Historian Arthur Nicholls, Kendal, explores how the Gazette reported stories from the ‘home front’ in the first months of the war.

October 31: The annual poultry show was staged in Kendal.

Killed on duty. Private Charles Keith of Lindal (The 4th Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment), was knocked down and killed by a Great Western Railway express while guarding the line near Slough. He had been a Territorial for two years.

A youth of fifteen was brought before Kendal magistrates for robbing a box at Oxenholme station containing contributions to a war relief fund. Editorial comment was that so dastardly a theft betokened a depravity of conscience which would scarcely be remedied by the most drastic surgery.

A correspondent to The Westmorland Gazette wrote:
“In the long and not too genial nights which are now setting in, the large number of recruits under training in Kendal are likely to become rather bored for want of wholesome and reasonable diversion. Good work is being done by the two political clubs, the YMCA and others but can something be done to enable them to have evening entertainments of their own as they do in some of the instruction camps in the south?”

November 7: Notice – “A Call for the 2nd Borders – An Incentive to Join the Colours.”
Advertisement – Creamer’s Fur Store, Liverpool. “During the Great War: Work as usual. Ladies are respectfully informed that the best time is NOW for FUR.”

Letter from The Princess Mary’s Sailors and Soldiers Christmas Fund:
“I want you all to help me to send a Christmas Present from the whole nation to every sailor afloat and every soldier at the Front. Mary.”
The present consisted of an embossed tobacco box (tin), tinder, lighter, pipe, tobacco and cigarettes.

A smoking concert was held in the Parish Church Hall, Kendal for the recruits.

The usual November fairs and sales continued uninterrupted by the war.

Letter from Private J. Malcolm Somervell of Kendal
“We are in camp on the racecourse at Kempton Park. We were under canvas for three weeks until the end of a race meeting after which, as the horses were no longer needed, we occupied their loose boxes. These each measure 16 feet by 10 feet and accommodate nine men sleeping on straw palliasses on the damp floor. We filled them ourselves. They are so narrow and overfilled that the first few nights we spent in balancing our bodies on them rather than sleeping. The loose boxes opened on to narrow lanes where we wash, shave and clean our boots. Food is cooked in an open-air cookhouse and washing-up is an art in which we rapidly became proficient. Cleaning plates, thickly covered with mutton or bacon fat, in half a bucket of cold water is not to be undertaken lightly.”

November 11: Advertisement – “Every mother realises, after giving her children delicious ‘California Syrup of Figs’, that this is their ideal laxative because they love the pleasant taste and it cleanses the tender little stomach, liver and bowels, without griping.” (Experience as a child in the 1920s – it was horrible stuff we had to endure each Saturday night after our weekly bath.)
• Notice – Another appeal to farmers for recruits
The children of Troutbeck constructed a combustible figure of the Kaiser, stuffed it with dead leaves, adorned it with a paper helmet and upturned moustache, placed it on a handcart, formed a procession behind it and marched it through the village collecting £1.13s.3d for the Belgian refugees. It was not reported that they burned the effigy on a bonfire. Perhaps they saved it for another occasion.

November 28: The Kendal Photographic society staged a lecture on ‘Fruit and Flower Photography’.

December 5: Photograph of Sgt Thomas Earl of the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, Border Regiment, who cannot swim, and who plunged into the flooded River Kent at night and saved a woman from drowning.
The industries which are favourably affected by war are those supplying goods for consumption at the Front – clothing, arms, implements, ammunition, food – the innumerable things required to keep an army in the field. Contracts for some of these things have gone to Westmorland. In remote Finsthwaite one hears of hammer shaft makers, woodcutters, charcoal burners, all full engaged in turning out material for the war. All are able to feel that, while they are having a prosperous time at home, they are also doing their bit to beat the Germans.
Advertisements offering suitable things for Christmas presents.

December 12: The Gazette featured a cartoon from Punch of a boy wanting to be a soldier
In a parish near Ambleside the village people promoted a dance in aid of the local Belgian refugees. The vicar scolded his flock for the iniquity in doing such a thing, even for a charitable object at a time when so many of their brethren were shivering and perishing in the trenches. He said it was a disgrace to the village.

“Kendal Welcome” afforded an excellent example of practical sympathy towards the wives and children of soldiers and sailors. On two evenings a week the mothers were entertained while the younger children were cared for and amused. A doctor assisted the lady organisers.

December 19: Advertisement – ‘When you Buy Bovril you can be sure you are getting the product of a genuine all-British, and always British Company. BOVRIL always has been BRITISH. Insist on buying Bovril BRITISH TO THE BACKBONE.’

Advertisement – ‘Mourning Orders by post. Costumes and Dresses dyed black.’

Advertisement by F.S. Reed: ‘An All-British Production – The Best of Christmas presents. A His Master’s Voice gramophone.’

A Cake and Apron Sale was held in St Thomas’s Mission Hall.

A successful concert was staged by Kendal Grammar School in aid of the War Relief Fund.

The manager of the Kendal Kinema (cinema) applied for a licence to show films on Christmas Day but it was refused.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Kendal decided not to send Christmas cards this year but, in The Westmorland Gazette, expressed to the inhabitants of the town their sincere good wishes for a Happy Christmas and New Year, especially remembering those who were serving and preparing to serve their King and Country.

‘A Memorial Service for the late Captain Miles Radcliffe will be held in Crosscrake Church on Monday for all who care to attend.’

The Bishop of Carlisle spoke out plainly about people who were giving their leisure to games and amusements at home while their fellow-men were giving their lives for their country in a struggle such as the world has never seen, amid dangers more harassing than England, in all her chequered history, has encountered.

A Portuguese writer in 1891 forecast the Kaiser’s destiny with strange exactitude when he had been Kaiser for only three years. The writer came to the conclusion that the Kaiser was a dangerous meddler in things he did not understand. He said that it may happen that one day Europe would awake to the roar of clashing armies only because, in the soul of this great dilettante, the burning desire to ‘know war’, to enjoy war, was stronger than reason, counsel, or pity for his subjects.

A German battle cruiser raided the East Coast, leaving 101 killed and 322 wounded. Hartlepool was the worst hit but Scarborough and Whitby also suffered. Under cover of a dense fog the enemy fired shot and shells killing several unarmed civilians. The men at one works were startled by gun fire. Then a shell hit the roof so they and others rushed out into the yard where it was hotter still.

Charles Ramsay went to see to his children and was not seen again. Dorothy Caw and her father were eating breakfast when a shell burst through the ceiling and killed her. Julie Moon’s daughter went to bring her away but the house was shattered by a shell. Julie’s dead body was found lying in a passage face down with her arms outstretched. A piece of shell had passed through her body. It was thought that the target of the raid was the docks but that bad marksmanship or careless and indiscriminate firing had struck the dwelling houses and caused so many casualties among innocent people.

December 26: A German newspaper regretted the destruction of innocent lives in Hartlepool and the bombardment of buildings such as Whitby Abbey but said that the life of a single German soldier was for the Germans a thousand times more important than a monumental building, even when it possessed so great an historical value. It declared that the raid was a bloody revenge for the sad fate of Von Spee’s squadron and succeeded in causing the deepest consternation all over England, and inflicted the severest calamity that British Sea Power had suffered. It claimed that, to the British Fleet, it must have felt like a blow in the face to know that even British soil had been bombarded and British harbour works smashed.