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Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale

30th July 1914

Walter: Alright, enough war talk. Who’s ready for Terrier camp this Sunday? Two weeks away! Can’t wait to live under canvas. The pay will be right useful too.

Fred: Ready in spirit but not possessions, Walt. Everything what’s been happening has made me itch to get on with training, but these boots just ain’t up to it and you know how bad I am at packing.

Walter: Ma’s doing all mine for me. Freshly ironed uniform and everything. She spent all Tuesday doing it. Got me old kit bag out too.

Mary: I’ll be glad to get rid of you for a while, with all the extra washing and ironing I’ve had to do!

Ed: You wait, she’ll be pining for you by Monday.

Mary: Well I shall be stuck here with just your father, little Annie and her layabout brother.

Ed: Told you.

To find out more about ironing in the early 1900s, visit


29th July 1914

Walter: Rose, you had the truth of it – Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia yesterday.

Fred: Looks like the French were pretty happy about it – they were out on them boulevards cheering and singing!

Rose: Not all of them, Fred… some were shouting, “Down with war”…

Walter: Cowards they’ll be. I’m with the cheerers and singers – if we’re going to war, let’s go into it proud.

Fred: Too right.

Mabel: I’ll bet no one’s paying attention to the Bill in the House of Lords today: to make the grounds for divorce that apply to women apply to men.

Mary: From the Express today - “The Six Great Powers find themselves ranged in two Titanic camps – that of the Triple Alliance: Austria, Germany and Italy; and that of the Triple Entente: France, Russia and Great Britain. If these armies are brought into play 10,000,000 men will be engaged in war.” Have to say I got the shivers when I saw that.

To find out more about the declaration of war visit

28th July 1914

Walter: Looks like Britain’s saved the day… Sir Edward Grey (our Foreign Secretary) has stepped in to get France, Germany and Italy to talk it over with Austria-Hungary and Russia. Bit of news from the Express: “Unless Austria is determined to make war at all costs the peace of Europe will be maintained.” Everything’s gone calm and boring again.

Ed: What good is talking now? Left it too late I reckon.

Rose: For once, Pa says Ed has a point. The paper says how things are calming down, but down at the bottom there’s a piece about a telegram from Austria-Hungary - says they plan to attack Serbia immediately. I’ll bet you didn’t see that.

To find out more about Sir Edward Grey’s plans for negotiation, visit:

27th July 1914

John: Very strange today, Walter. Serbia replied to the ultimatum from Austria-Hungary saying they’d do everything they asked, apart from one thing: Austria wanted to come into Serbian territory to investigate the assassination, but Serbia said they’d do it themselves. That’s it. Even the German Kaiser thought it meant peace, but now Austria-Hungary says the reply’s not good enough… Looks like they’re going to declare war on Serbia after all.

Walter: Thanks John – just seen it - it’s all over the front page now and Ireland is off to the side…

Charles: Don’t write off Ireland – Nationalists and Unionists have clashed here. 4 people dead and about 60 injured.  

To find out more about the lead up to war, go to:  

26th July 1914

Walter: A Belgian has won the Tour de France! Well done Philippe Thys. No one paid too much attention to the start because it was the same day the Archduke was assassinated, but they’re making up for it with some fanfare now!

25th July 1914

Walter: Well no one knows where to look now… the left hand side of the paper’s telling us that the meetings with Ireland have failed and there’s going to be a war, and the right hand side’s telling us that the meetings with Serbia have failed and there’s going to be a war…

Fred: I think everyone knows Ireland’s the one to worry about. All that happens with foreign wars is the army goes over there, sorts it out and comes home again. If us Territorials get involved it’ll be with Ireland, not Europe.

Mary: I should think so too. I’ve already got one son away on army duty – I didn’t let you join the Terriers so you could go off and join him, Walter!

Walter: I know… We territorials ain’t supposed to go abroad, that’s what Charles’s British Expeditionary Force is for. Shame really, I should like to see another country.

24th July 1914

Walter: It’s been nice this week to see all the little’uns around, with the schools finished for the holidays. Makes a railwayman’s life more difficult… but it’s better for Annie to have kids her own age at home during the day, even if she can’t play at skipping and Knock Down Ginger with them.

