WHAT was life like as war approached in 1914? By all accounts, people were determined to carry on as usual.

There was little mention of the coming conflict in the three Oxford newspapers – The Oxford Times, the Oxford Journal Illustrated and the Oxford Chronicle (the Oxford Mail did not appear until December 1928).

They devoted their columns, as they had done for many years, to everyday events in the community – cricket, school sports, fetes, gardening shows, village gossip and much more.

In this special edition of Memory Lane, we look at what people in the Oxford area were reading and talking about in late July and early August 1914 in the run-up to the war.

War grounds flight display THE start of the First World War may have been imminent, but the people of Oxfordshire had other thoughts on their minds.

As August 1914 approached, there were few signs of the coming conflict in the local communities – daily life continued much as normal.

The picture on the right was taken on August 3, 1914 at a fete organised by the Court Loyal Blenheim of Foresters.

The Duke of Marlborough had kindly given permission for the event to be held at the Blenheim Palace gardens at Woodstock.

The fete included performances by the Robin Hood Glee Singers and Witney Town Band, and “dancing on the lawn by electric light”.

The main event of the day was to have been a flying display by Marcus Manton, a promising young daredevil pilot.

A large crowd of spectators from Oxford and the surrounding district had been attracted by the promise of seeing him loop the loop and fly upside down.

It had been announced in the morning papers that the Home Secretary had banned all flying in Britain, although it was not thought at the time that the ban would include exhibition flying.

However, it was later confirmed that the prohibition applied to all flying.

The picture shows Mr Manton standing on his plane, addressing the crowd and apologising that the display had had to be cancelled.

He explained that he could not fly owing to the risk of damaging the machine, which might be requisitioned by the Government for national purposes.

Despite aviation being in its infancy, Mr Manton had already delighted crowds elsewhere with his “aerial thrills and skilful manoeuvres”.

Describing his first daring encounter in the air, he said: “I was pottering around a bit and then, feeling it was now or nothing, I pushed forward my elevator lever which started the machine on a sickening vertical dive to earth.

“The speed must have been frightful, for the earth looked as if it were coming up to give me a slap in the face.

“I must have dropped 500ft when I pushed the lever further forward and over I went completely on my back.

“I suppose I was in that position for no more than 10 seconds, but it felt more like 10 minutes to me.

“I was very pleased to find that the machine answered my controls in the most wonderful way and I got round to my normal position with ease.”

  • Memory Lane this week