The Daily Chronicle

The Daily Chronicle was founded in 1872. Purchased by Edward Lloyd for £30,000 in 1876, it achieved a high reputation under the editorship of H. W. Massingham (1895-99) and Robert Donald who took charge in 1904.

Circulation was increased when Robert Donald transformed it into a halfpenny daily. Donald recruited a group talented journalists and artists including Henry Hamilton Fyfe, Philip Gibbs, Phil May, F. H. Townsend and Frank Brangwyn.

By 1914 Donald claimed that the net sale of the Daily Chronicle exceeded the combined sales of the The Times, Daily Telegraph, Morning Post, Evening Standard and the Daily Graphic. The following year the company that owned the Daily Chronicle, United Newspapers Limited, was able to announce that it had made a healthy profit of £43,650.

The Daily Chronicle supported the left-wing of the Liberal Party. At the end of July, 1914, it became clear to the British government that the country was on the verge of war with Germany. The left-wing members of the government were opposed to the country becoming involved in a European war. Although Charles Trevelyan, John Burns, and John Morley resigned from the government, the leader of this group, David Lloyd George changed his mind and stayed. Lloyd George also persuaded Robert Donald and the Daily Chronicle to give its full support to the war effort.

Philip Gibbs and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle reported the war for the Daily Chronicle. Donald also made several visits to the Western Front and in 1915 wrote a detailed account of the trench system.

On 9th April, 1918, the prime minister, David Lloyd George, told the House of Commons that despite heavy casualties in 1917, the British Army in France was considerably stronger than it had been on January 1917. He also gave details of the numbers of British troops in Mesopotamia, Egypt and Palestine.

Sir Frederick Maurice, whose job it was to keep accurate statistics of British military strength, knew that David Lloyd George had been guilty of misleading Parliament about the number of men in the British Army. Maurice wrote to Sir Henry Wilson, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, pointing out these inaccuracies. He did not receive a reply and after consulting with friends and relatives, he took the decision to write a letter to the newspapers giving the true figures.

On 7th May, 1918, the principal newspapers published Maurice's letter accusing David Lloyd George of giving the House of Commons inaccurate information. Maurice, by writing the letter, had committed a grave breach of discipline. He was retired from the British Army and was refused a court martial or inquiry where he would have been able to show that David Lloyd George had mislead the House of Commons on both the 9th April and 7th May, 1918.

Donald took the decision to appoint Sir Frederick Maurice as the military correspondent of the Daily Chronicle. Lloyd George was furious with Donald's decision to employ Maurice and on 5th October it was announced that a group of his friends led by Sir Henry Dalziel, had purchased the Daily Chronicle. Donald resigned in protest and complained that Lloyd George was trying to "corner public opinion".

In 1930 the Daily Chronicle and the Daily News merged and became known as the News Chronicle. Both the News Chronicle and its evening partner, The Star, stopped production in 1960.

Primary Sources

(1) H. Simonis, The Street of Ink (1917)

Many big scoops are to be credited to the Daily Chronicle in connection with exploration. In 1896 it published exclusively Dr. Nansen's narrative of his attempt to reach the North Pole. The explorer received £4,000 for this. Captain Amundsen's story of the discovery of the South Pole appeared exclusively in its columns, and a similar with the accounts of the Shackleton expeditions.

(2) The Daily Chronicle (7th August, 1914)

A newspaper's duty is to give news, but at times of war it has a patriotic duty as well. It must give no news which would convey information of advantage to the adversary.

Throughout this war, The Daily Chronicle will refrain from indicating the location and movements of warships and units of the army. At the same time The Daily Chronicle has taken complete and energetic measures to supply its readers with full intelligence from every part of the war areas.

The censorship that we exercise over our news will not affect its value to the ordinary reader of the paper. The special correspondents of The Daily Chronicle are men of world-wide repute, experienced in war, vivid descriptive writers and brilliant news-getters.

