Linlithgow and the Outbreak of War
On 4 August, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, but few would have credited such an outcome in early July. The summer of 1914 was hot. The weather during the school holidays was described as delightful, with both July and August experiencing highs of 83F (28C).
The Gazette’s front page contained many adverts. Linlithgow Motor Touring Co was advertising motor tours by the grey torpedo car (a kind of bus) to Blackness, Strathyre and Aberfoyle, quite a distance given the state of some roads. Alternatively, the 1914 Harley Davidson motor cycle was for sale at 247 High Street. Alexander MacDonald, 213 High Street, was advertising the fresh arrival of new blouses and trimmed hats for summer wear, and A & R Melville, 13 High Street, offered Ladies’ Summer Combinations in White Fine Stockinette with Fancy Top and no sleeves, for 2/3d (11p). Gillespie’s, 68 High Street, was selling the new Vacuum Clothes-Washer: 'a tub of clothes washed perfectly clean in four minutes'. Readers were invited to travel by Carron Line package ship from Grangemouth and Bo’ness to London and a High Street grocer was advertising Donaldson Line tickets for the Glasgow to Canada route.
The extensive celebrations of the 600 year anniversary of Bannockburn' were reported in the Gazette, and Irish Home Rule was of great interest. The assassination in Serbia of the heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire was not mentioned in the Gazette.
The last peacetime edition of the paper appeared on Friday 31 July. It is remarkable how little space was devoted to the possibility of a European war. The editorial was devoted to Irish Home Rule. In the 'Pencilling' column, the royal visit was still the main topic but the editor went on to write, with some prescience, 'It is said that the reservists are looking forward to a possible call to arms in the near future. We cannot tell what might happen in that powder magazine, military Europe. Fervently as every humane person wishes that such a calamity may never descend upon the civilised world, we may be upon the brink of Armageddon.'
On 7 August, under a normal-sized headline, the news appeared on the Gazette’s front page: 'WAR! At last the cloud which, a fortnight ago, appeared no bigger than a man’s hand on the European horizon, has covered the whole sky, and the greatest war the world has ever known is begun. The end no man can foretell…'.
For a more detailed account of the outbreak of war and how it affected Linlithgow, see the PDF below.