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The Great War News from Lancaster in 1914

18th September 1914

These pages include reports from the local press in Lancaster and district from September 1914.

Wagon Works Prison

The article published in our columns last week regarding the internment of Germans as prisoners of war at the Wagon Works created widespread interest locally. We are glad to find it has done much to allay anxiety and alarm that had arisen through the absence of reliable information as to the character of the prisoners, and as to the provision made for their proper confinement. In this case knowledge has proved really valuable, and timorous people have felt that they may sleep at night without fear or marauding Germans troubling them. The prisoners at the Wagon Works are not lawless criminals; many of them are men of education and good position who have occupied influential places in the State, and who are now deprived of their liberty for military reasons – notably to prevent them from being called up for military service for the Fatherland, and against the British, with whom they frankly confess they have no quarrel and no enmity.


The casualty lists published from day to day, and the stories from wounded soldiers who have reached this country, continue to show the magnificent part played by the Royal Lancaster Regiment, and the brigade of which it formed part in the battle of Mons, hat lasted nearly a week. The character of that battle can be in some way grasped when the stories of the King’s Own men who were separated from their regiment, and got into the German lines, being hidden for several days in a cave, is read and pondered. Their story, read in connection with those of other men in the fighting line, give vivid glimpses of the battle itself and show conclusively how valiantly the King’s Own fought. As we said last week, the full story will probably never be written, but enough has been told to make Lancaster intensely proud of the regiment that bears its name.


Lancaster and the whole of the South Lonsdale division has now become a “prohibited area.” This will still further restrict the liberty of some residents in the town and district, for it means that no enemy aliens – German, Austrian or Hungarian – will be allowed to remain in the area except by the consent of the Chief Constable Harriss or Supt. Scott. Even if they are allowed to remain, they will not be permitted to move beyond a five mile limit from their place of residence without permission from the police authorities. Another point is that all aliens whatever their nationality, must register themselves with the registration officers. This notice ought to be sufficient to warn people of their duty, and thus avoid proceedings being taken against them.

Lancaster and the War

Three or four hundred members of the Lancaster battalion of the National Reserve have re-enlisted in various arms of His Majesty’s forces.

The sum of £18 2s 9d has been contributed by the staff of the County Asylum towards comforts for the men of the King’s Own Royal Regiment now at the front and the Regimental Compassionate Fund.

One hundred and fifty recruits were despatched to the 3rd Battalion King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment at Saltash on Saturday, and on Tuesday Captain Molony headed a draft of 1,100 men to the Kitchener Battalion at Seaford, Sussex. Recruiting is still progressing with almost unabated vigour.

A report received from General Headquarters of the Expeditionary Force, dated 11th and 12th September contains the names of six officers killed, six died of wounds, five missing and 49 wounded. Among the killed is Lieutenant L S Woodgate of the King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. Lieutenant Woodgate had been connected with the regiment since February, 1908, and was promoted Lieutenant in October, 1911. He was a nephew of the late General E R P Woodgate, who was killed at Spion Kop and was 26 years of age and an officer of considerable promise.

Gifts for Soldiers’ Beds at the Infirmary

The following gifts have been received by the Matron (Mrs Crewe) for the beds set apart for the sick and wounded soldiers:- Countess of Bective, blankets and sheets; Mrs Frank Storey, shirts and nightingales; shirts and jackets; Mrs Sumner, Westbourne Road; Miss Clavert, shirts; Miss Todd, pillow cases.

More Territorials Wanted

The run of success which the Allies seam to be enjoying has had an adverse effect upon recruiting for the reserve Territorial battalion of the Royal Lancaster Regiment. This is a mistake. The need is as great as ever, and Captain Seward appeals to all eligible men to enlist and bring the battalion up to strength. One hundred and eighty men are still required. Lancaster has provided 320, Fleetwood and district 140 and Morecambe 120. Captain keen is acting OC at headquarters, and the drilling of the Lancaster men is now in the hands of two officers and three non-commissioned officers. The duties of quartermaster have been undertaken by Lieutenant Singleton, who has thirteen years service to his credit. A full programme of drill, except with arms, is being carried out, and the men are standing the test of this and the long route marches exceedingly well. Not a man has fallen out from any cause whatever. Sufficient applications for commissions to fill up the roll of officers have already been received, and the papers are expected in a week or so. All the appointments will be made from the ranks.
The excellent spirit that prevails in the parent battalion has been manifested this week in the refusal of two men who left Lancaster a fortnight ago to accept vacant commissions. They preferred to remain in the ranks. Visitors to Didcot report that the men are enjoying their routine tremendously, and that the latest recruits are adapting themselves to the new and often trying conditions with splendid spirit.

