There was a lot of patriotism and confidence in the first weeks and months of the war, both in the nation and in Rossendale. People thought the war would soon be over and the idea that ‘our brave soldiers will deliver a bloody nose to the Germans and be home by Christmas’ was commonly spoken of.
In this account from August 1914 of local men going off to war this belief is seen when the reporter says: “The campaign is bound to be over quickly when the British Expeditionary Force teams up with a promised 100,000 Canadian volunteers to make an early landing in France. Experts say casualties will be light.” How wrong this report was. The war lasted four long years and the casualties suffered by the British and Commonwealth troops were the highest ever known in history.
AUGUST 1914 – “ROSSENDALE has stirred … and the Kaiser must be quaking in his boots as thousands of Rossendalians saw their brave husbands, boyfriends and sons off to war.
Thousands of cheering witnesses thronged the streets as smiling servicemen marched along Bank Street and along Bury Road to muster points at Hollingworth Lake, Bury and Turton. Brussels has already fallen to Germany and Liege and Namur are in their sights. The French are preparing for what looks like an inevitable Belgian collapse.
But Rossendale is determined that the Empire will deliver a bloody nose to Germany and sent its men off to war with cheers ringing in their ears … and full breakfasts cooked by church people.
First to go this week were the East Lancashire Territorial Forces. Nearly 20,000 men headed for Turton and many passed through Rawtenstall. Woman and children were among the most enthusiastic witnesses and church-women and boy scouts have already started making calico nightshirts for the soldiers expected to be wounded.
The day after the Territorial Forces went, there were more stirring scenes as the Rawtenstall Company of the 5th East Lancashire Territorial Arm Service Company left its Cloughfold HQ. Large crowds waved flags and cheered as Captain Kenyon, of Brynbella, mounted his horse and led other horse officers, 14 wagons and a large detachment of men on foot through Rawtenstall and along Bury Road.
Crowds were even larger when the 5th Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment, complete with regimental band, passed along Bank Street and Bury Road. Their splendid marching precision won the heartiest enthusiasm from the crowds. Of 1,020 men, 923 have volunteered for foreign service and thousands lined the streets. Crowds even cheered when they stopped at Townsendfold for breakfasts that had been prepared three miles away at Woodtop Mission Church.
The campaign is bound to be over quickly when the British Expeditionary Force teams up with a promised 100,000 Canadian volunteers to make an early landing in France. Experts say casualties will be light but a larger-than-expected congregation gathered this week at St Mary’s Church, Rawtenstall, for a special service of intercession.