It was a Wednesday, and the first day of a new parliamentary session 1914-15. King George V (Queen Elizabeth’s grand-father) reigned.
As is the tradition, King George V read his speech as part of the State Opening of Parliament. The speech (written by the government) sets out the government agenda for the coming session. In 1914 the agenda was fairly brief, and had only one topic; the Great War.
“His Majesty’s Most Gracious Speech
Gentlemen of the House of Commons [women could not vote, nor stand for Parliament until 1918] You will be asked to make due financial provision for the effective conduct of the War.
My Lords and Gentlemen The only measures which will be submitted to you … are such as seem necessary to My advisors for the attainment of the great purpose upon which the efforts of the Empire are set.”
The Parliamentary debates hold valuable primary content, giving excellent insight into the feelings and atmosphere of the time. Indeed, in the following debate on the content of the speech there is mention of a Captain Arthur O’Neill, who, on the 6th November 1914, became the first serving MP to be killed in action. He was the MP for Mid Antrim, and was killed near Ypres.
Mr BONAR LAW:
“On the benches behind me there is one absent, whose face we shall not see again. He is the first –I am afraid he is not the last- of our own number who has paid with his life his debt of duty to his country.” (Debates on the Address, 11.11.14, Vol. 86, Col. 14.)
The Parliamentary Debates are available from Level 7 of the library, and Maps, Official Publications and Statistics Unit staff will be happy to help with using this collection.