Patriotic passion or angry anti-German ranting?

By the time the war had been raging for a year you could see the patriotism quite plainly within the pages of the Manchester Programme. In the summer of 1915, the Programme wrote an article dedicated to General Noel Lee and Colonel Hayward of the East Lancashire Territorial division. This could be due to many of the theatres being closed for summer vacation at the time and therefore less show-business to report on, it was patriotic none the less. The patriotism was also prevalent in the concerts, for example, the Brand Lane Orchestra held a ‘concert by the allies’ in October 1915. This concert included a French Bass, a Russian pianist and a Belgian violinist.

One man who had been quite vocal in his patriotism within the pages of the Manchester Programme since the war broke out was their lead columnist, Strephon. This continued into 1915 getting more passionate/angry as the weeks went by. In March 1915 he again complained that not enough professional footballers had enlisted, with only 122 out of the possible 1800 having signed up to fight. He claims to understand that football is a business and also an entertainment which was important to keep spirits high at home but all young men had been called up to fight and without them we would lose the war. The following month he was furious that a German professor had declared that the British people were basically German, he claimed he would rather be compared to “the men whose heads grew beneath their shoulders” as mentioned in Othello, than the ‘baby-killers and pirates’. His patriotic passion seems to have turned to angry anti-German sentiment which gets worse over the next few weeks. None of his columns discuss music or the theatre business between April and June, instead he chose to rant about Germans every week.

In May he was angered by German people celebrating Shakespeare. He claimed his anger was due to Shakespeare being a clean and honest gentlemen and the Kaiser’s soldiers “do not fight with chivalry but more like Lucrezia Borgia”. He adds that he doubts you could find such a clean, honest man in ALL GERMANY!! With this statement he is speaking out against all German citizens, not just the soldiers, so can no longer be classed as passionate patriotism. He goes on to call the Germans “dastards, sneaks, liars, women-beaters and poisoners”. A couple of weeks later, after the bombing of the Lusitania, he adds murders and barbarians to this list of insults and accuses the Germans of poisoning the wells, destroying cathedrals and killing babies.

His ranting came to an abrupt halt the following week after riots began in London, with people attacking German residents and businesses. He commented on the riots saying that this behaviour does not help with the war and that by attacking businesses it is costing British people their jobs. In August he mentions conscription again but uses encouragement rather than shame to entice young men to sign up. People were saying that as long as Britain holds the sea then the army is of co consequence as an excuse for not enlisting but Strephon says we should be fighting alongside our allies on land as holding the sea is useless if Germany win the war. In another article, he says “we are going to beat Germany. Great is the courage and spirit of our soldiers and sailors!”.

Nice to see him return to his enthusiastic, patriotic tone.

by Katrina Ingram