The Poole First World War Timeline is a fascinating chronological catalogue of events from 1914 to just after the end of the War. It brings to life the impact of the war on Poole and those who lived in the town against a backdrop of the major historical events. It is appropriate that this point has been reached as August 8 is the centenary of the Battle of Amiens which was a major turning point in the war and marked the beginning of the end of the conflict.
The timeline is being created using the resources of the Poole History Centre and, in particular, the East Dorset Herald newspaper so as to bring a local aspect to an international conflict.
Each record has information about an event for a particular day and there is often a link to more information which means that the timeline can act as a gateway to further resources. It is also not a static record because new or additional information is always being added.
But what can we learn about the First World War and Poole? The timeline describes major events, such as the Battle of Verdun, the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, and the Battle of Jutland, but its uniqueness is that it places these against the effect of the war at a local level.
So, for instance, we learn that a letter was published in the East Dorset Herald on 7 September 1914 asking for the loan of bicycles to help Poole Sea Scouts patrol Sandbanks. This was an important role because many places along the coast were fearful of spies being landed and there were concerns over a possible naval attack.
The First World War was a time of social change within the town. It was considered noteworthy that, as reported in the East Dorset Herald newspaper of 2 September 1915, three women were now working in the Poole postal area.
The First World War involved everybody in the town. A tank, which was a British invention, visited many towns and cities in the country to raise funds for the war effort. When one came to Poole in June 1918, Poole Secondary School pupils were praised for purchasing over £1000 of war certificates.
What has been surprising when looking at the local newspaper is just how much was done through charity and fund-raising. For example, money was raised for many local hospitals, such as the Cornelia Hospital, to look after wounded soldiers, to provide food parcels for POWs and to provide warm clothing for soldiers. It also extended to providing, for example, hospital and refreshment vans. We take for granted the National Health Service and the Welfare State and it is hard to understand what life would have been like in their absence at a time of major disruption. Families were being torn apart through bereavement and wounded soldiers needed hospitals and after-care. There was great uncertainty and social upheaval during the war, but this continued after the Armistice was signed when hundreds of thousands of men returned home not knowing if they had a job, a home or a family.