Kidderminster's role in reporting the war

AT WAR: Colonel John Thursfield at Foncquevillers in June 1916.

AT WAR: Colonel John Thursfield at Foncquevillers in June 1916.

First published in News Kidderminster Shuttle: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter

A RECENT article in the The Times highlighted the significant role a Wyre Forest man played in informing the public about the events of the First World War.

The feature, which profiled the journalists who reported the happenings of 1914 to 1918 for the national newspaper, included a naval correspondent who was born in Kidderminster in November 1840.

Sir James Thursfield, who lived in the town until 1855, was The Times’ chief authority on the Royal Navy and its tactics and strategies during a time of evolution in thinking about war at sea.

His reputation for technical knowledge meant he was listened to by a succession of First Lords of the Admiralty, including Winston Churchill, and for a period was Admiral John Fisher’s most valued ally in a wide-ranging campaign for naval reforms.

He was also known for his balanced articles and his insistence that “I am no blind apologist for the Admiralty”.

The Kidderminster man was “an outstanding correspondent and a naval authority” who provided “independent, fair-minded comments during the darkest days of the First World War”, according to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Peter Davies, author of The Times’ piece earlier this month (August), added he “expounded week after week his thoughts on ‘The state of the Navy’ in measured articles”.

The Thursfield family’s contribution to the war effort did not stop at Sir James’ journalistic endeavours on a national level.

One of his relatives Colonel John Thursfield was an important local figure in Kidderminster who also rose to prominence during the fighting, serving in France as commander of the 1/6th Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment.

He participated in the Battle of Passchendaele and after being wounded three times was awarded the Military Cross for bravery in the field.

John Thursfield, a qualified solicitor who later worked in the family’s legal firm, was also well-known as the part-time town clerk in Kidderminster, having held the position for 36 years from 1911 to 1947.

In 1971, following his death, The Shuttle reported “he could never be faulted for the effort he put into his work” as town clerk.

“During the petrol rationing he rode to his office on horseback and also rode 75 miles in a day on one occasion to visit a client in Wales.”

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