chertsey museum

The Outbreak of War

News of the outbreak of war was not greeted with the sense of panic across the nation that might have been expected. Instead, a wave of patriotism swept the land with the news causing people to take to the streets in an almost celebratory way. Throughout the Borough patriotic displays went up in shop windows, and flags were hung for all to see as people paraded through the streets in support of their young men who were so eager to enlist. Newspaper reports and public addresses made it clear that everyone was expected to do their duty. Anticipating an early attack by the Germans, the Borough Scouts were called into service within hours of the declaration to stand guard at the railway stations and local bridges, and to run messages between organisations as they prepared to mobilise the nation. Sir Edward Stern of Fan Court, Longcross, rallied the masses with a rousing speech declaring that there was something worse than war - dishonour. Within a week of the declaration of war 500 men from Chertsey and Addlestone alone had volunteered, and they all congregated on the Recreation Ground on Guildford Road awaiting their instructions. Even the local football fixtures were affected as Chertsey Football Club suspended all matches to help stimulate recruitment.

The Addlestone Company of the Volunteers Corp, Sayes Court, 1915

The Addlestone Company of the Volunteers Corp, Sayes Court, 1915

Local estate owners such as Mr Eckstein of Ottershaw Park and Mr Geiger of Almners, Chertsey, encouraged their employees to enlist and gave their homes over to the war effort as local hospitals. Everyone was encouraged to do their bit. A local emergency fund was set up immediately to help fund the cause, with a call going out in early August for any spare ammunition to be handed in for the West Surrey Rifle Club to use. Eldridge House in Windsor Street, Chertsey, became the headquarters of the Voluntary Aid Detachment co-ordinating nursing efforts across the area. Everyone was rallying to the cause, encouraged by the belief that it would be a quick and decisive victory for the Allies, and that the boys would be home by Christmas. However, within a month the first reports of local casualties filtered home and news from the front showed that all was not as they had imagined.

On 21st August the Surrey Herald reported that

‘for the time being we have to be content with the scanty information doled out by the Press Bureau, whose idea of censorship seems to favour wholesale suppression. No patriotic newspaper desires to publish the smallest item of information likely to benefit the enemy, but without adequate news it is doubtful if the nation will realise the vital nature of the war in which it is engaged.’

However, by modern standards, the reporting of the war was brutal and graphic.

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