From the archives, 1914-1918
The Field was published throughout the First World War, chronicling the impact of the conflict on country life and sport
Compiled by Sarah Pratley
1914 It has been difficult to realise that life in England must, after all, in its broad lines, go on much the same, in spite of the storm that is being pitilessly sown across the Channel and the North Sea. Instead of harvests, Prussia has decreed that she shall reap the whirlwind. After sincere and continuous efforts for peace, which were continuously misunderstood, England has found herself inevitably drawn into the vortex.
We have not sought this war. We had no quarrel with Prussia. We never, in one single point, in this final crisis have acted aggressively towards her or Austriahungary. Yet she has forced us into it, and we fight with a clear conscience and with all our might. For there can be no peace now till Prussia is destroyed.
Taken from The Field, 8 August, 1914
1914 Though war and rumours of war have necessarily had a deterrent effect upon the size of the hunting fields, and good hunters are few and far between, it must not be thought that the sport is by any means dead, indeed, all things considered, it is showing remarkable vitality, so the hope of the hunting men who have gone to the front that when peace once more reigns they may come back and find hunting traditions have been upheld during their absence is likely to be fulfilled. The number of hunting men at the front, it is estimated, is 10,000 or more.
Taken from The Field, 21 November, 1914
WEAPONS OF WAR
1915 Today, as each successive war is waged, a new weapon or an improvement on an old pattern is tried, with more or less success, and in the present campaign several ‘novelties’ if the word may be permitted here, are being closely watched by neutrals and combatants alike. Aerial craft, submarines, armoured motorcars, to mention but a few weapons, are being experimented with for the first time on a large scale in actual warfare, and such old friends as the armoured train have been improved upon to such an extent as to have become practically a new arm. In fact, war has become a more scientific art than ever. Taken from The Field, 23 January, 1915
FIELDSPORTS AND WAR
1915 That intimate connection which might naturally be supposed to exist between a campaign against
human enemies and one waged against wild animals has been established in fact ever since the world began. It is true that for about 400 years, until the end of the last century, almost every change made in the art and practice of warfare lessened the advantages which bodily strength and agility had given pre-eminently to sportsmen. It is only since the cyclist and the motor-driver and, later still, the airman have become so conspicuously useful as adjuncts to a military force that the welldeveloped muscles, the quick eye and ear, the steady nerve and presence of mind, which characterise the true sportsman have again made him a more obviously desirable recruit and a greater terror to the foe than a man who has never won a race or caught a salmon or ridden to hounds. Taken from The Field, 12 June, 1915
A GROUSE DRIVE IN WAR TIME
1915 Then came the last drive of the day, a drive which will live long in my memory. We had a longish wait, as most of the beaters were old men and boys, the able-bodied being engaged in sterner work. Suddenly we were roused by the keeper’s whistle, and, jumping to my feet, I saw a long line of dark forms in the distance at the far end of the hill. The drive had begun. The pack came straight along the top on their way home to the corrie, passing on both sides of me, and giving several butts a good chance. Pack followed pack till our guns were hot and the birds streamed homewards. It was a glorious half-hour, such as one remembers in happier times, before the war-cloud burst upon the world. We could enjoy it with a clear conscience, for few are shooting this year except the aged, the infirm, and those on leave. Yet it is not the same to any of us, though for a brief space we may forget.
Taken from The Field, 25 September, 1915
1915 “In Germany,” wails the wireless from Berlin, “nobody understands why our enemies, after their diplomatic defeats in the Balkans and their military failures, have not yet begun peace negotiations.” We are delighted to give a few reasons; though we cannot hope that The Field, which has been prohibited in the Fatherland since we published some of her atrocities and forgeries, will be permitted to reveal the facts to German citizens at large.
Taken from The Field, 11 December, 1915
A WAR-TIME GAME BOOK
1916 The season was remarkable in that it was the first one to feel the full effects of a 12 months or more of war. It was in many ways fortunate for shooting that war was declared in the month of August; three or four months earlier and things would have been very different. As it was, a large head of game had been reared and birds were plentiful at the outbreak of war; few were killed and a very useful natural breeding stock was left. A declaration of war in the spring after a normal shooting season would have left us with a small stock of birds, and our means of protecting and rearing would have become reduced at a very critical time.
Taken from The Field, 1 April, 1916
THE NAVAL SIDE OF THE WAR: ONCE MORE THE SUBMARINES
1916 The scanty naval news of the last few days is at least a reminder that certain old adages touching the prudence of not hallooing till you are out of the wood, and not boasting till you take your armour off, still hold good. The German submarine we have always with us, and for the last fortnight he has been more with us than he had been for a good while before.
Our enemy, as mere common sense must compel us to see, does not lack ingenuity, nor the capacity nor the will to make use of it. We may, and if we do not want to be silly we must recognise that so long as there is a German navy it will make itself felt. Taken from The Field, 15 April, 1916
RACING IN WAR-TIME
1916 The question of motoring to races was referred to in last week’s issue of The Field, and it was made evident that a strong attack is still being made upon what is a most important national industry.
It may be pointed out that a very large part of the attendances have been made up of soldiers on leave from the front and of convalescents from the various military hospitals. In this connection we may refer to a letter published in The Times of 4 May from “At Mons, the recipient of two wounds and a Military Cross for his trouble.” This hero described the race meetings “as assisting to restore to health and keep up the spirits of many soldiers and sailors who have risked their all in the protection of the homes of those who are ‘sad and disgusted’”.
