Sunday, 10 August 2014

Not everyone expected a short war in 1914

Not everyone in 1914 thought that the war would be over by Christmas. A retired soldier, Sir Charles Hunter, addressed a large audience in the Jephson Gardens in Leamington and told them that they would have to go back to the Napoleonic era to realise what this great war meant. Many people were saying that the Germans would be starved out within a few months and then the war would be over. However, he thought that a long war was in prospect, anything between six months and three years.

One immediate consequence of the outbreak of war was the dismantling of all the amateur radio stations in the town. The largest mast had been that of Mr Ryres in Northumberland Road, but it disappeared with all the others. He had been picking up messages from French and German military units, but there was a concern that such stations could be used for espionage by German agents and therefore had to be taken out of use.

Over in Nuneaton the outbreak of war had a disastrous effect on the Saturday open air market with half the stalls occupied and a big fall in attendance. Because of troop movements through Nuneaton Station, a number of normal services were curtailed. Recruiting for the colours was so brisk that two sergeants had to be deployed, but a number of men were declared unfit. Around 100 reservists were mobilised and the district expected to supply around 100 boy scouts. 122 horses were bought in the area by the War Office and sent to Birmingham.

And what about football? The initial view after war broke out in August 1914 was that football should continue as usual as it would give the public something to think about apart from the war. The secretary of the Football Association stated, ‘It was in the best interests of the country that the games should go on. As it was, a large number of football players have returned to the Army and Navy, and several thousands are now under arms with their Territorial regiments. The games will not only provide a pastime for the men who have not had military training and for whom the Government could not probably find profitable employment, but they will provide a pleasant competition for those who are not in a position to take up arms, and thus help to keep up as cheerful a tone as possible in the country.’ Football could also raise funds to help those suffering as a result of the war. Takings from practice matches in August should go to the relief funds.

The Football League took a similar view: ‘To sit in sorrow is to aggravate the nation’s sorrow. Any rational sport which can minimise grief, help the nation to bear its sorrow, and relieve the oppression and continuous strain and save the people at home from panic and undue depression is a great national asset which can render further service to the people. Our great winter game should pursue its usual course. Every player should train to be of national service, not least in national defence.’

The Warwickshire Yeomanry was kicking its heels in camp near Bury St. Edmunds. With little of interest in the district, few horses available and movement restricted, the men had been occupying themselves playing football.

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