To find out more about street games of the time, visit

22nd July 1914

Walter: Even the King’s on Ulster’s side – look what he said:

“We have in the past endeavoured to act as a civilising example to the world, and to me it is unthinkable, as it must be to you, that we should be brought to the brink of fratricidal strife upon issues apparently so capable of adjustment as those you are now asked to consider, if handled in a spirit of generous compromise.”

Can’t understand all of it, but I think he wants them to step back and give Ulster what they want, easy. Beats going to war with our own countrymen anyway. “

Fred: Hear hear, Your Majesty.

21st July 1914

Walter: Any news on Ulster Charlie?

Charles: Not good news… they say it’s “settlement or civil war in ten days, and probably civil war.” Just heard more from one of the boys: Unionist leader Carson has made it all clear – unless Ulster is allowed to be completely separate from the Irish parliament and can stay part of Britain, it’s war.

Walter: Our Captain says they’re not even talking about it in the House of Commons anymore – just having meetings behind closed doors at Buckingham Palace. You ready for war, Charlie?

Charles: I’m a soldier Walt, I live for it. Just don’t like to fight against our own Irish brothers, that’s all.

16th July 1914

Walter: Well that was lucky. Carpentier was on his knees and my sixpence nearly wasted, when Gunboat gave him a foul blow and was disqualified. They took a complete cinematograph of the fight too. I should like to see it.

Fred: A lucky escape I say. The cinematograph shows every blow – they’re showing pictures of it in the paper.

To find out more about the contest go to

15th July 1914

Walter: ‘Contest of the century’ tonight boys! Didn’t talk of nothing else at training yesterday. White Heavyweight Champion… Carpentier vs Gunboat Smith. I’m putting a bit on Carpentier the Frenchman – did you see the fuss everyone made when he arrived in London? The crowd undid the horses from his carriage and pulled it up the Strand themselves…

Fred: I’m behind Carpentier too. His manager says he eats lions for breakfast, tigers for lunch and elephants for dinner…! Come with me down the Fox and Hounds this evening and we’ll get Jim to put us a bet on.

Ed: Beats me why you’d back a Frenchman over an American.

Fred: The English and the French are rivals alright, but when it’s something as important as this we tends to come over all neighbourly

14th July 1914

Walter: Always pleased to use me Long Lee Enfield at training, even if we don’t have the Short Magazine like the regulars. Just wish we got to actually fire them more - I’m fed up with practising. The War Office ought to give us more money for ammunition – five rounds a year ain’t enough for anyone…

13th July 1914

Walter: Charlie, reckon you might’ve seen this: armed Unionist volunteers in Ulster on Saturday. They had a speech from their leader - there’s “no hope of peace”, he said, unless it’s “peace with honour”. Good on him. Looks like we’re heading into a civil war in your beloved Ireland though. No European war after all – Franz Ferdinand’s father is the Austrian Emperor and he’s put his foot down on that.

Charles: That’s right. The House of Lords made some changes to the Home Rule Bill too – saying it should be for all of Ulster, not just part, and for more than 6 years.  The Nationalists won’t take that well.

Charles: The Nationalists have had their own volunteer march now. 4000 of them…

Walter: The paper says there’s more than 100,000 altogether. I’d say you have rough times ahead. Will see what the boys say down the drill hall tomorrow. 

To find out more about the events in Ireland during this time, visit:

11th July 1914

Walter: More suffragette action…

Lily: In Scotland this time. One poor lady nearly died trying to get close to the King’s car to speak to him, and another with a placard saying “visit the torture chamber in Perth Prison” had a jug of water poured on her head from a window.

Walter: Didn’t know there was still torture chambers… sounds a bit off.

Mabel: Don’t be soft, there are women being tortured every day in the prisons.

John: Don’t listen Walt, she means forced feeding of the suffragettes on hunger strike. The guards has to make sure they eat somehow and it’s their own fault if they won’t let it.

Mabel: It’s the only way they can protest! You ought to hear them describe it, it’s awful.

