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Regional papers unveil forgotten stories of WW1

Tales of the unexpected have been unearthed by regional papers dipping into their archives to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.

Journalists have devoted thousands of hours of research to bring the events of WWI to the attention of a modern audience.

Reporters at the Isle of Wight County Press uncovered a generous gesture by 70 inmates from Camp Hill Prison who showed their patriotism by “volunteering their trenching skills to help fortify the Island’s coast”, albeit under military guard.

As news of the start of WWI reached the masses a century ago – the traditional Cowes Week was abandoned and The Needles passage closed off to shipping.

Forward march to today and the digital age is clearly winning its own front line battle to inform 21st century readers the length and breadth of UK regional publishing.

The Island newspaper group is offering to retell that piece of global history with a FREE online snapshot of its 8 August 1914 edition to every reader. Click here to download the page:

The 30,000 circulation newspaper – still the lifeblood of information on the Island – has now brought almost every page of 130 years’ worth of editions to an online audience for the first time since its archive went digital in May.

Commemorating the enormity of the world’s first military conflagration has seen other great examples of modern newspaper design.

A few miles along the south coast from the Isle of Wight, the Bournemouth Daily Echo and Dorset Echo both produced an eye-catching ‘Never Forget’ wraparound for their readers while the Channel Islands saw a special 12-page supplement with a memorial front cover to ‘Our Glorious Dead’.

The anniversary has given newspapers the chance to show their charitable side.

Publisher Johnston Press handed over “a sizeable donation” to Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland after creating a unique partnership with the pair as part of a war centenary project.

More than 80 of the regional publisher’s daily and weekly titles all over the UK have been running a series of special supplements over the past 10 weeks chronicling the history of the war.

Over the course of five fortnightly supplements, every facet of the war has been examined, from life in the trenches to the home front, to the many social and historic changes brought about by the conflict.

Every page of the supplement, which reached many thousands of readers, featured the RBL or Poppyscotland logos and many adverts promoting the work of the ex-servicemen’s charities were run in either the supplements, or the main papers.

For Tamworth Herald archive editor John Harper, the paper’s 72-page special WWI memories edition has proved a heart-searching labour of love back into the past.

The ‘Historic Tamworth’ edition reports on the 608 “brave sons” who gladly went to war without a backward glance and never returned .

And for John, the toughest decision was placing a picture of Staff Sgt Thomas Harper – a veteran of the Boer War – on the front cover of the Herald supplement.

The page one featured soldier, with parade-ground stick in hand, was John’s great uncle who died from the effects of gassing in one of the many skirmishes around Ypres in 1915.

“No one escaped being affected by the conflict – either losing a very close relative or family-associated member,” said John.

“Preparing this special Herald edition has for me been a journey of personal discovery, a journey into a bygone age when Britain’s young men (including members of my own family) volunteered to serve their country without question or hesitation,” he said.

“The indelible imprint on history they left behind is a story of incredible bravery, camaraderie, endurance and astonishing self-sacrifice.

“It is also a story of human frailties, of degradation, of massive incompetence and crass stupidity played out in a filthy, hellish world of mud, blood and gore.”

Here are some other examples of how UK regional titles covered the anniversary yesterday.  Both the Jersey Evening Post and North West Evening Mail designed front pages which included all the names of local soldiers killed in the conflict:

Former regional editor and blogger Peter Sands has also compiled a round-up which can be seen here.


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  • August 5, 2014 at 10:41 am

    Well done to these and other regionals for marking the 100th anniversary on the right day when so few nationals did so.

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  • August 5, 2014 at 8:37 pm

    Totally agree with Jim’s comments, and a particular plaudit for the Tamworth Herald’s special edition.
    But sad to see that economic necessity has resulted in some of the page 1 specials carrying adverts, although at least the mobility scooter hire on the front of the South Wales Argus is probably appropriate!

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