After four months of war the Allies and Axis nations had met at the Marne and undergone a series of battles and manoeuvres which would result in stalemate along the Western Front. Both sides had suffered appalling losses but in December 1914 the fighting would stop briefly for a Christmas Truce. In Goole the storey of the war was passed on in the local newspapers and in this blog the reporting of the war over Christmas during the First World War will be examined.
Upon reading the Goole Times of the period it is noticeable that there are no tabloid headlines and the format of the newspaper continued throughout the war largely as in the pre-war era. It was not until the later war years that the editions became shorter reflecting shortages of paper. In many ways the newspapers represent a normal Christmas period with adverts for Christmas shopping and news from within the town. The main reference to the war can be found in an article on page two which outlines the sermon “Are Angels Still Singing” by Reverend H G smith of the United Methodist Church. The sermon explores the paradox of celebrating Christmas during war time and asks the question of how a can a war between two Christian countries be justified, and indeed the ultimate question of how can the Christian faith be justified in a time of conflict. The lesson of the sermon concludes that Christians should show patience as God’s methods are always slow and that one should believe God still rules. The moral judgement of celebrating Christmas during wartime is not reflected in the paper with a large number of Christmas adverts and a page dedicated to Christmas recipes. A further article refers to how the Goole Volunteers joined the National Volunteers’ Association. An article for Christmas recruitments announced that recruitments will not be sent to depots until after Christmas, unless desired.
Throughout the paper further references are made to Christmas shopping and food recipes. Mixed in amongst these are details of local and national news, details of a Christmas party for War Children and the proposal of a relief fund and memorial. Further war news is detailed in two small articles about the bombardment on the east coast and the death of Captain Hind. Considering the Country was moving towards all out war very little news of the Western Front is reported. However, on the home front Christmas would be as normal with a page of Christmas recipes and those not serving could enjoy a Christmas Day Matinee Show at the Carlton.
As the War progresses the format of the newspaper remains the same. In 1915 amongst the general news and adverts articles appear titled ‘Christmas presents for Soldiers’, ‘Goole Soldiers experience’ and ‘In a Dug Out – Snaith Soldiers Graphic Description’. Details of war causalities and lists of war dead are also reported in the newspaper. Alongside these articles are advertisements for Christmas shopping.
Again, the 1916 Christmas edition of the Goole Times features Christmas adverts and local news with limited details of the war. Although as the war progressed alongside the shipping lists and wanted notices the lists of dead start to appear and pages start to be dedicated to the missing and war dead. The scarcity of food during the war is still not apparent as a page is dedicated to ‘Good Things for the Christmas Table.
Although not known at the time the final Christmas of the War in 1917 showed no change in the approach to newspaper publications. The same Christmas articles feature and news of the home front continue to be prominent. The war does begin to feature more prominently in the newspaper with further articles and details of causalities appearing in the paper.
As the war ends in 1918 the first peace time Christmas for four years arrives. Despite the end of the war the lists of war causalities and war articles are a still a prominent feature of the newspaper. The newspaper also starts to feature articles and letters suggesting ideas for war memorials. The peace time newspaper features a large number of Christmas adverts and attention turns towards home news and international relations with news of the general election of an article warning about the ‘Growing Bolshevik Terror’.
Throughout the war the newspaper still featured Christmas adverts and split reporting between war news and local and national news. The format and layout of the paper remained largely unchanged throughout the war, with the main changes been the addition of casualty lists and details of the war dead. Despite the terrors of war the Christmas spirit was evident throughout the War and despite war time restrictions both Soldiers and Citizens continued to celebrate Christmas as best as the war time conditions allowed.