24th August 1914 (Monday)

BORN TODAY: Ivar Iversen, Norwegian sprint canoer.



Southern (Balkan) Front: Austrian forces in Serbia are forced to withdraw back across their own border.

[Burg & Purcell]

The Western Front: Mildred Aldrich, American retiree in France, visits Paris, and reports on the panic among foreigners wishing to leave:

“But all the foreigners, caught here by the unexpectedness of the war, seem to be fighting to get off by the same train and the same day to catch the first ship…”   She continues ” there are almost no men in the streets. There are no busses or tramways, and cabs and automobiles are rare… Paris is no longer our Paris, lovely as it still is”.  [from “A Hilltop on the Marne”]

The widening war: In Bombay (now Mumbai) in India,  7th (Indian) Division embarks for Europe as part of the Indian Expeditionary Force “A” which is being sent to reinforce the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France.




23rd August 1914 (Sunday)

BORN TODAY: in New York City – Anthony Francis “Tony” Matisi, all-American football player.



! Japan declares war on Germany!

Western Front: At the Battle of Mons in Western Belgium the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) delays, but does not halt the German advance into French territory. The British withdrawal marks the start of what will become a two week retreat almost as far as Paris.


In Dinant, in Belgium, German troops under General von Hausen execute 612 men, women and (some) children by firing squad in the town square.

[Burg & Purcell: Almanac of World War 1]

Eastern Front: In the Austrian province of Galicia (now in Poland) just across the border from the Russian Empire,  Austro-Hungarian and Russian forces clash on the first day of the Battle of Krasnik.



In New Zealand, farmer George Adkin enjoys a sunday of country hikes, picnics, photography and evening prayers. “A glorious day“.


At Woking, in England – in the “the stately Mosque, a view of which is obtainable from passing trains”, Eid Al-Fitr prayers are led by Moulvie Sadr-ud-Din, and “from the early morning Muslims [had] begun to pour into Woking by trains” [from the “Surrey Herald” newspaper, as quoted on http://www.wokingmuslim.org ]



22nd August 1914 (Saturday)

BORN TODAY: in London – Trevor Pryce Leggett, judo teacher, author, translator, diplomat, war time internee, spy, Buddhist, 6th dan, Head of the BBC’s Japanese service for 24 years, Order of the Sacred Treasure and much, much more. [Wikipedia].



! Austria-Hungary declares was on Belgium!

In St Petersburg, the imperial Russian government prohibits the sale of alcohol for the duration of the war!

In Le Havre, an anonymous British nursing sister, waiting with her colleagues to be moved nearer to the front, describes the day in Le Havre with almost school-girl excitement:

“There is any amount to see – miles of our [ie British forces] transport going through the town with burly old shaggy english farm-horses, taken straight from the harvest, pulling the carts; French Artillery Reservists being taught to work the guns; French soldiers passing through; and our R.E. [Royal Engineers] motor-cyclists scudding about. And one can practise talking, understanding and reading French.” [Anon: “Diary of a Nursing sister on the Western Front, 1914-1915”].

On this one day, 22nd August 1914, around 27,000 French soldiers die during the confusion of the Battles of Ardennes and Charleroi, both battles being just parts of the larger “Battle of the Frontiers”.


The view of the war from (Nationalist) Ireland: Meanwhile, writing under the headline “On German Militarism” the “Irish worker” newspaper shares its views:

Finally, as a word of warning. Do not let anyone play upon your sympathies by denunciation of the German military bullies. German military bullies, like all tyrannies among civilised people need fear nothing so much as native (German) democracy. Attacks from outside only strengthen tyrants within a nation. If we had to choose between strengthening the German bully or the Russian autocrat the wise choice would be on the side of the German. For the German people are a highly civilised people, responsive to every progressive influence, and rapidly forging weapons for their own emancipation from native tyranny, whereas the Russian Empire stretches away into the depths of Asia, and relies on an army largely recruited from amongst many millions of barbarians who have not yet felt the first softening influence of civilisation. German thought is abreast of the best in the world; German influences have shaped for good the hopes of the world, but the thought and the hopes of the best in Russia was but the other day drowned in blood by Russia’s worst.

To help Britain is to help Russia to the dominance of Europe, to help the barbarian to crush the scientist. That is the reflection of the wise revolutionist of today.

Meanwhile the Orange enemy of Irish freedom wisely stays at home and conserves his forces, and the Irish Nationalist is encouraged by his leaders to rush abroad and shed his blood in a quarrel not his own, the simplest elements of which he does not understand.”


21st August 1914 (Friday)

BORN TODAY: in California – Robert Emmet Smith, “Art Director”



Western Front: On the second day of the “Battle of the Frontiers”, French General de Castenau hears that his son has been killed in battle.  “He said, after a moment’s silence, in a phrase that was to become something of a slogan for France ‘we will continue, Gentlemen’ ” [Barbara Tuchman: “The Guns of August”].

