News from the Front
Home on Leave (2)
By F. J. Foy
A second extract from Los Pettengell’s interview (Letchworth Citizen – 5th January 1915) is reproduced here. As stated before this article is a soldier’s tale and must in many ways be taken with a pinch of salt.
At the time of the Great War few armies communicated much on the way of information to the troops at the Front. What did come to the fighting soldier was propaganda intended to motivate the men. As a result the troops became sceptical of official information and gossip, together with rumour, became rife. This was not just restricted to the British forces – all armies had the same issues.
The situation at home was little different and the papers often carried inflated tales of British success and limited versions of failure in every theatre of war. Censorship was brought in from the beginning of the War in the form of measures in the Defence of the Realm Act and was enforced even on local papers.
The incident which Los tells the Letchworth Citizen reporter relates to a supposed instance of German trickery which was a frequent theme in both national and local newspapers. As with most narrators of these tales, Los had not been there but had heard of the event. The reader today cannot guess if the story is true or false but the likelihood is that it is fictional.
What the extract does do is to give us an impression of what was being published and perhaps how public opinion was being influenced. It should be remembered that in these days before radio and television the only source of news was the newspaper. The papers were a major influence on the national mood and, therefore, on the country’s will and ability to fight a war.