WW1

PENRYN AT THE TIME OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR 

Introduction

The First World War affected every area of life at home. No-one escaped. In 1914 Britain faced its biggest threat for nearly 1,000 years and was a land gripped by fear of invasion. Britain had not fought a war in Europe for a century and the Germans had an army of over 2 million soldiers. The Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith, wept. The call to arms was led by Lord Kitchener. He knew we could only win by creating a massive new army. All able bodied men over 5' 3" were pressed to volunteer and once war was declared on 4th August, 20,000 men volunteered every day, with 33,000 joining on 3rd September, 1914 alone. Though there were a minority who were conscientious objectors, most men joined up for King and Country and a wish to protect their families and homes. This pattern was to continue, with more volunteers joining up and as the years went by younger men were Called to the Colours. But casualties were a-plenty. Postmen and post boys in Scotland threw in their jobs because they could no longer stand being the bearers of bad news. Life was also difficult for the 50,000 or so German immigrants who came to Britain before the War.

At home everyone did their bit and older men became special constables. There were road blocks by day and night with people on look-out, and Boy Scouts were trained in first aid. Lights were darkened and in London Big Ben was silenced. Daylight Saving was introduced for the first time to help people see their way around. Women took up a whole variety of jobs they had never undertaken before, including the production of munitions and working the land. But the War did hit Britain physically. In Hartlepool, County Durham, on December 16th, 1914 there were flashes of light from ships several miles out to sea. Then, German shell fragments struck at Hartlepool where homes were attacked and destroyed. This was the first major attack of Britain since 1066. Three children were killed by German shells as they ran away in fright. Their mother's leg was blown off. In total, five hundred were wounded and 152 killed, the eldest 56 and the youngest 6 months. Whitby and Scarborough were also shelled that day with another 21 civilians killed. The streets of Scarborough were barricaded and the attacks were considered a war crime and atrocity. Civilians now knew they were caught up in mortal danger.