Unsung Heroes of WWI: Journalists of WWI

George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)
Image Credit: George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress)

On the build up to remembrance day we are bringing you stories of unsung heroes from the Great War to remember those from both the front line as well as those back home.

Journalists in WWI

The outbreak of World War I saw the obsession of the British Government’s need to censor the story themselves and they began to police how the story was told to ordinary people. The Defence of the Realm Act was passed in August 1914 which gave the government executive powers to suppress published criticism, imprison without trial and to commandeer economic resources for the war effort. The act stated:

“No person shall by word of mouth or in writing spread reports likely to cause disaffection or alarm among any of His Majesty’s forces or among the civilian population”

The Act paved the way for outlaw journalists of whom Lord Kitchener, the “face” of WWI, unashamedly promoted his hostility to. With his new found authority Kitchener banned journalists from the front line and set up a new Press Bureau made up of five journalists whose work would be officially authorized before becoming publicised.

One of the punishments that would have arisen for outlaw journalists was actually execution. There are reports of Kitchener actually stating that journalists would be shot. One of the outlaw journalists, an outlaw journalist who had been arrested many times already for promoting the real goings on of WWI, upon his final arrest he stated that he was detained for ten days by the British military and said that he was then told that if he ever returned to France he would be placed up against a wall to meet unpleasant consequences.

Later months saw pressure from principal newspaper proprietors in London forced Lord Kitchener to concede a role to five official war correspondents, one of which was Phillip Gibbs (Pictured Above).

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