August 4th, 1914 – what was happening in Somerset on the day war was declared?

Today marks the hundredth anniversary of the outbreak of the
First World War.

Drawing on this poignant moment in national history, we have looked at what was happening in Somerset on that fateful day:

“A rainy Bank Holiday marked the arrival of war on Monday, 4 August 1914. On the esplanade at Watchet blindfold boxing, beauty contests for both sexes, and bun and treacle competitions were held in defiance both of bad weather and rumours of war, while at Bristol, Somerset were heading for a one-wicket defeat at the hands of Gloucestershire.

On Tuesday, 5 August, Lord St Audries spoke at Bagborough of ‘the gravest crisis this country had known for one hundred years’, and by the end of the week Somerset men aged between 17 and 25 were already being urged to enlist.

In the following weeks recruiting meetings were held throughout the county, one of the most memorable taking place in Bridgwater on the opening day of St Matthew’s Fair, 30 September.

A ‘huge concourse’ gathered in the fair field to hear an address from Colonel H.B. Patton, commander of the Somerset National Reserve Brigade, and by the time the meeting closed with the playing of the National Anthem many men had volunteered.

Throughout the county the number of recruits was enormous – it included 3,500 men from Taunton alone – and when the war ended the terrible reckoning showed that more than 8,000 had lost their lives (about 10% of Somerset’s male population between the ages of 15 and 39, and about 13% of those who served).”

This is an excerpt from ‘The Vale of Taunton Past’ by Somerset Heritage Manager, Tom Mayberry.

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