(3) Philip Gibbs described the retreat from Mons in the Daily Chronicle (29th August, 1914)

I have been into this war zone and have seen during the last five days the men who are holding the lines of defence. I have been among their dead and wounded, and have talked with soldiers marching fresh to the front. I have seen the horrid mess which is cleared up after battle and the grim picture of retreat. But nothing that I have seen or heard from either the British or the French leads me to believe that our allies have been demoralized.

It is astounding to see the cheerfulness of our wounded British soldiers at Rouen, where the Red Cross nurses tell admiring stories of their pluck and patience. Yet out of the firing line as well as in the trenches they have had a dreadful time. It is almost true to say that they only rest when they get into the ambulance cart and the field hospital. One of them told me that incessant marching, marching forwards and backwards to new positions, is more awful to bear than the actual fighting under the hideous fire of the German guns.

(4) Robert Donald, Daily Chronicle (August, 1915)

The soil is soft clay, admirably suited for entrenching, tunnelling, and mine warfare - when it is dry. As an outside observer, I do not see why the war in this area should not go on for a hundred years, without any decisive result. What is happening now is precisely what happened last year. The only difference is that the trenches are deeper, dug-outs better made, tunnels are longer, and the charges of explosives heavier.

Everywhere there are trenches, barbed wire, machine guns where they are least expected, and all the complicated arrangements for defence. The trenches are very deep, very narrow, and very wet. Streams of water run at the bottom.

The nearer one gets to the front the more mysterious and wonderful become the methods of defence. You are allowed to peer through an observation post towards the German trenches a few hundred yards away. You see absolutely nothing but a mass of brushwood, broken trunks of trees, hanging branches and barbed wire.

The guns were always at work. On my day of my visit to this area there was an almost continuous bombardment going on. The shells were hurtling over our heads. You heard the sharp discharge, and then the exploding of the shell. You saw nothing. The sound re-echoes through the woods and valleys like rolling thunder. The French fire six rounds to the enemy's one. The object of the cannonading is to disturb any work going on behind the enemy lines.

(5) Frederick Maurice, Daily Chronicle (7th September, 1918)

Why has our Government expressed no recognition of Sir Douglas Haig's leadership and the valour of our men? We are often accused of concealing the performances of our own troops, and of giving the credit to others. This time there has been no concealment, which makes it more remarkable that so conspicuous a success should have been allowed by the War Cabinet to pass unnoticed.

(6) Frederick Maurice, Daily Chronicle (13th September, 1918)

He (David Lloyd George) did right in doing homage to Marshal Foch, but his omission to make any reference to the prominent part played by Sir Douglas Haig in the achievement of the recent victories was very marked. It is a small mind that petulantly refuses to acknowledge the services of a great soldier.

(7) Frederick Maurice, Daily Chronicle (3rd October, 1918)

The British successes on the Western Front since 8th August are much the greatest in scale ever won by the British Army or a British General. Within the period under review General Pershing and General Allenby have received the official congratulations of the British Government, and Mr. Lloyd George has congratulated Marshal Foch. Various private organizations have sent congratulations to Sir Douglas Haig, including the Labour Party and the National Liberal Federation; but the War Cabinet has remained silent.

(8) The Morning Post (17th October, 1918)

It is at least a coincidence that the Daily Chronicle should have thus changed hands at a moment when that journal was developing into an outspoken critic of Lloyd-Georgian policies. Just as there are other ways of killing a cat than choking it with cream, so there are other ways of silencing newspaper critics than by conferring on them the Order of the British Empire.

(9) The Star (17th October, 1918)

One thing we may be certain of there will be no repetition of the leading article which complained that Sir Douglas Haig had never received the congratulations of the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet on his brilliant series of victories. The article appeared in the Daily Chronicle on Thursday morning. On Friday night the Prime Minister's representative had taken charge of the offices of the newspaper and Mr. Donald had resigned. Fleet Street knows the Prime Minister does not spare those who cross his path. General Maurice, who ceased to be a Director of Military Operations when he exposed the Prime Minister's speeches, is now the Military Correspondent of the Daily Chronicle, and it will be interesting to see how long he holds that post.