Richmond WW1 Diary 29 April 1916

Image of poppy

British and Indian forces surrender to Turkey following the siege of Kut

While the battle in Europe focused on controlling access to the supply ports, in the Middle East it focused on Baghdad. Then the city held the same psychological significance as today and the Allies believed if they could capture Baghdad, the Turkish forces would surrender.

Throughout 1915, the British and Indian forces had pushed ahead from Basra, until they were forced to retreat in November. They retreated to the town of Kut al-Amara. By 7 December 1915, the Turkish had the town under siege. Supplies were estimated to be sufficient for a month. The siege lasted nearly five months until, brought to their knees by starvation and endemic disease, the British and Indian troops surrendered on 29 April.

 

In Richmond, the Herald of 29 April 1916 was filled with stories on men who were seeking exemption from war service. This included a refuse collector who argued it was in the ‘national interest’ that the rubbish be collected. The paper records that the majority of appeals at the Twickenham tribunals were turned down.

Men who were called up to fight under the new conscription laws (introduced at the start of 1916) could appeal to a local Military Service Tribunal to seek exemption from military service. Reasons for seeking this included health, already doing important war work or moral or religious reasons (conscientious objectors). Only 2% of those who appealed were conscientious objectors but the tribunals became an emotive feature of life on the homefront.

Local newspapers played a crucial role in encouraging people to do their duty, regularly reporting on voluntary activities and announcing recruitment drives. A speech by Sir Edward Clarke to encourage men to join the Volunteer Training Corps was published by the Herald in February 1916, and the paper also reported their weekly drill meetings. The Volunteer Training Corps, in common with other local groups, were also involved in other voluntary war work, such as running allotments.

You can access copies of local newspapers from the First World War years at the Richmond Local Studies Library, upstairs from the Museum of Richmond in the Old Town Hall.

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