Britain entered the First World War on the 4th August 1914. The 1st Battalion of the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment (KORL) was stationed in Dover at the outbreak of war and was rapidly moved to France, arriving on the 23rd August. The first Lancastrians to be killed were killed three days later on the 26th at the Battle of Le Cateau. They were John Arkwright of 47 Clarence Street, Edward Armer of 15 Ridge Street, and Thomas Henderson of 84 Clarendon Road. Arkwright and Henderson were with the 1st Bn. KORL while Armer was with the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
1914 was far less severe than the years that were to follow. Only 34 Lancastrians were killed, compared to 67 in May of 1915 alone. Most of those killed were regular soldiers who had enlisted before the war, eight of whom were from the 1st Bn. KORL. Many of these were killed in the Race to the Sea that followed the Battle of Le Cateau. As ever in the First World War, however, the situation is more complex than this. Four naval personnel were also killed. Thomas Adams of 18 Clarence Street, Charles Davies of 89 Lune Street, and Wilfrid Wilson whose addresses are given as 98 Penny Street, 21 Kirkes Road, and 13 Perth Street were all killed on the 22nd September when HMS Cressy and HMS Aboukir were sunk in an ambush by German U-Boats, an action that killed 1,450 sailors. Although the war was less than two months old, this was the second day when three Lancastrians were killed on the same day. John Dunn was killed on 1st November when HMS Good Hope was sunk with all hands near the Falkland Islands. The 1st/5th Bn. KORL, a Territorial battalion that recruited heavily from Lancaster and the unit from which more Lancastrians would be killed than any other, also suffered its first casualty. He was John Huartson (aka John Hewartson) whose addresses are given as 14 Albion Street and 23 Ridge Street. At this stage the 1st/5th was guarding the Great Western Railway near Reading. He was killed when he was hit by a train on the 30th September.
Despite the relatively low casualties, this period began some of the worst family tragedies that Lancaster was to see. Charles Adams was killed on the 26th September 1914. His family lived at 4 Winders Court, Monmouth Street in the area that is now the car park between Moor Lane and Nelson Street. A second brother, John Edward Adams, was killed on 23rd April 1915 with the 1st/5th at the Second Battle of Ypres. A third, Henry Adams, was killed exactly a year after Charles at the Battle of Loos. William Butterworth, who lived with his wife at 15 Albion Street, just round the corner from the family home at 27 Green Street, was killed on the 18th October. He was the first of four brothers killed, their father also died during the war as a result of the devastation wrought to his family.