The War THE PRESTON HERALD. WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 5, 1914.
Germany Invades Belgium.
IN DEFIANCE OF BRITAIN’S EXPRESSED POLICY.
Government’s Ultimatum to Berlin.
SHIPPING TRADE PARALYSED: HOME INDUSTRIES SUFFERING.
How Preston is Affected.
Everyone has read the events which led up to the present alarming state of affairs in the European War. The dark cloud has now spread over the whole Continent, and England is on the point of being enveloped. Orders were issued last night for the general mobilisation of the Reserves and the Territorials. A second request was sent to Germany asking that the neutrality of Belgium be respected, and asking for a reply by midnight.
Mr. Asquith made this announcement in the House of Commons yesterday afternoon. Information, said Mr. Asquith, tended to show that a German force has proceeded further into Belgian territory, while the German Foreign Secretary had communicated the following message to the Ambassador:-
Please dispel any mistrust that may subsist on the part of the British Government with regard to our intentions by repeating most positively the formal assurance that even in the case of an armed conflict with Belgium, Germany will not, under any pretence whatever, annex Belgian territory. (Shouts of “Oh!” and laughter.) The sincerity of this declaration is borne out by the fact that we solemnly pledged our word to Holland strictly to respect her neutrality.
Mr. Asquith pointed out that this was not considered a satisfactory reply, and consequently the request had been repeated for a satisfactory assurance by midnight.
It was stated last night that it had been learned on excellent authority that Lord Morley, Mr. John Burns, and Mr. C. G. Masterson had tendered their resignations from the Cabinet, on account of their disagreement with the policy adopted by the Government.
It is felt in responsible circles that the exchange of seats necessitated by these three resignations will also involve the appointment of a new Secretary of State for War. It will be remembered that Lord Kitchener was called back from Dover as he was leaving for Egypt, and the opinion is generally held that he will take the burden of War Secretary off the shoulders of Mr. Asquith. If this appointment is made there is no doubt that it will be a popular one, Lord Kitchener having the respect of all classes in the country. And with a man of his experience at the helm, there is no doubt as to the efficiency of the Department.
GERMANS IN BELGIUM.
The declaration of war by Germany on Belgium is said to be officially announced in Brussells, while confirmation to the report that German troops have invaded Belgium is given in a despatch received at the French Embassy in London.
IN FRENCH TERRITORY.
Yesterday (Tuesday) news was received of German forces advancing from Luxemburg in three columns, one towards Longwy, another towards Villerupt, and the third towards Thionville. A message from Givet states that French and German troops are engaged in blowing up each other’s frontier stations.
ITALY STILL NEUTRAL.
In reply to Germany’s representation to Italy to the effect that acts of French hostility on the German frontier imposed on Italy the duty of abandonment of her neutrality and coming to the defence of her German ally, it is stated that the Rome Government has reaffirmed to Germany her attitude of neutrality.
GERMAN AMBASSADOR’S STATEMENT.
The German Ambassador yesterday informed the Foreign Minister that France had commenced hostilities.
GOVERNMENT CONTROLS ENGLISH RAILROAD.
It was officially stated yesterday that an order of the Council had been issued under Section 16 of the Regulation of the Forces Act, 1871, declaring it is expedient that the Government should have control of the railroads of Great Britain.
Reserves and Territorials Called Up.
The following notifications, which officially confirm the announcement for general mobilisation, were issued to Preston last night:-
General Mobilisation, Army Reserve, Regular and Special Reserve – His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to direct by proclamation that the Army Resrve be called out on permanent service. All regular reservists are requested to report themselves at once at their place of joining in accordance with the instructions on their identity certificates for the purpose of joining the Army. All special reservists are requested to report themselves on such date and as such places as they may be directed to attend for the purpose of joining the Army. If they have not received any such directions, or if they have changed their address since last attendance at drill or training, they will report themselves at once, by letter to the adjutant of their unit or depot. The necessary instruction as to their joining will then be given.
Territorial Force. – His Majesty the King having been graciously pleased to order by proclamation that directions be given by the Army Council for embodying the Territorial Force, all men belonging to the said force are requested to report themselves immediately at their headquarters.
