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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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