In the Belgian village of Obourg, near Mons, close to the French border, 17 year old British Private John Henry Parr, former butcher’s boy and golf caddy, is shot dead by German riflemen while performing reconaissance on his push-bike. He is believed to be the first British or Commonwealth soldier killed by enemy action during the first world war [Wikipedia].


On a foggy morning in the forests, the Battle of the Ardennes starts badly for both French and German units when advancing forces meet at short range with no previous warning. [Tuchman].

 Africa: In southern Africa, German troops from the colony of South West Africa cross the border and invade British South Africa.



In Sweden  (and other places too – Russia, Turkey, Iraq and Iran) day briefly becomes night as the Swedes experience the first of four total eclipses of the sun that they will ‘enjoy’ over the next 40 years.



20th August 1914 (Thursday)

BORN TODAY: in Stockholm, Sweden –  Sven “Svenne Berka” Bergqvist, “bandy, ice-hockey and football player” [Wikipedia].



Eastern Front: German forces attack Russians at the Battle of Gumbinnen in East Prussia, but are repulsed and driven back with heavy losses.


Balkan Front:  Towards the conclusion of the Battle of Jadar, also known as the Battle of Cer,  the Austro-Hungarian 5th army is forced back into Austro-Hungarian Bosnia Herzegovina by Serbian troops. “Many Austro-Hungarian soldiers drown in the water [of the Driva River] as they flee in panic”. [Misha Glenny: “The Balkans”, quoted on Wikipedia].

Western Front: German troops occupy Brussels in great numbers.

[Peter Chassaud: “Mapping the First World War”]


In The Vatican City at Rome, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, better known as Pope Pius X, dies, after living in poor health following a heart attack in 1913.



19th August 1914 (Wednesday)

BORN TODAY: in Tyldesley, Lancashire, England – Frank Seddon, dreamer, musician, miner, poet, tubman and fireman, home guard sergeant, family man and migrant.



In Aerschot, in Belgium, German soldiers perpetrate a massacre of priests and civilians, around 150 in total,  ostensibly in retaliation for the murder of a german officer, but believed by some to be part of a deliberate policy of inflicting terror on the civilian population.


At Lesnica in Serbia, Austrian soldiers shoot150 peasants during the army’s forced retreat towards the Drina river, which forms the nearby border with (Austro-Hungarian) Bosnia Herzegovina.

[Burg and Purcell: Almanac of World War 1]

Delivering a speech to the US Senate in Washington, President Woodrow Wilson urges Americans to remain neutral both in actions and in speech:

“The effect of the war upon the United States will depend upon what American citizens say and do. Every man who really loves America will act and speak in the true spirit of neutrality, which is the spirit of impartiality and fairness and friendliness to all concerned. The spirit of the nation in this critical matter will be determined largely by what individuals and society and those gathered in public meetings do and say, upon what newspapers and magazines contain, upon what ministers utter in their pulpits, and men proclaim as their opinions upon the street.

The people of the United States are drawn from many nations, and chiefly from the nations now at war. It is natural and inevitable that there should be the utmost variety of sympathy and desire among them with regard to the issues and circumstances of the conflict. Some will wish one nation, others another, to succeed in the momentous struggle. It will be easy to excite passion and difficult to allay it. Those responsible for exciting it will assume a heavy responsibility, responsibility for no less a thing than that the people of the United States, whose love of their country and whose loyalty to its government should unite them as Americans all, bound in honor and affection to think first of her and her interests, may be divided in camps of hostile opinion, hot against each other, involved in the war itself in impulse and opinion if not in action…

I venture, therefore, my fellow countrymen, to speak a solemn word of warning to you against that deepest, most subtle, most essential breach of neutrality which may spring out of partisanship, out of passionately taking sides. The United States must be neutral in fact, as well as in name, during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought, as well as action, must put a curb upon our sentiments, as well as upon every transaction that might be construed as a preference of one party to the struggle before another.”


18th August 1914 (Tuesday)

BORN TODAY: in Blean in Kent – Mary Selena (“Peta”) Taylor (married name Mary Jaegar), English cricketer.



Western Front: In Belgium, after the fall of Liege, King Albert orders a retreat towards Antwerp, which infuriates the French because it will effectively withdraw the Belgian forces from protecting their left flank from the oncoming German advance.

An anonymous British nursing sister writes from  her berth on the troopship “SS City of Benares”:

“We had a great send off… and went on board about 2pm…I don’t remember anything quite so thrilling as our start off from Ireland. All the 600 khaki men on board, and all the crowds on the quay, and in boats and on lighthouses…we had the King’s proclamation read out to us about doing our duty for our Country, and God blessing us, and how the King is following our every movement.”

From: “The Diary of A Nursing Sister on the Western Front, 1914-1915” (anonymous)


“Boy soldier” William Hayman, also leaving from Ireland, reports a different perception of the Irish public’s mood today:

After preparing all day we leave Portobello Barracks at 4.30pm. I am riding my grey horse and
finding the cobbled streets very slippery indeed. The Irish people demonstrate against us and are
very unfriendly. Not a very nice send off for us! We reach the docks and embark after much trouble
with the horses on S.S. WESTMEATH (Grenock)”