31st August 1914 (Monday)

BORN TODAY: in Zanesville, Ohio – Richard Basehart, American actor whose film career started with a repeat performance and ended in ancient Rome.



Western Front:

~ In Paris, where the government are feverishly debating whether to abandon the city to the Germans (ie move the French government elsewhere) – German planes return for a second evening of light, but frightening (and for an unlucky few, fatal), bombing.

~ In London, the Government meets (“in cabinet”) after Kitchener realises that Sir John French, the commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) has effectively withdrawn the British forces from the defences in France against the German advance. The cabinet is described as “perturbed” by the news, and its apparent desertion of its ally. Kitchener waits until after midnight for clarification by telegram from Sir John, before leaving for France at 2.30AM. [Tuchman – the Guns of August].

~ From Berlin, “In preparation for the greatest moment in Teutonic history, the Germans with admirable efficiency [have] already struck off, and distributed to staff officers for ultimate presentation to the troops, a bronze medal confidently inscribed ‘Einzug d. Deutschen Truppen in Paris’ (arrival of German troops in Paris)”. [Tuchman].


At the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh, Scotland – William Purvis, a foreman at the Seafiled Oil Works in Linlithgowshire, dies from injuries sustained in an industrial accident in June.


30th August 1914 (Sunday)

BORN TODAY: in Vallauris, France – Jean Bottero, Assyriologist.



Western Front: In Paris two people die when German pilot Lt. von Ruville drops three bombs (and also leaflets) on the city, where the French government is rapidly realising that the capital cannot be effectively defended if German forces reach it.


Eastern Front: Russian forces enjoy success at the Battle of Gnila Lipa, taking 20,000 Austro-Hungarian prisoners and driving the Austrian army west.



29th August 1914 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in Glasgow, Scotland – William “Billy” McEwan, Scottish footballer.



Western Front: In the ongoing “Battle of the Frontiers” French casualties (killed, wounded and missing) exceed a quarter of a million men after just a little more than one week of fighting.

Source: “Mapping the First World War” (Peter Chassaud)

At the Battle of Guise the French Fifth Army, commanded by General Lanrezac, makes a successful counter-attack against the German Second Army, slowing the advance of German forces towards Paris.


In the Pacific: New Zealand soldiers land at Apia and successfully occupy German Samoa.




28th August 1914 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: At Waterloo, South Australia – Esmond Gerald ‘Tom’ Kruse, MBE for his services to the Royal Mail, and star of the award winning 1954 film: “Back of Beyond”.



In Louvain in Belgium, American, Swedish and Mexican diplomats visit the city  “after three days of barbarous havoc inflicted by German soldiers. They find smouldering buildings and streets strewn with dead horses, executed Belgians, and wreckage. The visitors are appalled.” [Burg and Purcell: “Almanac of World War 1”]

 At sea: In the first full naval battle of the war, British and German war ships engage at the Battle of Heliogoland Bight (off the German and Danish coasts). Around 750 – mainly German – sailors die, and the Germans lose six vessels, including a destroyer.



In New Zealand, farmer and diarist George Adkin spends his evening reading the novel “Old St Paul’s” by William Harrison Ainsworth, set in the city of London at the time of the plague and the great fire.



27th August 1914 (Thursday)

BORN TODAY: in Hamburg, Germany – Heidi Kabel, “Low German” musician and actress.



Western Front: At Amiens, in France, “Boy Soldier” William Hayman records in his diary the misery of the retreating British Expeditionary Force:

“Up before dawn. The horses are wet through including the saddles. It is still raining but it cannot make us any wetter. miserable – and we wait for 3-hours – leaving in pouring rain at 8am. on the march all day going South West. We go down into a valley and pass through POIX and arrive at the village of EPLESSIER at dusk and pull into a large orchard. (we had covered 31 KM = 19 miles)”


26th August 1914 (Wednesday)

BORN TODAY: in Transvaal, South Africa – The National Party (Transvaal), representing the interests of Afrikaners.


Eastern Front: In East Prussia, near  a town called Allenstein, the Russian Second Army under General Samsonov  – a force of around 230,000 – men engages with German Eighth Army (150,000). The Battle will last for five days and result in a crushing defeat for the Russians, with 92,000 taken prisoner and 78,000 killed or wounded. General Samsonov takes his own life, and the Germans decide to call the Battle “Tannenberg” (actually 30 miles away) to avenge a defeat of the Teutonic Knights at the hands of Lithuanian and Polish forces in the year 1410.


Western Front: At least 700 allied soldiers die as British and French forces fight a rearguard action at the Battle of Le Cateau, which buys them sufficient time to continue an orderly retreat ahead of the advancing Germans. The German loss of life is not recorded.


 Africa: The German colony of Togoland surrenders to British and French forces.





25th August 1914 (Tuesday)


~ in Jyväskylä, Finland – Ilmari Vartia, olympic fencer who died of a fencing wound in 1951.


~ In Okawa District, Kagawa, Japan – “The Queen of Boogie-Woogie, Shizuko Kasagi


“Tokyo Boogie-Wookie” 1947 – C’est La Chanson du Siecle!


Eastern Front: Austrian troops take 6000 prisoners in their victory over the Russians at the Battle of  Krasnik (in Galicia, in present day Poland).


Southern (Balkan) Front: The Serbians are mopping up after the complete defeat of the Austro-Hungarians, who have retreated behind their own borders, leaving Serbia bloodied, but not bowed.

Western Front: German troops take Namur, Louvain and Sedan.

A French soldier writes to his mother (in anticipation of an imminent move to the front line):

“…Know that it would be shameful to think for one instant of holding back when the race demands the sacrifice. My only part is to carry an undefiled conscience as my feet may lead”

[Letters of a Soldier, 1914-1915]