This Is How The British Press Reported The Outbreak Of The First World War

“At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

1. The onset of war was greeted with huge public interest and dramatic “sandwich board” headlines, like this from The Times, advertising its expanded editions.

The Times / Twitter: @I_W_M

2. This is what the front page of The Times looked like on 5 August, 1914.

As was the style of the time for broadsheet papers, the front page was a mixture of adverts and official notices. Not even a war could break this tradition.

3. Inside, the paper reported all the latest details of the war – including that military activity didn’t yet “amount to very much”.

The paper also notes that dangers of a food shortage, caused by people in northern England buying flour to keep at home, were not as bad as first feared.

4. There was a report of “breathless anticipation of the beginning of hostilities on a large scale”.

5. As well as its own advert-filled front page, The Daily Telegraph had this vivid photograph.

6. The Manchester Guardian, which later left Manchester and became just the Guardian, argued forcefully against Britain’s involvement in what was a European conflict. Its editorial on 30 July 1914 said:


Let us for the moment drop solicitude for Europe and think of ourselves. We care as little for Belgrade as Belgrade does for Manchester. But, though our neutrality ought to be assured, it isn’t.

If we, who might remain neutral, rush into war or let our attitude remain doubtful, it will be both a crime and an act of supreme and gratuitous folly.

7. The same paper’s 5 August 1914 edition showed the HQ of the Manchester Territorial Army, where the 8th Manchester regiment was waiting for a medical exam.

Image sourced from the Guardian library / theguardian.com

8. The Guardian also focused on the “naval theatre of war”.

Image sourced from the Guardian library / theguardian.com

9. In the days prior to the war, The Daily Mirror produced some striking front pages, here showing the German soliders who would soon become enemies.

10. On 5 August, the paper’s page one shows a naval fleet and the main political figures in the conflict.

The Daily Mirror / Trinity Mirror

11. Some local papers, including The Manchester Courier, carried adverts from anti-war groups such as the Neutrality League.

Manchester Courier / britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

In language not dissimilar from the anti-war rhetoric of the 21st century, it says: “Englishmen, do your duty and keep your Country out of A WICKED AND STUPID WAR. Small but powerful cliques are trying to rush you into it; you must DESTROY THE PLOT TO-DAY.”

12. Others had front-page adverts urging the public to sign up for the army – which they did, in their thousands.

Trinity Mirror / THE BRITISH LIBRARY BOARD / britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

13. The Daily Herald’s 5 August edition went to press at 3am.

The Daily Herald / Newsquest / britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

14. Germany’s failure to respond to Britain’s ultimatum over assurances over Belgium’s neutrality was front-page news across the country

Birmingham Gazette / Trinity Mirrot / britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

15. Fast forward 100 years, and this is how The Times commemorates the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War today.

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