In July 1914 my great grandmother, Eliza Anne Smith, went on holiday to Douglas, Isle of Man. On July 4th she sent a postcard to her daughters to let them know how she was getting on.
Dear E + A
Hope you have got over the storm I am glad you are alright as it has been dreadful in places. We didn't have it bad here at all. Had a lot of rain overnight but not during the day. We may come home on Monday but don't know yet. Love to all E.A.S.
I've always understood that the summer of 1914 was picnic-perfect weather but it sounds as though there were some storms as well.
According to the monthly weather report of the Meteorological Office, July 1914 was cloudy but fairly warm; wet in the west and south. Throughout the month the weather was very changeable with an unsettled, thundery period in the first few days. This must have been what Eliza was referring to. For most of the second half of the month there was rain each day although the temperatures were above average for the time of year.
However, after a few more cool and wet days at the start of the month, August 1914 was warm, dry and sunny with "very favourable conditions for the harvest".
Visits to the Isle of Man were popular in Eliza's family. Annie had been there in 1905 and Beattie in 1906.
Arrived at 1/2 past five. Had a lovely passage as calm as the canal. Was not sick but it got very tiring. Beattie
Elsie went in 1908 and as the postcard she sent was dated three days after her wedding day, I think it's safe to assume she went there for her honeymoon.
How are you getting on. It seems ages since we came. We were up on Douglas Head on Wednesday with Lily Firth. She is here for this season. It is crowded with people. Best Love. Yours Elsie
Beattie went back again in 1912 and seemed to have enjoyed herself:
Having splendid weather here just now. We are having a gay time of it too. Best Love B.E.S.
Clearly Eliza didn't have a clue what was to come. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated a few days previously on June 28th 1914 and soon Britain would be at war.
When Eliza was enjoying her holiday at Douglas I.O.M. she had no idea that very soon the holiday camp there would be turned into an internment (or detention) camp. During the First World War many migrants, particularly those of German, Austrian or Turkish origin, who had arrived from countries at war with Britain were interned by the British authorities who referred to them as 'enemy aliens'. In addition to the camp at Douglas, another was purpose built at Knockaloe near Peel, I.O.M.
After Eliza's return from holiday, the international situation changed rapidly. Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28th. Germany declared war on Russia on August 1st and France on August 3rd; Belgium was invaded on August 4th prompting Britain to declare war on Germany the same day.
Thousands of men started joining up and the territorial reserves were into action straight away. I'm currently reading a collection of articles from my local newspaper which records that the local territorial company had been called up by the evening of 8th August and were on their way to war. The newspaper report describes how:
"The greatest enthusiasm has prevailed among the men, and some former members have applied and been accepted."
It goes on:
"Whilst we all deplore the circumstances that have called our townsmen to leave this place, we have this consolation, that they have responded to the call of duty, and hope that they will have a safe and speedy return to their homes and families."
Eliza only had one son and as far as I can ascertain he continued to be a coal miner throughout the First World War.
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