Monthly Archives: August 2014

11 August 1914; Tuesday

Busy at work. A great deal of interest in the war and in the soldiers who are in the town. They are fortifying all along the coast. An occasional aeroplane passes over the town. A lot of interest shown over the whereabouts of the fighting†, and rumours current that some of our soldiers are in Belgium and France. Special papers out all day.

10 August 1914; Monday

At work as usual. Very busy through George being off. Went up the town at night. Charlie on counter duty. Got news of the sinking of the submarine. More soldiers drafted into the town. The Victoria Hall1 and several other buildings in the town including the Havelock House2 taken by soldiers.


  1. Victoria Hall: see note on 10 January

  2. Havelock House: A department store which, the following year, became the Havelock House cinema. See note on 27 December 1915

9 August 1914; Sunday

At chapel and Sunday School as usual. I had Esther Mullens’ class and played for the last hymn. My turn for the children’s service. Mr Riddell preaching in the morning and Mr Victor Ingleson at night. Willie Marshall playing again. Had special prayer meeting at the close of the service for the war. Cruiser “Birmingham”1 sunk German Submarine U15 in the North Sea.


  1. Birmingham”: Tyne-built 1914, scrapped 1931; U15’s engines had failed off Fair Isle, Birmingham shelled her but missed, so rammed her and she sank with all hands: the first submarine ever sunk by an enemy warship. Birmingham was later at the battles of Heligoland and of the Dogger Bank

7 August 1914; Friday

Got up at 6 o’clock. Went to the baths. Only 4 of us there. Had good swim. Received news of the sinking of the cruiser “Amphion” on a mine1. 131 English & 20 Germans lost. Further news of the Liege battle. President Wilson’s wife reported dead2. Rumours of North Sea fight, but not confirmed. Had walk with father at night. Town full of soldiers. Defence of Boldon & Cleadon being proceeded with. Ad Ahlers3 remanded for a week.


  1. Amphion”: the scout cruiser leading Lance’s flotilla, which next intercepted the “St Petersburg” which was taking the German ambassador back to Germany; on realising the St Petersburg’s diplomatic status, Amphion interposed herself between it and the British shelling, which eventually ceased. Amphion then struck one of the Königin Luise’s mines, her surviving crew and rescued German sailors were taken by attendant destroyers, but Amphion drifted onto another mine and more lives were lost in a further big explosion. 

  2. “President Wilson’s wife”: Ellen Axson Wilson, first wife of President Woodrow Wilson, died on 6th August 1914. 

  3. Ad Ahlers: See note on 6 August

6 August 1914; Thursday

Busy at the office. Got news of Belgium victory over Germans at Liege. A lot of guns captured & a tremendous slaughter. A German Cruiser King Louise1 sunk by destroyer Lance. Various rumours afloat. The town full of soldiers. Defences at Hendon being proceeded with. Ad Ahlers2 arrested. Received news of the birth of Hilda’s baby.


  1. King Louise: actually the Königin Luise, a minelayer and converted Hamburg – Holland ferry. The destroyer Lance (launched 1914, broken up 1921) fired the first British shot of the War at her as she (Königin Luise, camouflaged as a Great Eastern Railway steamer) was laying mines off Harwich and the Thames. Her captain scuttled her on realising he couldn’t escape; 46 out of 100 crew saved by RN ships. 

  2. Ad Ahlers: the New York Times of 10.12.1914 records that on 9 Dec., Nicholas Ahlers was convicted at Durham Assizes of high treason and condemned to death. He had been German Consul in Sunderland, was a naturalised British citizen, but had aided German reservists to rejoin their colours as war approached. Death was the only penalty available on conviction under the Edward III statute; but the Court of Appeal soon quashed the verdict. Ahlers then went to live in Surbiton, under the name Alfred Anderson – perhaps he was already known in Sunderland as ‘Alfred’ (abbreviated in writing to ‘Ad.’?) – but was interned in July 1915 when discovered to be receiving £10 a month from the German consul in Rotterdam. His naturalisation was revoked in March 1919, and he was deported to Germany in June 1919. 

5 August 1914; Wednesday

War declared against Germany by England

Busy at work. Great excitement caused through war.1

War declared against Germany by England.2

Joe and I went to Roker at night and saw 5 different bodies of soldiers on parade. Soldiers placed in the Salvation Army barracks, Thompson Memorial Hall, Royal Hospital, Roker House, Mrs Chester’s and Lister’s, Reserve houses, Skating Rink, barracks, pottery plot, and warehouses on the docks. Digging trenches along Roker Way. We saw the big 4.7 guns go out to Cleadon. Ernie & Hilda got a baby daughter.


  1. Most of Britain at the time, outside of Westminster and Whitehall, didn’t know about the final commitment to war until the 5th of August. 

  2. ALL’s use here of “England” where one might have expected “Britain” may seem odd but was quite usual at the time – many contemporary newspaper reports similarly cite “England” – for example, see this reprint from the Guardian’s archive, which uses both “England” and “Great Britain”, and this from the New York Times. Incidentally, up to the mid-20th century “North Britain” was still occasionally used, and well understood, to mean “Scotland”, which is consistent with interchangeability between “Britain” and “England”. 

4 August 1914; Tuesday

Went to work. Frank off. Busy all day.

Sir Edward Grey made his speech in the House & said if Germany attacked France by sea1, we must join in. We could not stand by & see Belgium trodden down & demanded that Germany should reply to us in a given time.

Walked round town with father and Joe. Crossed Town Moor and saw carnival. Saw Willie Warren2 standing beside pub. He was an awful sight. Charlie at work all night.


  1. “by sea” is rather a mystery? – but ALL’s longhand is quite clear. 

  2. Willie Warren” (if the surname is correct): not identified. 

3 August 1914; Monday

Charlie, Willie Whittaker and I went to Seaside Lane on the car1 and walked from there to Marsden and on to South Shields. Crossed the ferry and walked to Tynemouth2. Car back to the penny ferry3, got the train to Sunderland and arrived about 6 o’clock. Fine day and pleasant time. Saw the defending† arrangements at Frenchman’s Bay4, South Shields, and Tynemouth. A large quantity of parapet wired off there†, and the wall in front of the guns levelled to the ground.

International affairs much worse. Grave conjecture as to what England5 will do.

Went to Whitburn at night with Willie Whittaker.


  1. Car means tram-car, as usual. 

  2. Curiously, the vowel-signs in the shorthand clearly indicate the pronunciation “Tinmouth”. 

  3. “Penny” ferries were for foot-passengers. In the 1947/8 Ordnance Survey revision, there were still a foot-­ferry and a vehicle‐ferry from North to S. Shields, and another foot-­ferry from Whitehill Point to S. Shields. 

  4. Frenchman’s Bay is between Marsden Bay and the mouth of the Tyne, adjacent to modern South Shields. 

  5. England: See note on 5 August

2 August 1914; Sunday

At chapel and Sunday School as usual. Showery day and some very heavy rain. My Sunday School class got the award for obtaining the greatest number of new scholars.

Germany invades France without declaring War. British Fleet reserves called out. Cabinet sitting.