 LETTERS ....................... 15 GEORGE CARTER .. 16-17 JULIE JONES................ 18 GEORGE WHEELER .... 19 MILLS GRENADES . 20-21 WWI IN PICTURES ...... 22 XMAS TRUCE............... 23 INSIDE Welcome to the Birmingham Mail's first commemorative World War One supplement. We are publishing a war supplement every month in the build-up to the 100th anniversary of war being declared on Germany in August 1914. It will feature YOUR stories of the brave soldiers of Birmingham who fought in the trenches, the families they left behind and the key role the city played in the war effort from 1914-18. It's difficult to imagine writing the grave words that Britain was at war with Germany. In the Birmingham Mail's special issue in early August, 100 years ago, one senses a mixture of jingoism and naivety with an undercurrent of fear. But above all that is the resolve of a country which was determined to do what it thought was right for the greater good, whatever the cost, radiates through it. JUSTINE HALIFAX reports on how war was declared to the people of Birmingham.

SOMBRE headlines littered the pages of a midnight special edition of the Birmingham Mail on August 5, 1914, which was on the streets just hours after war was declared.

It reveals that just as crowds cheered outside Buckingham Palace as it was confirmed that Britain was at war with German forces a few hours earlier on the previous evening, so too did people on the streets of Birmingham.

With people standing on the streets of London enthusiastically singing the national anthem and parading the British flag, the Birmingham Mail recorded how the news was received locally.

It stated that because Germany's answer to the British ultimatum that Belgium should be kept neutral - after its troops had invaded the country - had proved unsatisfactory, war had been declared.

"Large crowds gathered in the vicinity of New Street and Cannon Street, and received the intimation with great cheers."

It went on to record how the official announcement was made by King George V by reporting: "The following official announcement was issued by the Foreign Office at 12.10am.

"Owing to the secondary rejection by the German Government of the request made by his Majesty's Government for the assurance that the neutrality of Belgium will be respected, his Majesty's Ambassador in Berlin has received his passport.

"His Majesty's Government has declared to the German Government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11pm on August 4. "Hostilities have already begun, according to the Press Association, the British Government has received information of the sinking of a British mine-layer by the German fleet.

"The first official intimation of the declaration of war was made outside Buckingham Palace at the King's personal request. His Majesty instructed Police Inspector Seymour to convey the news to a cheering crowd outside the Royal residence at about eleven o'clock last night."

But it's in the moving words of the unnamed journalist tasked with the job of putting into words the fears and resolve of a country that we get a true sense of how it must have felt to have lived through the historic announcement and the complexity of emotions that such a grave declaration would mean in real terms.

Describing the impending clash of forces as a twentieth century Armageddon, the unidentified Mail journalist states under the banner England At War: "Today for the first time since Waterloo, Britain is involved in a war at her own door.

"It was just upon a century ago, in 1815, that Napoleon's power was broken and peace brought to a continent which he had devastated with blood. …

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