Front Pages: World War One Begins
The images above show the front pages of some of the World’s leading newspapers during the first week of the First World War. The majority of them are sourced from the allied Entente powers including Britain, France, Belgium, Canada and the then neutral US however there are also several from Germany and Austria.
The first of the images is not actually a newspaper but rather a newspaper sellers placard for The Times' used on the morning of the 5th August to show the headlines. Other British newspapers include the Manchester Guardian (#12) which described how the decision to go to war was made late on the 4th after Britain’s “Demand for Respect of Belgian Neutrality Refused.” Similarly the tabloid Daily Express’s (#17) morning edition of the 5th August was headed with Admiral Nelson’s famous patriotic call that “England Expects That Every Man Will Do His Duty” with the rest of the front page is devoted to the declaration of war, the German fleet at work in the North Sea and the latest news from Belgium.
In North America Canadian and American newspapers break the news of war, one would soon join Britain’s struggle, the other would remain neutral until 1917. In Canada the Saskatoon Daily Star (#3), Newfoundland’s Daily News (#4) and Regina’s Morning Leader (#16) meet the news gravely with the Daily News’ headline describing all of Europe as “ablaze” while the Daily Star described British diplomatic efforts to maintain Belgian neutrality and how it looks likely that Britain’s ultimatum to Germany will be rejected.
The Morning Leader’s headline on the 5th was a little more gung ho with “Britain Gives Word” coupled with a uncommon image of an explosion with ‘War’ written at its centre. The paper’s leading stories include a piece on Churchill’s signal to the navy, the “King’s message to the colonies’ and the failure of the ultimatum. South of the Canadian border the Chicago Tribune (#6) led with the ominous “War Sets All Europe Trembling” while much of the page is dedicated to the “Latest War Bulletins” there is also news from the stock exchange and about the mayor’s political clean up campaign. On the 2nd August, the Indianapolis Sunday Star (#5) focused on the war with Russia featuring photographs of both the Tsar and the Kaiser.
Elsewhere in the United States other major and regional papers looked on the war with morbid curiosity. The New York Times' (#7) headline goes into great detail calling it a “Great War of Eight Nations” while the Baltimore Sun (#9) describes how the Atlantic ocean liners have tied up as uncertainty grows.
In the south the Atlanta Constitution (#8) forebodingly led with “Only a Miracle Can Save Europe” while erroneously reporting the fall of Belgrade, the city would not be captured until November. One of the most interesting American newspapers is Baltimore’s Der Deutsche Correspondent, a German language paper. At the beginning of the 20th century German was the United States’ second most spoken language with millions of German-speaking immigrants having settled in North America. As such the US had a vibrant German speaking press with newspapers such as New Yorker Staats-Zeitung and the Philadelphia Demokrat in the German style. Above is the front page of Der Deutsche Correspondent (#12) which on the 5th August, reported that “All of Europe is Now Up in Arms” with Germany at war with Britain, Belgium and France.
Elsewhere in the British Empire the Brisbane Courier (#2) reported the widening war and Germany’s acts of war. However, the main coverage of the war is relegated to page five with articles covering developments in France and Britain voting £50,000,000 of war funding.
In Europe itself the French and Belgian newspapers also report on the war. On August 4th, Brussels’ Le Soir (#15) reported Germany’s violation of Belgian neutrality and the Belgian government’s ultimatum to Germany. Weeks later the situation looked grave as Bruxelles-Depeches (#13) called on the citizens of Brussels to “Remain Calm… in This Grave Hour with the Germans at Our Doors.”
In Paris on the 3rd August, Le Petit Parisien (#9) rather hastily reported that “Without a Declaration of War Germany Has Invaded Our Territory” near Alsace-Lorraine. In reality the Germans had not yet invaded Belgium and would not cross the French border for another two weeks. Either the reporter based his headline on rumour or panic or the inflammatory headline was intended to stir support for the war.
On 2nd August, the Lübeckische Anzeigen (#18) printed inLubeck led with the heading ‘Deutschland, Deutschland über Alles’ from ‘Deutschlandlied' the 'Song of Germany' meaning 'Germany above all'. This title and the images of the Kaiser and Emperor Franz Joseph indicate a common bond between the united German Nations with the announcement of German mobilisation. Meanwhile the Königsberger Zeitungen (#14)on the 1st August, reported “Der Weltkrieg” or world war when Russia ignores the German government’s ultimatum ordering Russia to stand down and announces that German forces are mobilising.
The newspapers of the first days of August 1914 can tell us much about the fears, aims and politics of the countries and newspapers that published them. From attempts to rouse national feeling to morbid curiosity of neutral countries to the trepidation and sometimes enthusiasm of Britain’s imperial colonies. This article doesn’t intend to be an in depth reading but rather an overarching look at the initial reactions to the news that all Europe was ‘ablaze’.
Image Source - The Times (London, newspaper placard)
Image Source - Brisbane Courier
Image Source - Saskatoon Daily Star
Image Source - The Daily News (Newfoundland)
Image Source - Indianapolis Sunday Star
Image Source - Chicago Daily Tribune
Image Source - The New York Times
Image Source - The Atlanta Constitution
Image Source - The Baltimore Sun
Image Source - Le Petit Parisien
Image Source - The Manchester Guardian
Image Source - Der Deutsche Correspondent (Baltimore)
Image Source - Bruxelle-Depeches (Brussels)
Image Source - Königsberger Zeitungen (Konigsberg, Germany)
Image Source - Le Soir (Brussels)
Image Source - The Morning Leader (Regina, Canada)
Image Source - Daily Express (London)
Image Source - Lübeckische Anzeigen (Lubeck, Germany)