Life on the Homefront, 1914 - 1919

Reaching as far back as the 1870s, the unrest in Europe and its borders came to a tipping point as the Balkan War of 1912-1913 had again fanned the embers of ethnic rivalry.

Franz Ferdinand, the archduke of Austria-Hungary, and his wife are assassinated on 28th June 1914 in Sarajevo by the 19-year-old Gavrilo Princip, a member of Young Bosnia and associated with members of the Black Hand, an ultra-nationalist Serbian group.

By 23 July 1914, Austria's patience was running out and they gave the Serbians an ultimatum!

This put the cat amongst the pigeons and was a fatal misjudgment by Austria.

Mutual Treaties and friendship will drag in the European powers Germany, France, Russia, and Great Britain.

Neutral powers like Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, under a treaty, are being threatened.


On 28th July 1914, only a month after the Archduke’s assassination, Austria-Hungary with the support of Germany declared war on Serbia. 

On 1st August, Germany declared war on Russia, and on 3rd August,  Germany declared war on France.

On 4th August 1914, German troops marched on France, taking a route through Belgium. 

Britain had agreed to guarantee Belgium’s neutrality and immediately declared war on Germany.


Meanwhile, for the locals in Clayton le Woods and Whittle le Woods, it has already been a tough few years, mill strikes, job losses, the bad weather hampering the farming of fruit and vegetables, outbreaks of scarlet fever and diphtheria and other illnesses taking their toll


But more hard times were to come...


The streets of Britain filled up with crowds gossiping and were reminiscent of the Boer War with the news of the Declaration of War.


Every part of life in Clayton le Woods and Whittle le Woods would be forever changed.

As men of all ages step forward, our community spirit and patriotism will again be tested to the limit.


Preston Herald - Saturday 03 October 1914




Energetic efforts are being put forward at Whittle le Woods to provide comfort for the soldiers at the front.  Six hundred garments, consisting of shirts, socks etc have been made by the Whittle le Woods and Clayton le Woods Sewing Guild for the Red Cross Society.

Nearly 500 garments have been made for Queen Mary's Needle-work Guild and the Belgians.

The good work is still being carried on. 





Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 08 October 1914




Private William Tuson, of the Coldstream Guards, who was wounded at the battle of Aisne, has written to his relatives at Clayton le Woods from the Southern General Hospital, Plymouth. He was wounded by shrapnel in the thigh and described the two wounds as "two fine presents from the great William". The last five days at the front, he states, were " hell upon earth." The Germans were a lot of cowards, and plundered every village, and worse than that. When wounded he had part of his trousers blown away.  When he saw the enemy approaching, he fixed his bayonet and put it a few inches above the trenches. His gun was shot out of his hands. One shell dropped close to him but fortunately, it did not burst. "Talk about fireworks," he remarks, "Belle Vue was not in it."

Private Tuson states that after being wounded he and others were awaiting treatment from a doctor when the latter had his head blown off. As a result, Tuson did not receive attention for four days.

His socks had been constantly saturated in the trenches, and they had to be cut away with scissors.

As to tobacco, they could have got 2s, for a packet of woodbines. 


Wednesday 14 October 1914


Just as the local mills had spent the year trying to recover from the many strikes and idle machines (1913),  The start of hostilities means losing more staff to the war effort.


Disaster would strike again much closer to home as on Wednesday 14 October 1914, Kem Mill Printworks is discovered shortly after six o'clock to be on fire by Mr. A. J. Cunliffe, the principal who was at the time in the office.


The Lancashire Evening Post on Thursday 15 October 1914 would report the heavy damage caused would cause the loss of over 7000 copper rollers, valued at some £20'000 to £30'000.

Also, a consignment of cloth is stated to be worth nearly £20'000.

Altogether the damage is roughly estimated at from £50'000 to £60'000.


About 160 men, (plus women and children?) are employed at the works, and as stated Clayton le Woods and Whittle le Woods will be hard hit by the disaster, the township not having recovered from the prolonged strike which took place at a mill last year.


The ruins are still visible to this day after recent historical excavations


Preston Herald - Saturday 07 November 1914


 "Pals" visit Whittle le Woods









Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 20 November 1914


Whittle le Woods Harriers have canceled their winter program as 16 out of 20 members

have joined Lord Kitchener's Army.





Preston Herald - Saturday 28 November 1914




For the past few weeks recruiting has proceeded satisfactorily at Whittle le Woods, the total number of enlistments being nearly 200.

The local harriers' club has suffered severely in consequence, and have for the time being suspended running for the season.



Daily Citizen (Manchester) - Saturday 05 December 1914






There is a distress committee in the Chorley district of Lancashire whose proceedings seem to require a little attention.

A married man with four children applied to them for assistance. Apparently, he had made the mistake of being born a few years later than this "patriotic" committee ought to have been, and so happens to be what is known as "enlistable" age. 

Accordingly, he received the following letter from a Mr J.T Little, of Whittle le Woods, near Chorley:


Sir,- Your case was brought before the local committee this morning, and I am instructed to inform you that relief is withheld pending your offering yourself for enlistment in his Majesties forces.

The committee have taken the same stand in all cases where the age of the applicant is under the prescribed limit unless he can show to the satisfaction of the committee that he has sufficient reasons for staying at home.


Perhaps it would be idle to ask the distress committee of Whittle le Woods the exact number of children which would constitute a sufficient reason for the staying behind of a married man. The trouble with too many of these local committees is that the whittling down of relief is so much more important in their eyes than its administration.  Further, whose business is it to decide whether a man shall enlist- the man himself or Mr. J.T Little and his committee?  Finally, it may be asked what will be the probable effect of this form of  unauthorised conscription upon recruiting among the unmarried men of Whittle le Woods?  