Taken from The Field, 20 May, 1916
LIBERTY AND BROTHERHOOD
1916 The more we hear of the steady advance of our troops upon the Somme, the more gratitude we should feel for the French heroism at Verdun which gave us time to prepare and to equip our armies; and not in Verdun alone. From the moment of the victory of the Marne and of the First Battle of Ypres until the beginning of this month, France had borne the brunt of the fighting on her soil. And while France fought, we worked and wrought, we toiled and organised, until many an impatient spirit wondered whether we were ever going to make a move. The fighting of our new troops on the road from Albert to Bapaume is the sincerest form of flattery they could offer to the defenders of Verdun.
It is as the age-long beacon-light of freedom and of beauty that we saluted France last week; “Eternal France”. Not for nothing is Paris called the Ville Lumière, that Paris which saw the united troops of France, England, Russia, Belgium and Italy in her streets the other day. The night of Prussia’s despotism is slowly ending.
Taken from The Field, 22 July, 1916
A PEOPLE’S WAR
1916 It was a tiny little church tucked away with its attendant hamlet in a fold of the western uplands, as peaceful a nook as you shall find in the whole of God’s fair country. But there was something just a little strange about that evening service, and it was not till later that the explanation was forthcoming. It was ushered in with the words, “Your prayers are asked for…” and there followed a list of names, good Westcountry names, of those whom the hamlet had sent out of its immemorial peace into the tumult of the European war. Then, indeed, it was at once plain wherein lay the difference. What with the noble roll of honour and the list of those for whom the church’s prayers were offered, there could be hardly a house in that scattered little community which had not experienced one at least of the troubles of war, and given its hostage to fortune, or, maybe, paid its tribute to Death, the lord of the battlefield. From the farmhouse, the smithy, the inn, the bakery, from the creeper-clad cottage in the coverts where the little pheasants used to need
so much care, from the other cottage down by the waterside where the spotted trout lie under the alder roots, from the rectory and the hall, the younger men had been gone this long while, and not a few of the older men had followed, or were soon to follow, after them. For all its quiet remoteness the hamlet is just as much at war as is the city.
Now that the war is well into its third year we are able to realise much more fully than we could at first what it means to us. In the earlier stages of conflict, it seemed as it were something external. But that is long over. The war now is the life of the nation. In the remotest hamlet on the finest, sleepiest Sunday afternoon it can now be understood that nothing matters for the present but the war.
Taken from The Field, 30 September, 1916
DOG FOOD IN WAR TIME
1917 Sir, I find that by giving my dogs exactly the same food as I should in peace time that they do remarkably well. Dogs are not worrying about the war, and do not require any change of diet to cheer them or enliven their quiet hours.
Taken from The Field, 24 February, 1917
THE CAMEL IN WAR
1917 In the Badminton Magazine, Oliver Hogue writes about the peculiarities and qualities, good and bad, of the camel as a beast of burden in war. He says that the camelry rush in where cavalry fear to tread – on the waterless wastes of the desert. The name for these frontiersmen is “Imperial Camel Corps”. When we got our first batch of camels from the Soudan they bellowed and roared and howled. When the Australian Light Horse arrived in Egypt their chargers reared and bucked and bolted in all directions at the sight or even the smell of the camels. But now horsemen and cameliers work side by side. Mr Hogue states that at Romani a camel had 16 bullets scattered about his carcass, but went his way with apparent unconcern.
Taken from The Field, 12 May, 1917
A CHEERY LETTER
1918 We constantly receive letters from readers – who are also, we are glad to say, friends – at the front. A few lines from a private in the BEF we reproduce as some encouragement to grumblers at home – and remember that it was written the day before the great German attack:
“We are very thankful for your kind wishes for our speedy return to dear old Blighty. By the way, sir, we are having very good weather here just now, and waiting patiently for Fritz to move. It is his move next and then ours, and we hope to clear the board, and this year if possible. Sir, as we go about our work and see what was once beautiful orchards and the fields, the work of a lifetime, we feel thankful that it is not our own, but our hearts go out to those who have lost their all.”
Taken from The Field, 15 June, 1918
ALL FIRING CEASED
1918 At 11 o’clock on Monday morning all firing ceased upon the Western Front, and there followed a silence that remained for some time unbroken. Soldiers, in whose ears the roar of artillery had sounded for so long, stood speechless. It is much the same with us at home, when suddenly, after more than four years of stress and strain, the world is relieved from the immediate menace of continuing war. Today, the one outstanding fact that Germany is beaten dominates all else; and we have beaten that great and powerful military state because for more than four long, dreadful years we concentrated every energy upon that one vital duty. From one end of the British Empire to the other we have never wavered in that resolution, nor did we need the several grim reminders of what failure meant – still the British Navy would have held the Seven Seas, still the British Army, the greatest armed force in existence, would have held its last trench to its last man, and Germany would in the end have failed. Taken from The Field, 16 November, 1918
A recruiting poster, issued by the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee Taken from The Field, 12 December, 1914
A series of Field covers from 1915, showing sportsmen now at the front
The London Territorials at Pozières, the Battle of the Somme, from the painting by WB Wollen. Taken from The Field, 4 August, 1917
Hastings Roll of Honour card: the next of kin of every man enlisted received one of these cards. Taken from The Field, 31 July, 1915
Peace and war: a shell dump amongst wheat fields in France. Taken from The Field, 23 September, 1916
Picture from a Christmas appeal for Field Marshal Earl Haig’s British Legion Fund.Taken from The Field, 24 December 1925