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The Great War

The conflict of The First World War or Great War lasted from August 1914 to November 1918. The war pitted the Central Powers - Germany, Austria-Hungary, and Turkey - against the Allies - France, Great Britain, Russia, Italy, Japan, and from 1917, the United States. It ended with the defeat of the Central Powers. The conflict was virtually unprecedented in the slaughter, carnage, and destruction it caused.

The direct cause of the war was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, Sophia, Duchess of Hohenberg, at Sarajevo in June 1914. However, historians believe that a number of factors contributed to the rivalry between the Great Powers that allowed war on such a wide scale to break out.

Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th, 1914, and on August 9th the British Expeditionary Force began embarking for France to fight what was to become the largest and most costly conflict in the history of the British Army.

In August 1914 the British Government called for an extra one hundred thousand volunteer soldiers to come forward. The ensuing recruitment poster campaign was the brainchild of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee, a board set up in the early days of the war to bolster the number of British troops. A wide variety of posters were commissioned and displayed in public areas like train and bus stations, and on billboards and hoardings.

In these early days, recruiting offices were besieged by volunteers. Public buildings were turned into new offices across the country and additional administrative and medical staff were employed to process the thousands of men eager to fight. Some areas experienced such a rush that they sent men away with an appointment to come back another day, and although most men waited patiently for their turn, there were reports of queue jumping and mounted police being sent to control the crowds in some cities and larger towns.

Enlistment rallies were held in towns and villages across the country. The Duke of Rutland addressed meetings around the Vale of Belvoir with rousing speeches urging his tenants and estate workers to join-up and fight for their King and Country. 

All new soldiers had to meet age restrictions, nationality criteria, and pass a medical examination. The aim was to reject those with health conditions or a physique considered unfit for the rigours of a soldier's life.

When the rush of recruits was at its peak, the height limit was raised from an original 5 feet 3 inches to 5 feet 6 inches to prevent an unmanageable flood of volunteers although it was subsequently lowered in response to dwindling numbers of new recruits. In the chaos of the early months of the war, a blind eye was often turned to official standards, and examinations could be brief and hasty, allowing many underage or unfit men to slip through into the army.

After taking the Oath of Allegiance to King and Country a recruit's transformation from civilian to soldier began in one of the numerous training camps which were set up all over Britain. The volunteers left their old lives far behind, over several tough months they learned military discipline, drill and how to fight with rifle and bayonet. Men from every walk of life were crammed together and for many it was their first time away from home.

The Army struggled to supply new soldiers with everything on the uniform and equipment list. Officers were expected to buy their own uniform from a military outfitter, but everything from boots and trousers to caps and vests had to be hurriedly produced and distributed for the other ranks. Learning how to use a rifle was a critical part of a new soldier's training, but weapons were in desperately short supply and many had to make do with a wooden rifle until a real firearm arrived.

Many of the new recruits thought the war was an opportunity for an adventure with friends, but when it became clear they wouldn't be 'home by Christmas' and victory was more than a matter of months away, enthusiasm dwindled.

The efforts of the Parliamentary Recruiting Committee resulted in the enlistment of 750,000 men by the end of September, and by January 1915 more than one million had joined the armed forces voluntarily, but by mid-1915 volunteer numbers were falling fast. In January 1916, when numbers of volunteers failed to match the rate at which they were being killed, the government introduced the Military Service Act which specified that single men between the ages of 18 and 41 were liable to be called-up for military service unless they were widowed with children or ministers of religion. Posters were displayed throughout the country setting out the facts of this new legislation and encouraging men to enlist before the act came into force. Conscription began on March 2nd, 1916, and the act was extended to married men on May 25th.

It is estimated that more than nine million soldiers were killed in the First World War with 21 million more wounded. Civilian casualties, indirectly caused by the war, numbered close to 10 million. Of the 45 men with a connection to Goadby Marwood who enlisted, eight died as a result of the conflict. Other local villages suffered a similar or greater number of casualties: Belvoir 2, Scalford 24, Bottesford 27, Redmile 13, Eastwell 5, Stonesby 5, Wycomb 1, Muston 11, Woolsthorpe 23, Waltham 8, Harston 3, Branston 5, Sedgebrook 3, Sproxton 7, Stathern 12, Plungar 6, Barkeston 5, Knipton 13, Eaton 13, Saltby 2, Croxton Kerriel 16, Thorpe Arnold 6, Long Clawson 18, Granby 10.

At the peace conference in Paris in 1919, Allied leaders would state their desire to build a post-war world that would safeguard itself against future conflicts of such devastating scale. The Versailles Treaty, signed on June 28th, 1919, would not achieve this objective. Saddled with war guilt and heavy reparations, and denied entrance into the League of Nations, Germany felt tricked into signing the treaty. As the years passed, hatred of the Versailles Treaty and its authors settled into a smouldering resentment in Germany that would, two decades later, be counted among the causes of World War II. 

WW1 Memorial Plaque.jpg

Memorial Plaque in St Denys' Church commemorating the men of Goadby Marwood

who were killed during the Great War

The men of Goadby Marwood who fought during the Great War

To learn more about the individual soldiers of Goadby Marwood who gave their lives for their country follow the links below:

Herbert Scarborough KIA 22 Aug 1915

Harry Bottrill KIA 11 Mar 1916

Cecil Thomas Foister KIA 03 May 1917

William Henry Pizer KIA 17 Aug 1917

Albert Edward Essery KIA 01 Oct 1917

Gerald Edgar Ellis KIA 01 Oct 1917

Harry Armstrong KIA 15 Jul 1916

John Thomas Pears DIED 02 Sep 1918

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