Thursday, 17 July 2014

Countdown to War, Day 20. 17 July 1914: a suffragette martyr, more trouble with Carson, the Royal Navy assembles, French airmen get lost

One hundred years ago today, on Friday 17 July 1914, Martin the railwayman would have discovered from his Manchester Guardian that the authorities had succeeded after all in keeping Emmeline Pankhurst from attending the votes for women meeting the day before. Two days ago the paper had quoted her fellow suffragette Mrs Mansel saying that “Mrs. Pankhurst was going to the meeting on Thursday evening, and nothing could stop her.”

There’d been an attempt to get her there; she’d emerged from the house surrounded by the “announced ‘bodyguard’ of clergymen and doctors” who would attempt to prevent her being re-arrested.

Emmeline Pankhurst
Didn't make it to the meeting
Following them came Mrs. Pankhurst on a stretcher, accompanied by some nurses. She was covered with a black evening cloak and looked very pale. A nurse endeavoured to enter the motor ambulance, but was prevented by the police.

In the meantime, Mrs. Pankhurst had been lifted into the motor ambulance, followed by another nurse. Chief Inspector McBrien and Inspector Parker sprang in immediately afterwards. While this was happening a uniformed policeman had got on the seat beside the driver, and before the crowd had fully realised it Mrs. Pankhurst was on her way to Holloway
[women’s prison].

“The women still got £15,000 in contributions,” said the young man reading the article, “despite the arrest.”

“Despite?” said the Cynic, “Because. Nothing’s so effective for getting sympathy as martyrdom.”

Home Rule legislation for Ireland was entering its final stages in Parliament. Compromise between Protestant opponents of Home Rule and Catholic nationalists looked as remote as ever.

Communications have taken place to-day between the Prime Minister and Sir Edward Carson. What the result of these was cannot be known, but it may be assumed that no settlement is at present in sight, and that the chance of one is at the moment slender owing to the persistence of the uncompromising attitude taken by the Ulster leader in Belfast last week and since he returned to London.

He smiled a wrily.

“Carson’s a lawyer, but his movement is stockpiling arms. Illegally. Criminally. And the government’s crawling to him. Why don’t they arrest him? Why aren’t they interrogating him instead of negotiating with him?”

“Hold on,” said one of this workmates, “he’s a patriot. He wants to keep the United Kingdom united. A kingdom with Ireland in it.”

“What’s a crime for some,” said the Cynic, “is just a different way of doing the right thing in others. If you’re a loyalist, whatever you do’s loyal, illegal or not.”

Meanwhile, Parliament kept talking about legislation for Ireland. Well, he wished them luck. Legislation was at least preferable to war. And there was no war so bitter as civil war.

Talking of war, what was happening in Europe generally? There at least the alarming news items from yesterday’s paper seemed not to have been followed up by further worrying developments. Unless – what should he make of the massive assembly of the fleet now under way at Portsmouth? Sea and air fleet, in fact – he needed to get used to the fact that there were now airborne weapons too.

Nearly five hundred war vessels comprising the British Home Fleet will be assembled at Spithead during the week-end for the ‘test mobilisation’ and inspection by the King. The first contingent, including most of the bigger battleships and cruisers, steamed into the Solent yesterday and provided a fine spectacle.

It seemed that there had been a “splendid response” to the Admiralty’s call for reservists, “17,000 of whom have joined for eleven days.”

Reservists called up?

The “newly-created air service” would be on display. Overall, the exercise would involve the “most powerful fleet ever known” to have been deployed.

He couldn’t make up his mind whether this was just for show or preparation for something more sinister.

Another story was about “French Airmen Detained”. It sounded bad, but wasn’t. Or perhaps it wasn’t. He couldn’t tell whether there something sinister behind the apparently ridiculous.

A couple of French airmen mistook the Black Forest, in Germany, for the Vosges, in France, got lost and had to land on German soil. It all ended well (though God knows what sort of reception the two flyers came home to), as the Guardian reported:

The army headquarters at Carlsruhe have decided that the aviators shall be allowed to return after a protocol has been drawn up.

He didn’t know what to make of that. Either the French air service was so incompetent that they couldn’t work out where that highly sensitive frontier ran, or they were spying on Germany, which as well as being sinister enough in itself, meant they weren’t smart enough to get away with it, which showed worrying incompetence.

Either way, it wasn
’t a story to inspire much confidence in our Entente Cordiale partners.

French Air Force
Needed to learn not to confuse mountain ranges

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