Preston Herald - Saturday 12 June 1915




The relatives of Private J. Snape of Bridge Street, Whittle le Woods

have been informed that he has been wounded, and is at present an inmate of Birmingham Hospital. Private Snape was a reservist of the Lancashire Fusiliers and previous to the outbreak of war was employed at Kem Manufacturing Cotton Mill.



Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 11 November 1915




Workers of the Low Mill Printworks voted to go on strike over the war bonus they received.


It was felt that it would be more equal and better to have increased wages than a war bonus.





Preston Herald - Saturday 13 November 1915




A meeting to further the efforts of recruiting was held the other evening.

Mr. Cardwell (chairman of the parish council) presiding.

A committee was formed and canvassers chosen for the districts of Whittle le Woods

and Clayton le Woods.



Preston Herald - Friday 24 December 1915




At a well attended meeting, presided over by Mr. Crossley, Mr. J.T. Little read a paper on "National Service and its Effect on the War". The discussion which followed was led by Messrs H.Waring, E. Coxhead, A. Blackwell,

and A Blogg.



Lancashire Evening Post - Thursday 06 April 1916




A Whittle le Woods firm of manufacturers applied for

a Drawer-in.  And said that 33 percent of their men had

enlisted. They had been unable to get vacancies filled during the winter.

It was remarked that Whittle le Woods had done excellently in enlistments,

and the representative of the firm said he thought if the township

had claimed it would have won the prize for best recruiting returns

Exempted to May 31st.




Preston Herald - Saturday 17 June 1916 




The wife of Pte James Coupe, of the Loyal North Lancashire Regt, has been informed that he has been wounded in action.

Prior to enlisting, he was employed at Low Mill Printworks and enlisted in September 1914.




Preston Herald - Saturday 16 December 1916




During the week Whittle le Woods and Clayton le Woods Soldiers' Comforts Fund

Committee have forwarded additional parcels and comforts to the local men serving at the front.

The value of goods sent amounts to nearly £100.



Preston Herald - Saturday 13 January 1917




On Tuesday the severity of the heavy snowstorm greatly interfered 

with the motor bus service to and from Chorley on market day.

The snow was drifted a great depth in many places



Thursday 24th May 1917


Today is Empire Day 




Preston Herald - Saturday 26 May 1917




In aid of the local Soldiers Comforts Fund, the flag day was organised at Clayton le Woods and Whittle le Woods last week realised £13. A concert at the Whittle Church Club also brought in a sum of £10.10s



Preston Herald - Saturday 20 July 1918




Since the formation of the Whittle le Woods and Clayton, Soldiers and Sailors' Comforts Fund,

about £800 has been raised in various ways.

The fete and gala held in Mr. A Cunliffe's ground last week resulted in a most satisfactory amount

being realized for this object 






Postcard sent from Whittle le Woods to Chorley in September 1918



In 1911 the address 92 Eaves Lane is home to a Mr James Jackson, and Family.


So Lizzie Darbyshire or her family must obviously have moved into the above address after the 1911 census. 

The Postcard reveals a

Miss Lizzie Darbyshire  recieving news.

from her friend Maggie as of  the 18th September



No mention of the war!


Lancashire Evening Post - Friday 13 December 1918








Mr Sandham Heckled by Ex-Soldiers


A call was next made at a meeting in progress in St John School, Whittle le Woods,

where there was a considerable sprinkling of discharged soldiers.

The candidate met with considerable interruption and was bombarded with questions,

much feeling being displayed.


After several queries of a personal character, a member of the audience asked: " What have men like Snowden been doing?"

Councilor Sandham: Their duty

The voice: Yes, to themselves


Councilor Sandham remarked that no useful purpose would be served in discussing the war, which was over.


A discharged soldier stated that the war was not over, as British forces were fighting Bolshoivic forces in Russia.


Councilor Sandham: You know as much about Bolshevism as this gas pipe does. I am tired of these questions about Bolshevism in Russia

People like the questioner are constantly displaying their ignorance on the subject.

A discharged soldier shouted out that if the country had listened to Lord Roberts the war would probably not have happened.

Councilor Sandham said it was the men of the military caste in Germany who started it, and nothing that Lord Roberts could do could have prevented it.


A voice: We got little help from the I.L.P

Councilor Sandham: The Chorley branch of the I.L.P has more soldier members than any other political party in Chorley, comparatively speaking. 

The voice: I am not referring to them, I am speaking of the leaders

A woman: Is not the silver badge honourable 

Councilor Sandham: Yes but what about the Military Medal, our members have gained that.



Lord Roberts, pretty much predicted the war with Germany. He was 2 years out and warned of Britain's need to re-arm and train. 








In December 1918, Count Czernin, former Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister said the war arose from

"too much diplomatic bluffing with everyone looking to the other fellow to recede from his position"



June and July 1919


In the event of failure to accept the Peace Terms by Germany, preparations were made between June 8 and June 19 for an advance



Lancashire Evening Post - Monday 22 December 1919




At the invitation of the Mayor and Mayoress of Blackburn (Alderman and Mrs. L Cotton), the 

returned soldiers and sailors of Whittle le Woods and Clayton le Woods were entertained on Saturday night

in the Parish Club, Whittle le Woods to a hotpot supper. There were 360 men present.

Alderman Cotton welcomed them home again.

A concert was provided by Mr. Aspin's party from Blackburn. At the close, a cordial vote of thanks was accorded to Alderman and Mrs. Cotton on the motion of Mr. J.T. Little, seconded by Mr. James Houghton.




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