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© Barns Green - A Local History of The Great War 2014
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Today   we   are   quite   used   to   sensational   stories   in   the   press   and   many   people   treat   the   contents   of   some   newspapers   with   a   high   degree of   scepticism.   During   the   Great   War   newspapers   were   the   main   source   of   news   for   the   whole   population.   There   was   no   TV   or   radio   and in   the   early   years   of   the   war   the   British   and   German   Governments   used   propaganda   stories   to   justify   the   war   and   to   persuade   their citizens to do whatever was needed to win the war. The   British   press   at   this   time   was   largely   owned   by   men   who   were   themselves   part   of   the   political   establishment   and   they   were   keen   to stay   in   favour   with   the   Government   ministers   who   were   their   friends   and   social   contacts.   In   addition,   journalists   were   not   allowed   to   go to   the   front   line   and   see   for   themselves   what   was   happening.   All   the   papers   could   do   was   print   what   the   Government   or   the   Army   told them about, or what they learnt through gossip and story-telling. This   story   printed   in   the   West   Sussex   County   Times   in   1915   is   a   typical   example   of   a   report   which   seems   to   have   elements   of   truth   but which does not bear scrutiny. REWARDS FOR SHOOTING BRITISH OFFICERS The   Manchester   Guardian   reports   a   remarkable   speech   delivered   by   Lieutenant   General   Sir   Henry   MacKinnon   at   a   dinner   in   Manchester on   Monday.   General   MacKinnon   related   a   story   told   to   him   by   a   relative   whose   company   in   the   trenches   was   much   troubled   by   a   sniper who   was   located   with   great   difficulty.   He   was   shot   finally,   and   when   his   body   was   reached   an   order   was   found   on   him   deputing   him   to snipe   British   Officers.   He   had   in   his   book   particulars   showing   that   he   had   killed   no   fewer   than   50   officers,   and   it   was   apparently   a   rule   of the   German   War   Office   that   a   reward   was   given   for   each   officer   killed   when   the   claim   had   been   scrutinised   and   allowed.   The   sniper   was required   to   state   the   exact   position   where   the   officer   was   killed,   and   give   particulars   about   his   regiment   and   so   on.   No   claim   was   allowed until   it   had   been   tested   by   reference   to   the   casualty   lists   in   British   newspapers   and   in   the   case   of   this   particular   sniper   25   claims   were allowed, for each of which he had received a reward of 50 marks (£2 10s). British   soldiers   had   more   pressing   concerns   than   recovering   bodies   of   German   soldiers   —   and   the   German   authorities   also   had   little time   to   spend   pouring   over   the   chaotic   casualty   lists   which   were   sometimes   printed   in   English   newspapers.   Snipers   on   both   sides   of   the trench   divide,   were   not   picky   about   who   they   shot   and   would   shoot   anyone   unwary   enough   to   show   themselves   above   the   trench   walls, and   it   is   highly   unlikely   that   the   average   sniper   would   be   unable   to   identify   a   head   as   belonging   to   an   officer,   never   mind   the   Regiment to which he belonged — so the modern day adage applied then — don't believe everything you read in the papers!  
Propaganda
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