Saturday, 2 August 2014

World War One Ramsgate and Westgate August 2nd 1914

As this is not intended to be a complete diary of the war, but only a few brief notes on the various items of interest in Thanet and in connection therewith. There is no necessity to attempt any detailed account of the political events which preceded and lead up to the declaration of war on Germany by Great Britain on Tuesday the 4th August 1914.

It may be well however for the sake of clearness to refer briefly to the events of the week preceding that date, culminating as they did in the declaration of war on Russia by Germany at 7.30 on the evening of Saturday 1st August 1914.

The trouble between Austria Hungary and Serbia was of course a menace to the peace of Europe and on Sunday 26th July 1914 the vicar referred in solemn tones in his sermon to the serious crisis in Europe but the public could hardly believe that it was more than a gigantic bluff on the part of Germany, and on the whole had no idea that a general European war was so near.

As the week wore on however the crisis became more and more acute. The British fleet, which had been assembled at Spithead for a review by His Majesty King George V was kept in readiness, and all leave was stopped. During the week the 1st British battle fleet left Spithead under sealed orders.

By Friday the 31st July 1914 the situation was extremely critical, and thence onward events developed with great rapidity. On that day my Grandpa Grandma and I went down to Tunbridge Wells for uncle Charles’s wedding.

While at Westgate in the morning I learned that the Admiralty were making a base on the seafront there for seaplanes and a wireless installation was being installed.

During the morning several motorcars passed my office with Bluejackets of The Royal Naval Flying corps.

On the way home I learned that the Army Authorities were commandeering houses in Canterbury and elsewhere, and that various military bands that were performing in different holiday resorts were being recalled to their regiments, the ones at Broadstairs having left by the Granville express for London.

As the day wore on the outlook became blacker. At Tonbridge it was impossible to buy an evening paper, but a London train coming in, I got one which was left in a carriage. We learned that the Stock Exchange was closed and the Bank Rate was raised to 8 per cent, an ominous sign!

Grandpa told me tonight that Mr Ogier, the manager of the Capital and Counties Bank in Ramsgate [3 & 5 Queen Street], (who holds a commission in the Jersey Militia) has been called up to join his regiment, and that Lieutenant Wills of the local Territorials, a clerk in the same bank, who was in camp at Bordon Hants. for the annual training, has been sent back with the men to guard the cable hut a Dumpton Gap. Evidently the authorities fear the worst.

Saturday August 1 1914

The wedding was on Saturday August the 1st, and after seeing Charlie and his wife off by the 11.20 train from the L.B. and S.C. Railway [London Brighton and South Coast] I went on to the Pantiles [Tunbridge Wells] with Sidney Port and Wilfred Burfield. Here also the band had been recalled, and instead of commencing at 11 am as advertised, it was past 12 o’clock when a scratch band, hastily secured and brought in by motor car, began to play.

The Bank Rate today was up to 10 per cent a figure never exceeded and only twice reached in passed years.

I left Tunbridge Wells with Sidney Port for Ramsgate at 6.10 pm. The trains were all late, and contained many soldiers and sailors hastening to their various posts. The evening papers were more depressing than ever. The great Question was, is Germany playing a great game of bluff, or will she really force a war? Many people tried to believe the former, but most of us went to bed fearing the worst.

Sunday August 2 1914

After breakfast the next morning I went up to Mr C. J. Fox’s (the chemist in Addington Street) where news of any important events has been posted up ever since the commencement of the Boer War in 1899. There I found that Germany had declared war on Russia at 7.30 the previous evening.

The European War then had actually begun. The question now was, would it spread to other nations, particularly would England become involved? France being Russia’s ally, was bound to assist her, but England’s position was more delicate. The original (or nominal) cause of the dispute viz. Austria, Hungary and Serbia, did not immediately affect us. With regard to France although the “Entente Cordiale” conceived by King Edward VII had gained in strength as years went by. Still this country was not bound by the treaty to assist France, although there were those amongst us who felt that we should be disgraced for ever if after all our professions of friendship, we failed our friends in their hour of need.

The tension and suspense of this the succeeding two days were greater, I suppose, than anything known, by any man then living. The cabinet was to meet at 11 o’clock, and everyone was asking what would they do?

Great excitement was caused in St. Georges Church this morning by the Parish Warden coming to the bottom of the pulpit steps, just as the vicar concluded his sermon, with a sheet of paper in his hand. Everyone wondered what we were to hear, but when the vicar read out the message it proved merely to be a communication from the farmers of Thanet (assembled at Quex Park) to the effect that owing to the crisis they felt it to be necessary to gather in the harvest without further delay, and were working today for that purpose.

After church we all went to Addington Street and found that the cabinet was to meet again at 3.30 but no hint of the decision was given.

Between 4 and 5 pm I went again to Fox’s. Still no news from the government. But it was reported that the Germans had entered Luxembourg. This was a further complication, although not unforeseen, as we were bound by the treaty to preserve the neutrality of Luxembourg and Belgium. The general opinion now appears to be that it was impossible for us to keep out of it.

After evensong tonight I noticed a crowd round Clark’s Newspaper in High Street, and on investigating I found that a telegram was posted up there announcing that 25,000 Germans had been repulsed with heavy losses.

I paid one or two further visits to Addington Street , but there was still no news from our government and we all went to bed in a state of greater suspense and anxiety than ever.

Ed this is from a book about Ramsgate that we publish, here is the link

Obviously we do publish several other books about Thanet and particularly Ramsgate during the Great War.

We are always interested in buying military books and with in our military book section we do have a small Great War section. pictures, which will expand when clicked on below. 

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