Off to the Great War . . .

Soldiers off to war

August 4: Britain declared war on Germany and the First World War had begun. The trigger was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his wife, by a fanatical Serb nationalist in Sarajevo.

Austria demanded reparations, sought the support of Germany, and on July 28 declared war on Serbia. The Serbs appealed for help to their old ally, Russia which in turn was supported by France. The Germans knew that their only hope was a quick knock-out blow against France before the cumbersome Russian war machine was mobilised in the east.

Britain might have stayed out of it but when German troops crossed the Belgian border to attack France, Britain was obliged by treaty to defend Belgium.

August 6. Lord Kitchener was appointed British Secretary of State for War. His job was to fill the army's ranks with recruits and the image of him pointing from a recruiting poster became one of the most famous images of the war. Kitchener was not to see the war's end. He perished at sea in in 1916 when HMS Hampshire was sunk.

July 30. Home Rule Bill abandoned. The issue of home rule for Ireland dominated politics in the first half of 1914.The Liberal Government was still committed to its Home Rule Bill, but there were increasing fears of civil war breaking out in Ulster. The Ulster Volunteer Force claimed to have 110,000 armed men ready to fight.

November 13. As far-off Europe slipped into war an American socialite, Mary Phelps Jacobs, tackled a problem that probably struck her as closer to home. She sewed a couple of handkerchiefs together and patented what she called "the backless brassiere". The bra was born.

February 2. The Cub Scouts were founded at Robertsbridge in Sussex. The Wolf Cubs, as they were known in the early days, were open to boys too young to join the Boy Scouts.


In brief

January 3.
At a Stafford inquest the coroner condemns "deadly flanelette" after hearing how five-year-old Levi Rothwell suffered fatal burns when his nightshirt caught fire. "Why did you not cloth him in calico instead of this wretched stuff?" the coroner asked the distressed mother.

February 4.
John Turley of Wolverhampton died aged 94, having lived in six reigns: George III, George IV, William IV, Victoria, Edward VII and George V

August 7.
First local victim of War was the unnamed driver of a lorry ordered to pay four shillings for being drunk in charge of a horse and wagon. He explained that he and his wagon had been loaned to a brewery whose vehicles had been commandeered by the Government for war purposes, and he was "not used to the beer that the beerhouse keepers thrust upon him"