COLUMN: How we reported the outbreak of the First World War


On the 100th anniversary of Britain joining the First World War, deputy editor Andrew Brookes delves into the archives to look at how the then-Lincolnshire Standard reported on the outbreak of the conflict...

One of the great pleasures in working at a local newspaper is the ability to delve into the archives and see how our predecessors tackled the stories of their day.

But looking back 100 years to 1914 – when our paper was just over two years old – you wonder how they could possibly grasp the magnitude of the conflict that was to become known as the Great War?

Before the conflict, on August 1, we reported how peace was in the balance, writing: “The international situation still remains grave and though it is admitted that very powerful influences for peace are at work, on the other hand events are moving with dangerous rapidity. The attitude of Germany, on whom so much depends, is still uncertain, and the tension throughout Europe is therefore in no way relaxed.”

It’s quite sad to read these words with hindsight, knowing what was to come and that the hope for peace that the paper went on to report was dashed.

And how do you find the words to describe what happened next?

My journalism tutor always told me to keep it simple and get straight to the point - and that was certainly the mantra on these pages in 1914.

Our report of August 8 started: “England and Germany are at war.”

You can’t get much more straight to the point than that.

It went on: “This was the startling climax officially announced on Tuesday night to a series of developments which occurred from hour to hour during Tuesday.”

Over the years I’ve studied a little of the First World War with great interest.

Very little of the conflict is ‘black and white’ and the causes and consequences continue to be debated by historians to this day.

One thing is for certain, however. The war touched the lives of so many people in this and every town – with 945 people from Boston and the surrounding villages killed in the conflict.

I feel we owe it to those who made the ultimate sacrifice to remember what they went through, especially since almost everyone alive during the First World War is no longer with us today.

I’ve never felt comfortable celebrating war, but it is important that we honour, remember and learn.

We hope to do the centenary justice with our coverage, starting in last week’s edition of the paper with a feature on the first men from Boston to die in the war.

Moving forward we plan to run a regular column telling the news as it was reported 100 years ago.

The pages of the Standard from 1914 are now a rich historical source (and can be read in Boston library).

It’s a testament to the hard work of those in the early years of our publication that their vivid words can live on in the pages of our newspaper today.

I’m proud that we can do just that.