Reservists were anxiously awaiting the news before this notice boards where the proclamations were posted, near the Town Hall, and directly the notices were posted they were anxiously scanned by big, strong-looking men with a disciplined air, and many of whom wore their South African medals. “That’s me,” said one big ex-soldier, touching the paragraph referring to regular reserve mobilisation. “Now for a gill, and then for th’ headquarters.” The spirit was one of eager expectancy, and throughout the night the notice was read by hundreds of reservists, who merely for the most part gleaned the information and then hurried away to carry them out.
The time-expired men of the Territorial Force, who on completion of their three years throw themselves out of the force, are rapidly being re-enlisted. At the North Lancashire depot alone on Monday night 132 of the men re-engaged, and yesterday, especially after the works had closed in the evening, there was another rush of ex-Territorials for the depots, more being re-engaged than on Monday night. The war spirit, which so far as Preston is concerned had not manifested itself strongly up to Monday night, was awakened yesterday with a vengeance, even the pacifists of the day before agreeing that England had no alternative but war, and they were caught in the general wave of patriotism that had set in.
THE “TERRIERS” RETURN.
The 2nd West Lancashire Brigade, R.F.A. Territorials, who left Preston in special trains for a fortnights training at Buddon, near Dundee, on Saturday, were expected back during the early hours of the morning. The special trains which had conveyed the companies to Scotland had been detained near the camping ground, ready for orders, which were promptly put into action when they arrived. It is expected that the company will be ordered away almost immediately to some spot on the East Coast.
SCHOOLS TO BE UTILISED
For Mobilisation Purposes.
Preston’s position would make it one of the principle centres in the event of general mobilisation and it is reported that, should mobilisation orders be given in Preston, all the schools in the district, including those controlled by the Corporation, the Roebuck Street Council School, the Deepdale Council School and Grammar School and Park School and also the Public Hall would be utilised as military billets. The Park School and Grammar School would be temporarily turned into staff headquarters. The arrangements for such a move were completed some time ago, when the buildings were visited and estimates taken of their possibilities.
The Wach Committee of the Preston Corporation at a meeting held yesterday gave permission for the billeting of troops in the public buildings of the town when required. Sixteen members of the police force are army reservists.
The Preston Territorials of the Royal Field Artillery were expected to leave Buddon, Dundee, for home, at four o’ clock this afternoon.
THE REGULARS CONFINED TO PRESTON.
The officers and men of the Regular Forces stationed at Fulwood Barracks are, until further orders, restricted to the town. Men on leave are being hastily recalled.
THE WAR AND TRADE.
Foodstuffs from the Colonies.
The sudden and marked rise in the price of grain and flour which took place on the declaration of war between Austria and Servia affords an indication of the effect that war must have on the ordinary life of the inhabitants of this country, apart altogether from the possibility of Britain herself being involved in the struggle. But our exports of manufactured goods to Austria for 1911 and 1912 respectively were roughly four and a half million and five million pounds, and in 1913 we sent Austria-Hungary cotton yarns and woollen goods to the value of over a million. The trade in these commodities is bound to suffer as the result of the present war, and the Bradford and Lancashire districts will be the first and greatest sufferers. Some gauge of the drop likely to occur may be made from the figures of trade with Turkey at the time of her war. In 1911 we sent cotton piece goods to the value of £5,416,362, and in the next year, as the direct result of that war, these figures dropped just on a million pounds. Austria-Hungary sent us in 1912 sugar worth £3,500,000 and eggs worth £422,000. A prolonged campaign would inevitably reduce these figures and correspondingly raise prices here. We are largely dependent on Russia for grain supplies that the stoppage of her exports owing to war would affect prices here almost beyond calculation.
All these facts are the most direct and striking arguments in favour of the encouragement of our Colonies to produce foodstuffs sufficient to render us independent as far as possible of foreign countries. The recent rise in the price of grain might easily have been much more severe but for the receipt of reassuring cables from Canada on the prospects of a bountiful and early crop in the great grain-growing provinces of the West. Fortunately the acreage under wheat in the prairie provinces has been considerably increased this year, and, still more fortunately, the bulk of the area is under an early wheat which is already “in ear” and is likely to be ready for cutting some weeks earlier than usual.
A Loyal Response.
