Thursday 2 April 2015

Diary of a somebody - Frank Simpson's war diary

Frank Simpson (1863-1942) was a prominent figure within his native city of Chester. On his twenty first birthday, he was made a freeman, and from then on spent a large proportion of his time studying the history of the local guilds. He would eventually go on to write several works on the Cheshire Regiment and its headquarters, and in 1913 he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries as a reward for his service. He was also a key member of the Chester Archaeological Society holding a variety of positions throughout his life. He was an avid photographer and his albums and journals survive at Cheshire Archives.

During the First World War Frank Simpson was Quartermaster of the Chester Volunteers formed for home defence in 1914. One of our volunteers has begun to serialise his diaries. Our first instalment describes life in the city at the outbreak of war.

August, Tuesday 4, 1914

War declared by England against Germany. The war office issued an order for mobilisation; notices were placed under the City gates and at the castle the notices were pasted up at the latter at 6:30; by 7:30 pm Territorials and Reservists were flocking to the castle to report themselves. At midnight crowds of people were congregated at the castle gates.

August, Wednesday 5, 1914

Chester was early astir this morning, the streets are crowded with men and soldiers. The Territorials are answering to the nation's call in a patriotic manner. Wagon loads of war equipment are passing through the streets to the various destinations.

The banks are all closed but are to re-open on Friday when one pound, and ten shilling notes will be issued to the public. This is to protect the gold supply. All kinds of food stuff has gone up in price this owing to certain people making raids on the grocers shops etc to lay in a supply. Big crowds of people gather round the doorways, and in many cases the shops have had to be closed in the faces of would be customers. This is not due to a shortage of supplies but to the assistants not being able to cope with the demand owing to the Territorial’s having to report for duty the firms are very short handed. Unfortunately some well-to-do people have land in such stocks they removed it in their motor cars. One person asking for 16 hams, flitches of bacon, sacks of flour, etc. There will be no saving in this as the grocer tells me it will not keep. The only result being that various articles of food have gone up in price and the poor will have difficulty in procuring the necessities of life. Sugar which was at 2 ½ d lb last week is now sixpence, and moist sugars in proportion, meat one penny per pound, butter from 1 shilling 2 pence to 1 shilling 6 pence.

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