Pause for thought when clock strikes 11 tonight

The PortsmouthTerritorials at a church parade in Town Hall Square
The PortsmouthTerritorials at a church parade in Town Hall Square

THIS WEEK IN 1993: Ballet shoes put on show in museum

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At 11pm I’d like you to think about something. Something that most of us will never see in our lifetime I hope. Think of what your grandparents and great-grand parents were thinking at the same hour 100 years ago.

For it was at 11pm on the evening of Saturday, August 4, 1914, that word was received from the Foreign Office.

It said: ‘Owing to the summary rejection by the German government of the request made by his majesty’s government for the assurance the neutrality of Belgium would be respected, his majesty’s ambassador in Berlin has received his passports and his majesty’s government has declared to the German government that a state of war exists between Great Britain and Germany as from 11pm on August 4th.’

For the residents of Portsmouth the summer was over and for the next four there would be little to smile about.

Four momentous years of strife and heartache were about to be cast upon families all over the Portsmouth area and, of course, Europe.

Two days after the declaration it was a bank holiday Monday and in the streets of Portsmouth could be seen thousands of sailors who had poured into the town from all parts of the country.

The call for ‘All Hands’ had been heard and answered as it had ever been in the Royal Navy.

Within a week every ship was fully manned and naval establishments overflowed with men wanting to do their bit and be on call when the time came.

For three months it was not deemed necessary to recruit a single man for the navy.

No doubt many of these brave men were to perish in the coming battles on the high seas.

As I am covering holiday relief this week I will endeavour to place at least two pictures a day to commemorate the memorable days to come in the first week of what was to become known as The Great War.

I have no date for the picture on the right, but I assume it is a church parade offering prayers for the soldiers of Portsmouth’s Territorial Army.

The crowded Town Hall Square is holding up trams in Greetham Street and the square itself and I suspect the delayed drivers and conductors are not praying to much.

I also notice there are few, if any, sailors among the congregation.