August 11, 1914 – an eventful week in the history of the world and the history of Market Harborough

call to arms

The Market Harborough Advertiser did not take long to catch up with events after the declaration of war by Britain on August 4.

Although the previous week’s newspaper had been caught out by an early Bank Holiday printing deadline and the fact that politicians seemed to be sleep walking into the conflict, the August 11 edition was dominated by war news, not least on its front page.

A huge advert declaring ‘Your King and Country Need You’ took pride of place – even if they were next to other adverts for the cinema programme and exhortations to drink Pale Ale plus a short report about Mr W J Richards of East Langton winning two prizes at the Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeepers’ Association Show at Leicester’s Abbey Park.

The ‘Call to Arms’ went on to say: “An addition of 100,000 men to His Majesty’s Regular Army is immediately necessary in the present grave National Emergency.

“Lord Kitchener is confident this appeal will be at once responded to by all those who have the safety of our Empire at heart.”

The advert goes on: “General service is for a period of three years or until the war is concluded. Age of entitlement between 19 to 30. Full information can be obtained at any Post Office in the Kingdom, or at any Military Depot.” It concludes the exhortation: “God Save the King!”

The men of Market Harborough were quick to heed the call and the Advertiser is there to record not just the numbers of men joining up but their names as well. On page three under the heading ‘Market Harborough and the War’ it states: “On Friday five employees at Messrs R. And W. H. Symington and Co.’s works left to join the Regulars , and later in the day other Harborians followed suit.”

In fact, the Advertiser is swift to introduce a momentous technological innovation to record a momentous occasion in the history of the town; it is a group photograph – one of the first to appear in the paper – of scores of young Territorials gathering in The Square for a service before departing for the Front.


There is a mix of national and international news but one suspects the readers of the Advertiser are most interested in more local events and comment. The Advertiser does not disappoint.

“As the past week has been an eventful one in the history of the world, and of our beloved country, so it has been in the history of Market Harborough, and scenes have been enacted here which but a few days previously none of us would have dreamt of. Truly it has, as one Harborian put it, been ‘the week of one’s life’.

The Advertiser also records how the war is affecting the Home Front. Members of Little Bowden Unionist Association have decided to cancel their outing to Sulby Hall and Clipston Flower Show is suffering a similar fate.

There has also been some panic among the womenfolk. “Such was the rush of orders to our local provision merchants in the early part of last week that several had to close their establishments that much earlier than usual.”

There is some reassurance to families though with a story emanating from the Board or Agriculture and Fisheries which states: “It may be said with confidence that there is actually in the United Kingdom at the present time, including the home crop now being harvested, five months’ supply of breadstuffs.”

The Advertiser’s summary of the national and international news is also comprehensive taking up the bulk of page six under the heading ‘Great Britain at War With Germany’ followed by the sub-headings ‘British Ultimatum Summarily Rejected’ and ‘Great Britain, Russia , France, and Belgium involved’.

The news here is surprisingly transparent. There is a full account of the HMS Amphion which was sunk by a German mine with the loss of 130 men. But there is also a description designed to stir the patriotic spirit with the headline ‘How the Germans Treated the English in Berlin’.

It states: “Englishmen will read with a disgust of the scenes in Berlin which followed the receipt of the British ultimatum and declaration of war. The fury of the Berlin mob knew no bounds. A frenzied attack was made on the British embassy and this was followed by wholesale arrests of English people all over Berlin, attacks on shops, confiscation of banking accounts, and sealing up of homes.”

The report concludes: “Two English news correspondents, with others were arrested at the Hotel Adlon, brutally dragged through a howling crowd, which beat them with fists and sticks, to the police station.” They were finally allowed to leave on a special train to the Hook of Holland.

Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.



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