Another Alien at Morecambe

At the County Petty Sessions on Saturday, Margaret Kniel, of Morecambe, an alien of German nationality, was charged with failing to register herself as required by the Aliens Registration Order. Inspector Whitfield said defendant was the wife of a German residing in Morecambe. She lived apart from her husband, and she had two daughters residing with her. Defendant was a German belonging to Wuttemburg, and came to Morecambe in 1893 from Lancaster. She said she had been away from Germany for a great number of years. She came to the police station at Morecambe on the 31st August to register herself. Notices were posted in Morecambe, a prescribed area, on the 8th August, instructing aliens to register themselves. Defendant was accompanied by a British subject who advised her to register. She said she never came out of the house and never saw the notices, but had come to the police office at the request of neighbours. Her husband had left for Preston, and he had not lived with her for seven years. Defendant said she thought her husband had naturalised himself, and that she would not need to be registered. A friend of her’s who had been in court on a previous Saturday had advised her to register herself as a foreigner living in a restricted area.
The Chairman (to Supt Scott): Is there any reason to prers the case?
Supt Scott: No, sir, but I think a fine should be imposed.
The Chairman said the Bench had decided that a fine of 5s and costs or fourteen days’ imprisonment would be imposed. It was a very light punishment, and other cases of a similar character would be more seriously dealt with.

Letters from Local Soldiers

Message from the Firing Line

The following are extracts from a letter written by a Lancastrian ( a lance sergeant in the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment) to his father: “I am well and in good spirits. We are doing plenty of marching, but no fighting just now. I was in one sharp engagement a week last Wednesday. It was a curious experience being shot at. The Germans are poor shots and have lost heavily. We have a good few prisoners with us. They are glad to get captured, having practically no food. Nearly everyone thinks the war will be over in about a month’s time; I am rather doubtful of that, though. All the British troops here are well and in good spirits. I have no news. We can get no information; in any case I am not allowed to tell you anything particular.

Territorials in Good Heart

An officer of the 5th Battalion Royal Lancaster Regiment writes: “I hear some people in the villages about Lancaster are saying our men are starved and all sorts of things like that, presumably to stop their sons etc from volunteering. Speaking from my own experiences, I have never seen the men look better. They are all as fat as butter, and have plenty on them now for a real good training. Not only do they get their own rations, but people all about send them heaps of vegetables of all kinds and other foods; in fact, more than they can eat. I really need not tell you this, as you know how well they are always treated, but I thought you would like some evidence first hand. I think people who spread reports like this ought to be court martialled, as after all it is really lack of patriotism. We hear rumours of our being moved, but it never comes. The job we are on is very monotonous, and we are all anxious to get further forward.

Wagon Works Prison
Something about the Daily Life of the Prisoners
Colonel Cholmondeley’s New Appointment

More than local interest attaches to the Wagon Works, seeing that it is used for the internment of aliens (who are prisoners of war) from different parts of the country. The notoriety Lancaster has attained in the country as the locale of one of the places of interment is not an unmixed blessing, on account of the “undesirables” that seem from yesterday’s police court proceedings to have been drawn hither. Still, the authorities may be trusted to deal drastically with these incidental features.

Lancaster people continue to visit the vicinity of the works listening to the instrumental and vocal concerts that take place in the prison. The “outsiders” are no longer to see the prisoners, because certain parts of the works have been hoarded up. This is a very desirable precaution in every way.
We are informed that the conduct of the prisoners is quite satisfactory, and that all rumours and picturesque statements to the contrary are without foundation.
The figures that have been published as to the number of prisoners interned, we are authorised to state, are quite inaccurate. Nothing like so many as were stated in a daily contemporary yesterday are at present at the Wagon Works.

