Life, Death, and Growing Up on the Western Front


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Austria's declaration of war on Serbia came on the 28th. In the next four days Germany mobilised its navy, Russia began to mobilise and Germany declared war on Russia. The British government began to assemble its home fleet at Scapa Flow on 28 July, enabling it to dominate the North Sea. He found 'depression and paralysis' in the City, combined with a very general and desperate desire to keep out of the European conflict.

But Britain's ultimatum to Germany, after the news that German troops had entered Belgium, expired on the night of 4 August. On 30 July, Reggie Trench, an alert young man with his ear to the ground, was preparing for his annual Territorial camp on Salisbury Plain. He reflected to Clare Howard on whether Britain would 'come out of the fog alright'. Reggie considered Asquith's change of focus 'excellent'. He guessed it depended upon Germany's 'preparedness for war whether they will go in or not'. He insisted, before the German ultimatum to Belgium, on the dangers to Britain if Belgium and France fell.

The risks for Britain of non-intervention outweighed the risks of intervention. This was the centuries-old balance of power argument. The Liberal government's case would have been instantly recognisable to Palmerston, to Castlereagh, even, before the Spanish Armada, to Queen Elizabeth. Mary, Countess of Wemyss, mother of three Charteris boys, was the confidante of Arthur Balfour, the Conservative leader.

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Back in London on Tuesday the 4th, Mrs Miles wrote in her diary, 'we already seem to be in a new world Home Contact us Help Free delivery worldwide. While acknowledging the horror and futility the soldiers of the Great War experienced, the author shows another side to the story, focusing new attention on the loyal comradeship, robust humor, and strong morale that uplifted the men at the Front and created a powerful bond among them. You are covered by the eBay Money Back Guarantee if you receive an item that is not as described in the listing. Select a valid country.

Her diary for the first weekend in August , full of cricket, tennis and entertaining grandchildren, records the routines of country house life. But in her upper-class circle in Gloucestershire, she noted, 'everyone talks of war': 'I heard trains rumbling in the night which brought home the facts,' she recorded. She came up to London with her youngest son, Yvo, on the morning of Monday, 3 August.

Balfour was urging the despatch of an Expeditionary Force to France. Between 2 and 4 August Asquith pulled together a divided Cabinet. There was no frenzy of war enthusiasm in August An image of rampant jingoism has to be replaced with a more complex picture, as Britain became engaged in a war seen as one of national defence. A mood of sober commitment quickly united the nation.

It was only when military music was heard that 'fathers picked up their children, mothers gathered the bottles of milk, bags of cake and fruit and there was a general rush in the direction of the Palace.

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As an icon of going to war this is deeply misleading. One of those young men outside Buckingham Palace was the seventeen-year-old Yvo Charteris. Mary Wemyss left him a note at midnight saying he was very late and she hoped he was 'not Mafeking'. The press in August used reports of that night as a yardstick to remind people that the hysteria of Mafeking Night in was by no means appropriate in this national crisis.

There was some rowdyism, admitted the Cambridge Daily News , 'but it was not by any means of the same character' as the orgy of rejoicing when news came through that Baden-Powell's force had been relieved in far-off Africa. The mood now, reported H. Gwynne to his Morning Post correspondent in St Petersburg, was 'England at its very best, silent, undemonstrative but absolutely determined'. There was some concern that young men's behaviour should not get out of control.

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There were also fears, among both Liberals and Conservatives, about the general excitability of mass society. Everyone was taken aback by the declaration of war. The language in early August was one of surprise: 'shock', 'thunderbolt', 'whirlwind' and 'bombshell' were typical words used. Dread, anxiety and fear were the keynotes of the public mood. Reggie Trench, soberly recounting daily developments to Clare, whom he expected to marry that summer, met her panic with an attempt at reassurance. I really think I shall not have to fight at all. She trusted he would be kept to 'drill and instruct recruits'; Clare asked: 'is it very cowardly of me?

On 4 August Mary Wemyss went to see her lifelong friend Lady Ettie Desborough, back in London from a house party and trying to 'keep quiet and calm'. They had a 'sad and serious confab' since both of them had three boys grown up or almost so.

Life, Death, and Growing Up on the Western Front

Then, back home at Stanway, she saw her eldest, Ego ride off to join his territorial brigade, the Gloucestershire Hussars. Having begun a legal career, he had been immediately called up. Watching the parade at Gloucester Cathedral on 9 August, Mary found it 'very moving'. Years later, she recalled how this was the moment, surveying the 'quiet earnest faces' of her son and his troop praying, that 'it sank into my heart for the first time that they were going to fight'.

No wonder that the stress caused Mary Wemyss to go to pieces. For now, the first time this had happened since the age of sixteen, she briefly abandoned her diary keeping: 'shall we put it on the war which has caused so much misery and infinite sorrow and loss to many, nothing seems to matter when so much is amiss'. Balfour had written to her to say that the Expeditionary Force had sailed. The only solace lay in early morning rides with Yvo.

The Cotswolds looked 'magically silent, waving corn and misty distances; the world had a strange unreal look'. It was possible, at least for a while, to ignore the war. The diarist Miss E. Barkworth in Devon barely mentioned it in August, recording trips to the beach and reading Dickens. What is certain is that, in both their emotions and motivations, people felt huge ambivalence; their mood could shift rapidly between foreboding and excitement.

Mrs Eustace Miles, running a London restaurant, noticed people in the streets singing the Marseillaise and 'Rule, Britannia'. See other items More See all.

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This book was inspired by the author's discovery of an extraordinary cache of letters from a soldier who was killed on the Western Front during the First World. This book was inspired by the author's discovery of an extraordinary cache of letters from a soldier who was killed on the Western Front during the First Wo.

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