Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

"War closes in on city"


Recommended Posts


War closes in on city

Mar 28 2001

By David McGrory

DURING the closing week of July 1914 the British public became more than aware that war was getting closer.

On the last day of the month notices were placed in the press and in the streets commanding all soldiers and sailors on leave to return to their barracks.

Early the following morning Coventry station was full of men who left on steam trains which had been specially laid on.

It was Coventry holiday fortnight and crowds left the city to head for the coast. The 7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Territorial, based in Coventry Barracks in Smithford Street, also climbed aboard trains, not to war but to their annual camp at Rhyl.

Life carried on as normal, bands played in Nauls Mill Park, but in the background the nation waited anxiously as the diplomats dealt with the growing threat from Germany.

Negotiations broke down and England delivered its final ultimatum to Germany. People, fearing the worst, returned from their holidays as did the Warwicks who were sent to a camp at Weymouth.

Knowing that war was imminent, Coventry's Colonel, William Wyley of the Charterhouse, called for the formation of a second battalion and men responded quickly.

There was much excitement among the young men of the city as war became imminent. The adventure was about to begin, or so many thought. War was declared on August 4 1914 and returning officers were sent to the city and a centre was set up at the Masonic Hall into which thousands poured.

In total over the war years Coventry gave 35,000 of its sons to the war. In those early days many young men lied about their age because they wanted to escape their humdrum lives, become soldiers and give the Hun a kick up the breeches.

One such young man was my own grandfather, Walter Ernest McGrory, of Court 3, House 18, Hill Street. He enlisted aged 16, one month after the outbreak of war and quickly found himself among the bloody rocks and sand of Gallipoli.

He then fought at Cape Heller and Sulva Bay. By the age of 17 he was a veteran. Back in Gallipoli in 1915, he went through a typhoon after which he was blown up and received 18 wounds. Five months later he was back with the 2nd Regiment of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment taking part in the big push on the Somme.

At Ginchy he, with his captain and 25 other men, moved into German-held territory and held it against attack before reinforcements broke through on the morning of the fifth day.

In 1917 he fought at Arras, then Cambrai, where he was blown up by a gas shell and wounded. He quickly recovered and seven months later was gassed, then came home to recover before returning once again into the thick of it in France. He survived and returned home to Coventry a much wiser man.

My grandfather's story is but one of many thousands of tales which could be told of the men of Coventry and of Britain.

Others were not so lucky , such as my great uncle Ruebin Vince who was blown up - also the fate of my other great uncle Andrew McGrory, who had never before been out of Long Itchington.

The Coventry Graphic during the war years contains page upon page of pictures of proud smiling faces of Coventry's lost SODS. Death became a regular feature and it reports in a rather matter of fact manner that:

" Among a number of local men who have recently fallen in action was Private A Martin. ..whose parents reside at 90 Harnall Lane East, Coventry. He was formerly employed by Singer Ltd, and was 20 years of age. His parents had not seen him for three years ...Private E F Henley, 6th Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed in action on April 1 ...resided at 32 New Street, Coventry, and leaves a widow and two children ..."

So it goes on and on and on, year after year, thousands of ordinary Coventry men, sons, brothers, uncles and fathers, many of whom had never left the city or its surrounding villages before. Some lie in foreign war cemeteries, others became part of the land they were fighting for.

During the war years Coventry turned to war production, with places like the Ordnance Works in Red Lane producing, among other things, naval guns.

The army and navy spent over £40.5 million in Coventry on such things during the war.

The National Filling Factory in Holbrook Lane filled 19,940,000 bomb fuses, 31,060,000 detonators and 9,880,000 grenades.

This factory, like others in the city, had to provide new accommodation for its thousands of new workers who were shipped into the city. These included Munition Cottages, Holbrook Lane, and much of the Red Lane estate.

The threat of warfare from the sky was real but did not materialise. In 1917 a Zeppelin skirted the city and the following year they once again passed over, this time dropping a bomb in the grounds of Whitley Abbey and on the Baginton Sewerage Farm. Fighters took off from Radford Aerodrome but failed to make contact with the raiders.

The Great War ended on November 11 1918. Nearly ten million lay dead. Those who survived gradually returned to their homes, many not able to deal with civilian life after living for years in the hell of the trenches. Many men could not find work and there were many reports of riots taking place throughout the land.

On July 19, 1919, Coventry celebrated with the Peace Procession and Gladys Mann rode as lady Godiva. This procession, one of the best for its excellent costumes, ended with rioting in Broadgate and the surrounding streets.

Many reasons were given. One was that some businesses in Broadgate were German owned, another was that crowds were upset because Godiva rode fully dressed.

It was, however, an event which was taking place nationally because of discontentment due to lack of employment etc. Those who fought in the war to end all wars were promised a home fit for heroes, a promise which never materialised.


Cut and paste from


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi Marina,

Sorry I do not. I found these two articles surfing the net searching for 'Warwickshire Regiment' which I do periodically to see if anything new appears.

For Glasgow, I would suggest performing an internet search using the name of Glasgow Regiment(s) to find similar articles.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...