FIRST WORLD WAR: How we reported the outbreak of war

From our archives - First World War coverage on a page of our Harrogate Herald newspaper.
From our archives - First World War coverage on a page of our Harrogate Herald newspaper.

As war was declared in Europe on July 28, residents of the Harrogate district carried on with their usual business in the final few days of calm before the storm.

The week’s newspapers were filled with excitement about the upcoming agricultural show and updates on Harrogate Council’s plans to acquire 10 acres of the Pinewoods for community use.

Editorial image

Editorial image

However a sense of foreboding filled the air and panic buying had already begun.

Within days Britain had entered the war. Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, made the announcement on August 4.

The Harrogate Herald was the first in the area to break the news that Britain had entered into what would become Europe’s greatest war.

Alongside a picture of two German men leaving Harrogate to join the Army, the Herald wrote: “At 7pm the police were posting in Harrogate the proclamation ordering the mobilisation of the Army reserves and territorial.”

The Herald reassured people there was no need to panic buy and said to do so would be “playing the game of those profit-mongers.” It also reported chaos in court as defendants were left without representation after their barristers enlisted.

In Ripon, the Feast of St Wilfrid coincided with the outbreak of war. The event had fewer visitors as trains were taken off the lines as a state of emergency was declared.

The Ripon Gazette reported the atmosphere in the town: “At the cathedral a strange mingling of ceremonies, marriages and funerals coming close to each other, bridal couples hurrying away with the melancholy sound of muffled peals in their ears.”

Four days after Britain declared war, the Harrogate Advertiser predicted the impact the state of emergency would have on the town.

It wrote: “War leaves no one untouched, and we would not have it otherwise, for personal sacrifice is the touchstone of our loyalty, and Harrogate has come to be known as among the most loyal of towns.

“That test of loyalty will be experienced by all Harrogate people. That class which looks to visitors in August and September to tide over the winter months will feel the struggle. Nor will the rich escape, for the obligation on them are the greatest, so must they give in order to be great.”

Despite the pleas for calm and a rush to enlist no one could have predicted the seismic changes the war would bring to every town and city in Great Britain.

Over the summer of 1914, most people clungto the hope that the brothers and sons who had gallantly left to fight would return home and that the war would be over by Christmas.