Mabel: Uruguayan women have just been given the same rights as men. Maybe we should go there…

To find out more about how some suffragettes were treated in prison, visit

10th July 1914

Walter: You know you was saying all the ladies in the shop are wanting ‘hobble skirts’, Lily? Well, they’re thinking of making stiles v-shaped so women can get over them on country walks! Did make me chuckle when I thought of it. Then I read that v-shaped stiles wouldn’t work after all because stout people couldn’t get through them. Fred and I had a laugh picturing it. I like the way they look, but you’d have to get the sort with buttons otherwise I wouldn’t have thought you could walk…

To find out more about the hobble skirt, visit:

8th July 1914

Mary: They’re having an inquiry into all these train crashes. Thought you might like to know.

Walter: Thanks, Ma. The ‘Engineer’ chap who wrote to the Express said exactly what Fred and I have been saying – that there ain’t enough guards on the trains. That’s what happens when they don’t put the money into it. One guard has to do everything, so he ends up clerking and sorting luggage at the back of the train when he should be at the front checking signals and making sure the driver ain’t lost his head.

Mary: Mrs Wiggins next door made a comment about how it’s a porter’s job to sort luggage. I told her she wouldn’t of course understand the work of railways, being that her husband works in ‘business’.

Walter: Ignore her. Luggage is my business when it’s on the platform, the guard’s when it’s on the train.

Fred: Hope the inquiry makes a change. Me and Walt always says, they ought to have a head guard up the front to pull the brake if there’s an emergency. As long as they don’t pay him with a cut from my wages, that is.

5th July 1914

Walter: RIP Joseph Chamberlain, ‘The Apostle of Empire’. Passed away on Thursday. I reckon the government today could learn a lot from him. I liked what he said:

“It is not a good policy to say nothing of morality – it is not a good policy to sit upon a fence.“
Mr Joseph Chamberlain, Statesman

Rose: “We cannot hold our own unless, like our fathers, we are open to new ideas.”

John: “My first proposal is that we should treat the foreigners as they treat us. My second proposal is that we should treat our friends better than we treat our opponents”.

Walter: “We must draw closer together, or we shall drift apart.”

To find out more about Joseph Chamberlain visit

3rd July 1914

Walter: Well now Germany has submarines with six-inch guns attached and extra torpedo tubes…

John: Don’t worry about it, Walt. The Germans and Russians have got the biggest vessels, but our Navy is the best in the world.

German Submarine

To find out more about the Naval arms race visit

3rd July 1914

Lily: This made me chuckle – I thought we could use a bit of light news… ‘Wimbledon weather’ again at the tennis. ’m half glad we’re not there with the toffs after all!

2nd July 1914

Lily: Mabel and I was having a wonderful discussion at Arding & Hobbs today. She said soon we’ll be able to telephone to America over the wireless, or even fly to New York itself in an airship! It sounds wonderful, but I shouldn’t like to fly in this weather – looks like the thunderstorm has broken the heatwave, but two more people was killed by lightning…

Walter: I heard about the experiment – although, to be frank Lil, it just looked like a boat with an aeroplane stuck on it… and it could only get up for a few seconds before coming back down again because of all the weight – it had 10 people on board! The wireless telephone though, well that is something. They say it’ll be possible to telephone to New York before the end of the year, but the wireless company thinks we won’t ever be able to call from home:

“I would not like to go so far as that at present… I do not quite see how certain difficulties can be got over. I think it will be possible to go to a particular station in London and telephone to New York, but I do not think it would be easy for anyone to telephone from his office to New York.“ –
Godfrey Isaacs, Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Co. Limited


1st July 1914

Walter: Well, you can always rely on England for a sudden change in the weather… 90 degrees in the shade it is. A bit trying when you’re rushing between trains, but fine after work in the long evenings. And I always like to see the girls with their parasols. Someone said the river at the Henley Regatta looks like a field of multi-coloured mushrooms because of the sun shades.

Fred: It is just about impossible to sleep though. I always look forward to a heatwave but get fed up when it comes. The Mirror says some people have taken to sleeping outside. Sounds alright to me. Anyway, Walt, here’s a picture you might like, but it’ll make you wish you lived by the seaside - a bunch of lovely young ladies (ignore the fellows) gone for a midnight swim to cool off.

Walter: I must say I’m very pleased with that.

Midnight Swim

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Now available as a Paperback and on Kindle
Walter Carter
WW1 Soldier's Tale