Centenary of WW1: Bega reports on outbreak of war

Some of the first Bega men to enlist during World War I, 1914, on Tathra Wharf, waiting to embark on ship "Merimbula". Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW.
Some of the first Bega men to enlist during World War I, 1914, on Tathra Wharf, waiting to embark on ship "Merimbula". Photo courtesy of the State Library of NSW.

MONDAY marks 100 years since the outbreak of World War 1.

From August 1914, the Bega Budget, forerunner to the Bega District News, carried lengthy regular updates on the goings-on of the war in Europe and how it was thought of back home.

Below are a couple of extracts courtesy of the National Library of Australia’s digitised newspaper service Trove on the declaration of war.

August 5, 1914

The following incidents in connection with the outbreak of the Austro-Servian war, and the subsequent declaration of war by Germany against Russia, are printed in a condensed form so that as much information as possible may be given Budget readers.

The latest intelligence will appear in our telegraphic column:

A private cable received on Sunday night says that a naval battle has taken place between British and German fleets in the 'North Sea, but there is no confirmation of it. 

The German ambassador and staff after handing the Foreign Minister the declaration of war left St Petersburg on Sunday night. 

There were many demonstrations in Russia; the feeling in favor of England is greater than that which ever existed before. 

Drastic martial law has been proclaimed in Germany and includes death for arson or resistance of civil or military powers or 20 years if there be extenuating circumstances. 

The British Cabinet sat almost continuously on Sunday. 

The Germans near the French Frontier have placed guns in position, after cutting the Metz Chalons railway.

Several locomotives were seized. 

Should Britain, France and Holland participate in the war, the Austria-Servian conflict will haveproduced the biggest war in history.

An exclusive wireless message received at Vancouver, states that ft heavy bombardment occurred at 1pm on Sunday in the North Sea, and is interpreted that the German and French fleets engaged in a battle.

Great excitement prevails in France, and every motor car has been commandeered for transport. Many British ships are cruising in the North Sea. 

There are extraordinary scenes in London and it is expected that orders for action will be issued to the British Navy tonight, (Monday).

A hundred thousand Germans are reported to be concentrating on the French-Belgian frontier.

A firm of Melbourne dealers received a London cable describing the situation as black as possible. 

The London 'Times' says that there is no official mobilisation, but the British fleet has been ordered to take all effective preparatory measures.

The coastal forts are all manned, the men, sleeping beside their guns, while searchlights play throughout the night.

Aeroplane attacks have been anticipated by the mounting of aircraft guns in elevated positions throughout the country.

It is reported that the British Cabinet is divided on the question of war.

The Foreign Minister, Sir Edward Grey, heads the pro-war party, which insists that if Britain wishes to stand by her treaty and obligations, she will do so now, otherwise she will be dishonored and disgraced for ever.

Lloyd George and others believe that England should wait and take the lead in further mediation.

All through Saturday night two spears of light continually pierced the dark heaven above Paris. 

They were searchlights guarding against aircraft. 

Russia is mobilising the whole of her army.

Excitement at St Petersburg rose to a point of approaching delirium when news of the sailing of the British fleet was received.

August 8, 1914

The war overshadows every other question throughout te civilised world, and the most affected individual need not pretend that he has no interest in the issue of the present clash of nations which promises to be the greatest ever known since the days of Napoleon.

While Great Britain stood aloof and acted the role of mediator there was any amount of room for the man in the street who was enjoying the freedom and protection of the Union Jack, to freely criticise the attitude of the British Government since the declaration of war by Austria against little Servin.

But now that it has been officially announced that Great Britain has taken up a definite position by officially declaring war against Germany, there is no room for further argument, for all must now be for the nation, and none for a party. And this is so. 

In the House of Commons the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition sit jowl by jowl in the interests of the Empire, and Carson and Redmond have sunk their differences while the fate of the entire nation depends upon the outcome of a war conceived in intrigue and precipitated in the hope that Great Britain would consent to look on in a neutral mood.

In our own Commonwealth our Parliamentary parties have forgotten party in the common and undivided welfare of the great Empire to which we proudly claim allegiance.

Coming to our own State, party cleavage has been so effectually obliterated, and all parties are so cordially combining for the one and undivided purpose of conserving the safety and honor of the Empire and its allies, that a united nation is confronting the enemy. 

Just here it might be mentioned that the fact that Italy persists in taking a neutral attitude is a nasty smack in the face for Germany and Austria, the other signatories to the Triple Alliance.

That Great Britain has reluctantly been drawn into the maelstrom of war must have a saddening effect on  the whole Empire.

She tried every honorable means of escape, but eventually the Cabinet decided  that the Empire's duty was plainly  to stand by those countries she  was by word and honor bound to assist.

It was a coincidence that the band was playing 'We Have a Navy' on Wednesday night at the very moment a wire was received stating that the destroyer Parramatta had captured a German liner north of Sydney.

Towards midnight on Tuesday many townspeople were awakened by the singing of patriotic songs.

It transpired that a number of loyalists had congregated in Carp street, and, after discussing the war for some time, became so enthusiastic that they broke into song with 'Rule Britannia' and 'God Save the King.' 


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