It’s war: shock as soldiers march

Soldiers in Leamington during First World War
Soldiers in Leamington during First World War

The outbreak of the First World War 100 years ago came as a big shock to people in Warwickshire.

War was declared on August 4, 1914, as Courier readers were enjoying their summertime pursuits.

In the July 31 edition, the Courier reported Austria’s declaration of war on Serbia in a News in Brief column next to reports of the Leamington Flower Show, a Young Liberals outing and the Henley Horse Show. But on August 7 the headline screamed: ‘At War with Germany’.

The report said: “Since our last issue the march of events in Europe has been terribly swift, with the result that England now finds herself at war with Germany.”

Reports focused on troops mobilising, a run on food in Leamington shops and the Mayor’s appeal for donations towards the war effort.

The Territorials in the F (Leamington) Company of the 7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment were ordered to mobilise on the Tuesday that war was declared.

The Courier reported: “A fairly large number of ‘Terriers’ were enjoying themselves at the Leamington St Mary’s Show and, when the word reached them that the order to mobilise had been given, they left the field practically in a body. There was a ready response to the call to arms and the smartness with which the men turned up at the Drill Hall showed how eager they were to prove their worth to the country.

“At 20 minutes past midnight the soldiers left the Drill Hall in Adelaide Road and started on a ten-mile march to Coventry to join the remainder of the Battalion.”

Another report spoke of the frenzy among housekeepers. Mr E J Smith, a director of Burgis and Colbourne, said: “We think it is an unnecessary panic. So great a run have we had on foodstuffs that our other departments are almost paralysed.”