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Remembered Today:

Grief v Government


Desmond7
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Here's the story:-

AS newspapers researchers will be well aware, 'paid for' insertions in deaths columns for WW1 KIAs were the exception rather than the rule (definitely the case in NI).

Most of the 'obits' appeared as 'news items' in the editorial columns of the papers.

BUT - I have noticed at the top of the 'Births, Deaths, Marriages' a Goverment injunction which strictly forbids inclusion of Btn no. and theatre of operations in any 'death notice'. This appears first in July 1916 - which tells its own story.

NOW - no. 1 - ALL the deaths notices seem to flaunt this injunction. I.E. they contain a Btn. no. and often state (e.g.) 'Ulster Division' and it would not take James Bond to find out which theatre this Btn and indeed Div. was serving in!

no. 2 - What is more, the 'new item obits' not only give these details but often go into further detail about the man and his unit.

Did public grief and the wish to share that grief (and information) with a local community over-ride this Government injunction?

I note that later that 'news item obits' merely state regiment and not btn. (which makes life a pain for researchers). Did the censor clamp down once the out-pouring of 1st July grief had passed?

Anything similar across the water?

Des

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When you refer to "Censor" are you meaning censored for local consummation. To keep the people in dark that is or are you meaning for Military Intelligence reasons. Keeping the enemy in dark.

I often think that one of the reason that the wastage could go on was that nobody really knew what was happening, in the number killed/wounded/maimed, outside their local area.

Keep them in the dark under the guise of Military Intelligence.

Never found anything to prove that this was a deliberate course of action.

Liam

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Liam - I assumed the little Government notice (will post full text later) was a round-robin text sent to all newspapers of the time. I can only think that it would have come from the censor's office?

Thinking behind it .... probably had a military intelligence reason.

I suppose Germany COULD have worked out just how badly hit any specific service btn had been if they had the time and resources to scan through the provincial press. My own opinion is that the Germans knew pretty much that a lot of these btns. had been decimated on the Somme 1st day !

It is worth asking just how much of a 'morale blow' all those notices of ''He was a member of the xth Btn. McAlpine's Fusiliers" had on local communities?

At the end of the day I think the notice was bureacracy overkill, the public and paper proprietors thought the same and said 'to hell with it' .. we'll do our local lads justice?

Des

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When you refer to "Censor" are you meaning censored for local consummation.

My wife frequently censors me for local consummation! :D

Seriously though, gents, while accepting all you say above, I would have thought the Germans could get a count of our casualties by simply flying over no man`s land and taking photos. Any bodies west of their front line must be ours. Or didn`t such techniques exist then? On the censorship question, I suspect that the attitude of the military after 1/7/16 was probably "If in doubt, censor it". Phil B

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Guest 2contemptable

Hello Des,

Interesting stuff, I have not come across the censorship note to which you refer. In Armagh (Lurgan Mail) obituaries did not appear until after the battle of the Somme. These appeared in the style which would not look out of place today.

All give the dead soldiers name and regiment sometimes with a little verse and details of his family. Quite a few refer to the local UVF unit to which the soldier belonged as opposed to his battalion and regiment. These obituaries only seemed to last for a while and then for whatever reason they appear to have gone out of fashion. In subsequent years In Memoriam columns remembered those lost at the Somme, however they did not appear after the battles at Messinnes or Langemarck.

In any event, the paper regularly provided updates listing the names of those killed, wounded, missing and medically discharged their regiment, unit or ship was also printed. Needless to say they were very large indeed.

There is an interesting note by the editor of the Lurgan Mail where he states that the paper would no longer print private letters from friends of a dead soldier which informed relatives how they died, as this caused the families some distress. Have you encountered anything similar?

Regards

James

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James - The 'news column obits' do not change much after 1916 in Ballymena. The only major difference is lack of btn no.

I have only one ref. to the sensitivities of people at home.

The old 'Observer' in Ballymena had an Editor who also wrote under the name of 'Bab McKeen' . He wrote in the vernacular and regularly tore into the establishment ...

He says in the July 14 edition of Observer (bear in mind it's a weekly) that 'some o' the letters that ah hae seen wud mak ye greet. They cudnae be put in tae the paper.'

I would give the proverbial limb to see what those lads were writing. But I can only assume that some of the REALLY bad ones got the blue pencil treatment.

I still find fairly frank accounts of deaths later in the war.

Des

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Guest 2contemptable

Des,

He sounds like a hoot! While the subject matter was undoubtedly tragic it must be entertaining to read his opinions on the key subjects of the day...there's a lot to be said for speaking the truth in plain language...at least what passes for plain language in Ballymena :D

Regards

James

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