No less than seventy men were required to bring the Chorley Territorial Force up to full strength, and on Monday an appeal was made. There was a whole-hearted response, which resulted in 75 men being enrolled, apart from a number who had to be rejected by the medical examiner.
The young men of Chorley gallantly responded to the bellman’s call to join the local company of the Territorials. The company was about 70 men below war strength. Now, however, the company is more than full. Apart from those willing to volunteer but who were unable to satisfy the medical officer, 76 men were enrolled on Monday. A public meeting was held on Tuesday to further strengthen the cause of the Territorial Association in the Chorley district.
Warning to Workers.
At a time when the mill hands are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the holidays, the week usually of reckless extravagance, threats of a dark future are calling forth warnings by all responsible persons.
When the banks open again after the extended holiday, on Friday, we are informed in the most authoritative banking circles, that the demands of the mill holiday funds will be met, although it was not yet known whether the payments will be made in gold or in Bank of England notes. There is no necessity whatever for alarm, or any reason to doubt that the trade of the country is not sound. During the war everyone will experience a period of inconvenience, that neither high nor low could avoid. The reason for extending Bank Holiday was undoubtedly to prevent a panic rush, for which there was no occasion. The banks of the country were so well organised that nothing need be feared.
Here, too, a warning note was struck. It was impossible, we were told, to see the far-reaching effects of the present crisis, and the workers should avoid extravagance so that, if hard times followed, they would not be left destitute.
In another quarter it was said: “We are right up against the calamities of war, and I beg the working folk of Lancashire to watch their expenditure, to cut off luxuries, and to save every penny for the future, for we know not what is in store. If our sheds stop, wages stop. Union funds only last a certain time, even if doled out with care. Prices of food of all sorts are going higher and higher. Less and less means to buy dearer and dearer food – what does this mean? I don’t want to invite fear. I speak as a friend, and very earnestly. We shall need all our resources.”
The Co-Operative Stores offices closed on Tuesday night, but this need occasion no alarm, the reason being that while the banks are closed they are unable to get supplies to meet the demands. On Friday again, however, they will reopen, and they will have no difficulty in responding to their members’ demands. Tuesday was a busy day at the office, the clerks kept busily at it until closing time.
PROCLAMATION IN PRESTON.
There has been feverish excitement in the town during the last four days, the special editions of all the papers with the latest war news having been eagerly snapped up. Crowds, too, have stood around the proclamations, that have been posted in Preston, for extending the service of time-expired men in the Royal Navy; for calling out officers of the Royal Naval Reserve, and Royal Fleet Reserve; the officers and men of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve; for postponing payment of certain bills of exchange, and authorising the Lord Commissioners of the Admiralty to requisition any British ship or British vessel within the British Isles or the waters adjacent.
Crowded chars-a-banc have passed through the town, while the passengers have lustily sung “Rule, Brittannia,” and other patriotic songs, to the cheers of the pedestrians in the streets. Everywhere intense excitement prevails, and groups stand around discussing the one subject of war, few being in doubt as to the duty of Britain.
PROVISION SUPPLIES CURTAILED.
Preston has been materially affected, like other places by the great European war, which threatens not only havoc and devastation on the Continent, but almost famine prices and starvation at home. At the present time, our representative learns, precautions are being taken by all firms in Preston to eke out their supplies to as near as possible meet the demands of all their customers, but in view of the greatness of demand for certain articles which the wholesalers themselves cannot obtain, they are experiencing considerable difficulty.
There is a strenuous curtailment of the supply of flour, the price of which is rapidly advancing. Upon making inquiries at Messrs. I. A. Ley and Sons, the Preston millers, our representative was informed that they were having increasing difficulty in getting supplies of flour, and in one instance were unable to get a supply they had previously ordered at Liverpool, their carts being sent away empty. Despite this, the demand upon the part of the housekeeper is being persistently made, and in order to cope with it the shopkeeper has to restrict the quantities purchased by his customers. The wholesale price of sugar is also rapidly advancing, and only by selling in limited quantities can the provision dealer meet the demand. Bacon has risen 1d. and 2d. per lb. in retail price, but grocery provisions generally, apart from those imported, are little affected.
AT THE CO-OP.