During the week additions have been received in driblets. On Saturday a number of well-dressed Germans, several of then with suit cases, and other luggage, arrived at the Castle Station, and they walked to the place of detention. They seemed in good spirits, and were quite philosophical. They were men of education, who had occupied good positions in the country. They were Germans who were liable to be called up for military service and they were arrested and interned in order to prevent them from fighting against this country.

Colonel Cholmondoley, the commander and governor is leaving Lancaster, having been appointed to take over the command of a new detention camp at Shrewsbury. Major Hatton will assume the governorship on Colonel Cholmondoley’s departure, and another second in command will probably be appointed. Lieutenant Dean of the East Lancashire Regiment, has been appointed adjutant. The prisoners are settling down to their unwanted surroundings with philosophic calm. There are different sections or classes, and the arrangements works well. There is an “officers’ bay” the occupants of which are German officers, gentlemen who have occupied good positions in this country and well to do prisoners. They pay for cooks, cleaners, bed makers etc work which is undertaken by other prisoners.

At the canteen on the premises cigarettes, marmalade, minerals, soap, towels, butter, cheese, ham, potted meats, vegetables, candles, and most other articles of daily use can be obtained. Some of the prisoners have turned bootblacks and barbers; and bootblacking costs one penny and shaving two pence. Bands keep the men amused when they tire. Choirs are formed, and the concerts keep up their spirits. The relations between the prisoners and the authorities appear to be excellent, and a few days ago the bands welcomed an official by playing him from one “camp” to another. On Wednesday, quite a pretentious concert was given, a piano being hired in addition to the instruments possessed by the men themselves.

A prisoner, who had been released on parole and bail, and who returned to a South Lancashire town to look after business affairs told a Dispatch representative in his own town something about the internal government of the prison. He said:- “We get up in the morning about six o’clock at bugle call, and breakfast consists of tea (or coffee) and bread and butter. The poorer ones among us club together and pay a halfpenny or a penny every two days. We appoint six men – we are divided into companies of 50 – and they go to the store and purchase extras, which are divided equally. Afterwards they wash up and do the general utility work, such as clearing the tables and cleaning. Then we form up for inspection. Each man has a metal disc bearing on it his number and other particulars. We have a captain from among ourselves in charge.
“We are quite free so long as we do nothing against the few regulations. The YMCA members have arranged a sing song and social every morning. We play, romp and drink but there is no beer – ‘worse luck.’ as you English say. We walk, talk and are as merry as we can.
“For dinner we are provided with a fairly large portion of raw meat – perhaps about four or six ounces – potatoes, and onions or other seasoning. Then our chefs, who are professionals, begin the cooking. Stoves made of brick and sheet iron have been erected by the men among us who have been in the navy. We have made ovens, too.
“The subscribed money, which is in the hands of treasurers, is spent at the canteen on such things as rice, tapioca, vegetables, horse radish, and the other little things that go to make life pleasant. We had a three course dinner last Sunday as a treat, and some very nice pudding. Our cooks do very well on a little money, and, of course, we all ‘chum’ together, those with no money getting the same share. Some of the men with more money have pots of food for themselves.
“In the afternoon we use our time in the same way as in the morning. There is not much variety when you have been there for a time, but it is never slow. We have debates and discussions on all kinds of subjects.
“Tea is similar to breakfast, and the evening is spent in a convivial way until bedtime. We get bricks, coal, iron for the stoves, and firewood supplied, and our handy men have fixed us up very well. There is plenty of hot water, and you can have a footbath if you want, but it must be when everybody is about, because there is no privacy. Tins and pans are brought from the canteen.
“At the first the beds were placed on the floor, but wooden benches are being built about two feet from the ground, rising at the head, and we shall place the sacks of straw on these. It isn’t exactly like sleeping on a spring mattress at home, but one gets used to it. Those with money get it paid to them at the rate of ten shillings per week.”

Suitable arrangements have been made for the spiritual comfort of the prisoners. Very Rev Canon Billington and members of St. Peter’s clerical staff: Rev J L Gamble, St. John’s and Free Church ministers visit the camp, and services are held occasionally, the remarks of the speakers being conveyed to the understanding of the Germans by means of an interpreter.

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