How The Bucks Herald covered momentous events of 100 years ago

Shot of Bucks Herald comment from August 8, 1914
Shot of Bucks Herald comment from August 8, 1914

We’re very fortunate at the Herald to have access to our archives going all the way back to the newspaper’s beginnings in 1832 – a fascinating window on past life.

While the thick dust on many of the annual tomes suggests they have hardly been touched, the 1914 edition contains many post-it notes inserted by reporters from over the years, no doubt working on stories covering the various anniversaries to mark the outbreak of the First World War.

With no pictures, a front page filled with adverts and solid blocks of text it is easy at first glance to think the war was not being recognised appropriately. The mobilisation of the Territorials and departure of the battalion is presented alongside reports of Fat Stock sale prices.

But start to read the stories of tight small print and the emotion is all there.

The Saturday, August 8, 1914, edition reports: “To say that Aylesbury has been in a state of excitement and unrest during the week would give but a faint idea of the many scenes which have been witnessed.

“The general impression one gained in the crowd was that it was only just beginning to adapt itself to a state of things which had hardly previously entered into the average imagination ...’

The Bucks Herald editorial showed the paper was well aware of the horrors which lay ahead: “We are faced by a situation of unprecedented national stress and danger.

“One of the most terrible tragedies in the history of the world is being enacted in close proximity to our own shores ... our national rights are now seriously menaced ... the situation is indeed of the very gravest character.”

Reading (and touching) the original newspaper on which these words are printed is enough to give you goosebumps.

More than anything, it makes all the tragedy that unfolded seem so real, so close to home.

Almost all of those who survived the First World War are no longer with us, which can make the conflict seem distant, unrelated to modern life.

But reading through those old copies of the Herald shows those whose lives were so hugely affected by the war weren’t some ancient people with vastly different outlooks and customs, they were just like us, with the same hopes and fears.

They even read the same local newspaper.