At the Co-operative Stores, prices have been slightly increased with a view to protect the poorer members of the Society and to prevent the buying up of large quantities for further retailing purposes. We were informed that they were fairly well stocked with goods, but they had to restrict the individual supplies of flour, etc. Efforts, it is said, are being made by the Society, however, to ensure to its own members all reasonable supplies of provisions.
The local trade in biscuits has greatly increased. Messrs. Powell’s have been called upon to supply both the War Office and the Admiralty with “fig” biscuits and other well-known brands of the firm’s products. In addition the general public is laying in a big stock of these commodities.
In one instance of which our representative has been informed, a Prestonian has laid in a stock of provisions to last him for twelve months, and similar actions are being taken by people in all parts of the town.
The rush on the part of the public to purchase flour, etc., led, on Monday, to two of the largest provision shops in Preston having to close down on account of the depletion of their stocks. Several other shops closed at five, but the assurance that there is sufficient corn in the country for a four-months’ supply has had the effect of stopping the panic.
The supply of coal is also liable to be curtailed, although at present little can be said as to the effect it will have upon the private consumer.
The small house shop grocers, who live from hand to mouth, are feeling the pressure very keenly. One such told a “Herald” representative yesterday that sleep had been unknown for two nights. “The trouble is,” he complained, “that travellers will not quote us prices, or guarantee delivery. That, apart from the tremendous increase of cost, is worrying me, since I cannot carry a large stock, even if I could afford to, owing to limitation of space.” This difficulty has been added to in many cases from the fact that the small shopkeepers have in some instances been clearing their stocks of sugar, flour, and other necessaries at last week’s prices, when the larger stores have raised the cost to the consumer. This has resulted in a run on the small shops, who in some cases are almost cleared out of stock. This it is thought is causing the worry following upon the travellers’ refusal to guarantee delivery. The small trader has no power to enforce his demand for supplies; he is entirely at the mercy of the wholesale houses, and he is learning it now that he is up against the bigger buyers and better businessmen.
Alarm is expressed by those engaged in the cotton trade, although upon enquiries being made by our representative at several of the largest cotton mills in the town, it was stated that a crisis such as the present one had not been experienced in the present generation, and it was impossible to predict its effect upon the Lancashire cotton industry. Apart from the war trouble, the trade has been suffering, and there are now six mills in Preston closed, two of which have been shut down for a considerable time. In other mills the hands are said to be “weaving up,” so that the looms will be idle after they have completed the work until there are favourable conditions.
One member of an influential cotton firm, referring to the effects of war, said he thought there was no doubt that it would mean a considerable curtailment of the production owing to the interference which will be caused to shipments. It was impossible to ship all our foreign goods owing to the prohibitive cost of war risk insurance, and this would result, in the event of the mills continuing to run, in a big accumulation of stocks. There would have to be a considerable curtailment of production all round until shipments could be safely resumed. “I think there is an immediate prospect.” He added, “of running reduced hours, and that it is very necessary to warn the workpeople to husband their resources, because if this state of affairs goes on there is bound to be a general curtailment.”
He had heard, he said, of no proposal for the limitation of output or the closure of mills from the employers’ associations. It was for each firm to take its own course.
Sir Charles Macara, the chairman of the Cotton Spinners’ Federation, and one of the greatest experts upon Lancashire’s industry, to a Press representative said it was impossible for the workpeople to realise what was in front of them. He had been seeking international peace for years. The international Federation of Master Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers’ Associations and the International Institute of England had worked hard for ten years to provide more adequate supplies of the two prime necessities of existence in food and clothing. The good work which those international organisations have accomplished in the promotion of greater efficiency in carrying on the world’s work will to a large extent be nullified by an extension of the war which would prove equally disastrous to victor and vanquished. He hoped that the efforts to localise the war would succeed. Meantime the position seemed terrible. Stocks were accumulating very rapidly, and that could not go on long. It was a terrible state of things, he said. There was going to be famine and the evils which always follow wars, and everybody should take care of their resources.
The stocks in the mills are rapidly piling up, and it can only be expected that many machines will be closed down. Sir Frank Hollins, the chairman of the North and North-East Lancashire Cotton Spinners and Manufacturers, is engaged with the other heads of East Lancashire organisations, all of whom are impressed by the gravity of the situation.
In many instances cloth merchants have stopped deliveries, and this predicts more evil results for the weavers.