chertsey museum

Runnymede Remembered

In the early part of the twentieth century Europe was a tinderbox waiting for a spark. Heads of States were vying for supremacy whilst smaller countries were looking to make strides on their own. Alliances were being forged, and Europe was dividing itself into sides. When Bosnian Gavrilo Princip pulled the trigger and killed the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, in June 1914 the whole world quickly descended into chaos. When diplomatic negotiations between Austria-Hungary and Serbia broke down war became inevitable.

On 28th July, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. The following day Russia partially mobilised troops in response to support her Balkan interests. Germany mobilised troops on 30th July prompting Russia’s full mobilisation on the same day. In forty-eight hours Europe had reached a stand-off and on 1st August Germany declared war on Russia.

Germany had foreseen a time when full-scale conflict in Europe was a possibility and, in 1905, drew up a proposal, called the Schlieffen Plan after Alfred von Schlieffen the Chief of the Imperial German General Staff, which detailed how to respond. The Plan identified the need to neutralise France as quickly as possible so that Germany could focus on the threat from Russia, and so with this in mind, they declared war on France on 3rd August.

Only Belgium stood between Germany and their invasion of France, and when they refused to let German troops through war was declared on Belgium too. Britain had little choice but to join the melee, and on 4th August 1914, Britain declared war on Germany.

This online exhibition details the effect the Great War had on the Borough of Runnymede through articles published in the Surrey Herald newspaper at the time. The Borough residents were amongst the first to volunteer to fight, and their stories are told through the writings of the local journalists. At the outbreak of the war there were somewhere in the region of 3,300 men of fighting age living in the Borough of Runnymede, approximately 760 of whom fought for King and Country and never came back.

This online exhibition is dedicated to those men and their families.

Chertsey Museum
The Cedars
33 Windsor Street
Surrey KT16 8AT
Tel: +44 (0) 1932 565764