BRITAIN declared war on Germany late on Tuesday, August 4 after a warm Bank Holiday weekend, writes Bob Davies from Ewyas Harold.

Even a month before, hardly anyone had expected this to happen. Many newspapers had not paid much attention to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28.

The Hereford Times reported the murder on a middle page. The threat of civil war in Ireland was the major story of the year. The Hereford Times covered the Irish crisis in depth and, in the last peacetime edition, gave a full report of the speech the local MP, Percy Clive, had given about it the weekend before in Wormelow.

The main local story was the strike by farm labourers over pay, which was around 15 shillings a week. It was only in the last week of July that the European situation changed dramatically. Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28 and by August 3, Germany had declared war on Russia and France. During the Bank Holiday weekend, the main event in Hereford was the show at Merton Meadow on Monday. Among the attractions were a championship cycle race and a ‘Great Whippet Handicap’. Mr George Wood, the “extraordinary jumper” was going to attempt to jump a row of twenty chairs and a table five feet long, and perform certain other amazing feats.

For after-show entertainment, there were around eighty pubs in Hereford. Saturday shoppers had a wide choice and Bradleys, Goldings, Greenlands, Hardings, Wrights (fruiterers), Adams (printers), Philip Morris, Chave and Jackson, Augustus C Edwards, the Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar, Mailes (butchers) John Wilson (florists) and Hillmans (florists) were some of the favourite outlets.

If you wanted to stay in town, the Green Dragon would give you full board for £3.50 a week, which included parking your car and electricity in your room. In Ross-on-Wye, the annual regatta was due to take place. As well as the rowing, there would be a tug-of-war, jousting, an aerial balloon contest and a candle lighting competition, sponsored by Moreland’s England’s Glory matches. The Lydney Town Prize Silver Band provided the musical entertainment. It’s a Long Way to TipperaryAt the Kemble Theatre, Hereford, the film was The Tragedy in the Clouds which was the story of a peasant girl who became a famous actress, before meeting her death in a hot air balloon. The following week there would be a special live performance by Captain Jack Kelly, the “great Australian stock whip manipulator” assisted by his daughter, Miss Violet. At the Kyrle Picture Palace in Ross, Morelli and Moore starred in a musical and specialised act, which would include their Adventures of a Shooting Party. The film was In the Coils of the Python. The following week the “extraordinary comedians” Grice and Allen were booked. The village cricket season was in full swing and for some of the young players this would be their last. Among them was Percy Higley, of Kenderchurch, an apprentice at the King’s Acre Nursery, who scored eight in his last recorded match. Just over a year later, he would die at Gallipoli while serving with the Herefordshire Regiment.

Angling was popular, but enthusiasts were having a hard time and it was reported that 150 salmon had been found dead in the Wye. However, there seemed to be plenty of game around, and the Hereford Times reported: “Sportsmen were likely to have good shooting this autumn”.

Gardeners planning to use the break to tidy up were facing problems. Mr Jones, of the Priory, Kilpeck, had had his runner beans ruined by an early frost. Cycling was very popular, though bikes were still too expensive for some.

The Central Cycle Works at Ross was selling them for £6, equal to several hundred pounds today. For the very rich, cars were now available. Passey and Hall of Ross were selling the Model-T Ford for £125. Not that driving on Herefordshire’s road was much fun. One letter writer pointed out how much better the surfaces were in Monmouthshire.

For longer journeys, the railways were the best solution. The bigger towns had stations, as well as villages like Foy, Peterchurch, Almeley, Pontrilas, St Devereux, and Kingsland. Day trips were available to Barry Island, while the more ambitious could arrange a nine-day tour to Berlin for £7.

Britain declared war at 11pm on the Tuesday. The first summer Bank Holiday after the war was on August 4, 1919. Nearly 800,000 young service people from Britain and its Empire did not live to see it, including some of the 500 farm labourers from the county who enlisted in August 1914. Sidney Box, the union organiser, had called off their strike when war was declared.