IN THEIR OWN WORDS

Private William Dove 16th Lancers:
‘War had been declared, and the following Sunday I went with a friend of mine to Shepherd's Bush Empire to see the film show. At the end they showed the Fleet sailing the high seas and played “Britons Never Shall Be Slaves” and “Hearts of Oak”. And you know one feels that little shiver run up the back and you know you have got to do something. I had just turned seventeen at that time and on the Monday I went up to Whitehall - Old Scotland Yard - and enlisted in the 16th Lancers.’

Private Reginald Haine 1st Battalion, Honourable Artillery Company:
'My first reaction to the outbreak of war was more or less a blank, because I really did not think much about it. I was only just eighteen, and right at the start I didn't think that it would affect me to any extent. I was an articled clerk to a firm of chartered accountants and I was due for a fortnight's holiday. I went on that holiday on August the 4th.

When I came back I went back to the office on the Monday morning and a friend of mine phoned me and said “What are you doing about the war?” Well, I had thought nothing about it at all. He said, “Well, I have joined my brother's regiment which is the Honourable Artillery Company. If you like, come along, I can get you in.”

At lunchtime I left the office, in Southampton Row, went along to Armoury House, in the City Road, and there was my friend waiting for me. There was a queue of about a thousand people trying to enlist at the time, all in the HAC - it went right down City Road. But my friend came along the queue and pulled me out of it and said, “Come along!” So I went right up to the front, where I was met by a sergeant-major at a desk. My friend introduced me to the sergeant, who said, “Are you willing to join?” I said, “Yes Sir.” He said, “Well, how old are you?” I said, “I am eighteen and one month.” He said, “Do you mean nineteen and one month?” So I thought a moment and said, “Yes Sir.” He said, “Right-ho, well sign here please.” He said, “You realise you can go overseas?” So that was my introduction to the Army.’

Private Thomas Mclndoe 12th Battalion, Middlesex Regiment:
‘It was seeing the picture of Kitchener and his finger pointing at you - any position that you took up the finger was always pointing to you - it was a wonderful poster really.

I was always a tall and fairly fit lad. When I confronted the recruiting officer he said that I was too young, although I had said that I was eighteen years of age. He said, “Well, I think you are too young son. Come back in another year or so.” I returned home and never said anything to my parents. I picked up my bowler hat, which my mother had bought me and which was only to wear on Sundays, and I donned that thinking it would make me look older. I presented myself to the recruiting officer again, and this time there was no queries, I was accepted. Birth certificates were not asked for, although I had one, not with me but I had one. My mother was very hurt when I arrived home that night and told her that I had to report to Mill Hill next morning. I was sixteen in the June.’

Private Godfrey Buxton Royal Army Medical Corps:
‘I’d had one year up at Cambridge and then volunteered for the Army. We were quite clear that Germany would be defeated by the 7th of October, when we would go back to Cambridge.’

Robert Poustis, French student:
‘When I was a boy, in school and within the family, we often spoke about the lost provinces - Alsace-Lorraine, which had been stolen from France after the war of 1870. We wanted to get them back. In the schools the lost provinces were marked in a special colour on all the maps, as if we were in mourning for them. When I became a student and went to the university, there was always the same ardent feeling. Speaking together we would say maybe war is coming. Sooner or later, we'd say, we don't know when, but we, the young people in those times, we very much wanted to get back the provinces.

In the first days of mobilisation there was of course a lot of enthusiasm. Everybody was shouting and wanted to go to the Front. The car - the railway wagons loaded with soldiers were full of tricolour flags and inscriptions: 'A Berlin, à Berlin.' We wanted to go to Berlin immediately, with bayonets, swords and lances, running after the Germans. The war, we thought, was to last two months, maybe three months.’

Heinrich Beutow, German schoolboy:
‘My memories are those of a child, of course. I was in a small German garrison town in 1914 and I remember very well the tremendous enthusiasm. Of course, we schoolboys were all indoctrinated with great patriotism when war broke out. My father was an active infantry officer and I shall never forget the day when they marched out to the trains.

All the soldiers were decorated with flowers, there was no gun which did not show a flower. Even the horses I think were decorated. And of course all the people followed them. Bands playing, flags flying, a terrific sort of overwhelming conviction that Germany now would go into war and win it very quickly.’


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