This project explores how Surrey and its people responded to the Great War.
Press support for the war was vital to the Government, but there were understandable concerns about the impact of reporting on both public opinion and the security of the armed forces. On the outbreak of war, controls were introduced on press activity, particularly regarding the publishing of military information. The Defence of the Realm Act made this a punishable offence, and a newly formed Press Bureau issued “D” Notices to individual newspapers, setting out the subjects that were not to be covered.
However, this did not mean that newspapers removed all reference to the war. Surrey papers of the time are full of detailed accounts of arrangements being made for the accommodation of troops, entertainment being arranged and fundraising activities. Rousing speeches and sermons are published. In the early months of the conflict, letters home from the front are quoted extensively, along with interviews with men on leave or convalescing from their injuries. These first-hand accounts were particularly valued as the official press briefings gave limited information, and there were almost no correspondents on the front line at that stage.
Kelly’s Surrey Directory of 1913 lists no less than 43 titles published in the county at the time, and their pages demonstrate how quickly the conflict affected life in every town and village. By November 1914, the Surrey and Hants News was reporting that there were more than 100 Belgian refugees in the area “40 in the villages of Seale, Wrecclesham, Frensham, Churt, Tilford, Bentley, The Bourne and Crondall”. As the war dragged on, Rolls of Honour and casualty lists became a feature of many editions.
See a gallery of images from the Woking News and Mail containing images of local men who served in the Great War on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.