August 17, 1917

The columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph once more brought readers news of sons of the town, killed in action in the fields of France or Belgium. This time it struck still closer to home.

Private Claude Boden had been a member of staff at the Telegraph at the outbreak of war and a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.

He had been working at the VAD Hospital when the first batch of wounded arrived in town, and enlisted in November 1915 in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He had been drafted out to France in January 1916.

Boden had been on active service for 20 months and had not returned to Derbyshire since going out.

“He had two arduous experiences in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, in the second of which he received a slight leg wound,” read the report of his death.

He later took part in action near Albert and marched on Bapaume in the Spring of 1917.

“Later, when on the Hindenburg Line he had a narrow escape of being taken prisoner.”

He was killed on July 31 during the Great Push and Private Fred Clare wrote to his mother:

“He was one of the best, as I know, having been comrades for over 12 months. His sunny nature and cheerful disposition won him many friends.”

Also remembered was Charles Ward, of the Seaforth Highlanders, who had been killed near Ypres on August 3. The family had received two letters. The first, addressed to his father, from Lieutenant Todd, brought news of his death and said his comrades would miss his ‘cheerful voice and witty remarks’. The second, longer, letter was from Ward’s chaplain, William Cranford, and was addressed to his mother.

He reported that ‘Charlie’ had been almost out of the shelling area when he was killed.

“I confess that it was with personal sorrow that I heard the news. I knew him – we all knew him so well – but I knew him as well and better than most.

“I have seen him binding others’ wounds on the battlefield and Charlie was ready to give us a song – as he said once – ‘to cheer the men’. He showed splendid perseverance and cheerful endurance, and none of those who knew him will ever forget him or the example he showed.”

And it was a telegram, followed by a letter from her son’s commanding officer that must have brought both fear and hope to Mrs JW Samuel of Sandybrook.

The telegram said Lieutenant FA Samuel, who was serving with the East Surrey Regiment had been reported missing on August 5, believed to have been taken prisoner.

The letter that followed read:

“During an attack yesterday Lieut. Samuel had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by the enemy, but as far as we know (and we believe it to be correct) he is not wounded.”

Lieutenant Colonel Knapp told Mrs Samuel that the Germans treated prisoners much better than earlier in the war and said he had no doubt she would soon receive a letter from her son.

“I much regret the fact of losing Lieut. Samuel, as the battalion can ill spare such an efficient officer. I have again put his name in for recognition of services.”

Samuel had a few weeks previously been recommended for distinction and spent some time back home. He had only been back in the front line a few days when he was captured.

Other men were less enthusiastic about serving ‘King and Country’. Alfred Hill, 21, of Compton, was charged with being an absentee under the 1916 Military Service Act. When questioned at his home as to why he had not reported to Bakewell on July 31 said he had not received his papers.

The Telegraph’s report detailed his responses when questioned by police:

“He had received some addressed to Alfred J Hill, but that was not his name. He added that he had thrown the papers into the fire. On August 9th witness [Constable Billyard] served him with a railway warrant and asked him to report at Bakewell at 9am on the following morning. He replied, ‘I shan’t go’. Witness had again seen the defendant at 9.15am that morning, and in reply to his questions said ‘I shall not go either for you or anyone else.’ The railway warrant and other papers had gone the same way as the other papers.”

Hill pleaded guilty, was fined the minimum 40s, and handed over to the military authorities.

Food supplies continued to be seriously depleted as a result of the German U-Boat blockade. As a result in July 1917 the Food Controller, Lord Rhondda, fixed the prices of essential foods and local food control committees were set up by both Ashbourne Urban and Rural Councils to enforce the Food Controller’s order.

The Ashbourne Telegraph’s Notes of the Week observed:

“The order, if rightly administered, will ensure everybody getting a share of the staple foods and will do away with the insidious food hoarder – who is despised by both the public and grocers alike.”

Sugar was already rationed but it was anticipated that meat and bread were likely to follow.

One man and four women were fined for breaching food regulations in Derby. Henry Warren was fined £2, while Catherine Harrison, Mary Castledine, Edith Bunting and Emelia Clay were each fined £1 under the Fruit Preserving Order by obtaining sugar ‘other than the purposes for which it was issued’.

The Food Controller also issued an order under the Defence of the Realm Act compelling anyone involved in the ‘production, purchase, sale, distribution, transport storage or shipment’ of meat to notify him of their business.

“Don’t Marry A German” was the eye-catching headline on a lineage advertisement on the back page. The Matrimonial Circle had arranged many happy marriages, it claimed, urging would-be brides to send 6d for an ‘introductory journal’ containing hundreds of genuine advertisements ‘appealing to all classes’.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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August 10, 1917

Although there was no news report of the incident in the Ashbourne Telegraph, the Notes of the Week Column on the front page celebrated ‘the Press Correspondents’ unanimous praise’ of the gallant Sherwood Forester’s capture of Westhoek on the Ypres Salient.

“The story of their determined fight in the marshy land which they had to traverse will rank with any of the memorable incidents of the war. The men struggled on in a vile morass, the mud and water being two feet deep, and sometimes waist deep, in which they spent the night, exposed to a terrific barrage fire from the enemy, and after that succeeded in beating off the determined counter attack by the German hordes.”

In hindsight the Ashbourne Telegraph piece could be described as an understatement. Passchendaele, sometimes known as the Third Battle of Ypres, is infamous for the number of casualties – both Allied and German – but also for the hellish conditions caused by persistent heavy rain – which resulted in a quagmire in which men and horses drowned.

The ‘Great Push’, which started on July 31 and was to last for more than three months, was described by Nigel Farndale in the Sunday Telegraph on the 90th anniversary of the battle, in 2007 in a moving personal story.

“On the occasions when the rain lifted, a pall of foaming black smoke hung over the battlefield, blotting out the sun. More than half a million Allied troops and a quarter of a million German were killed during the fighting ­– and often the dead would be buried under a deluge of soil only to be disinterred by the next shell, and reburied by the next.”

Read the full article here

In sharp contrast was news of a busy August Bank Holiday in England, with reports that holiday resorts in the Midlands, along the west coast and ‘even up from Scarborough’ reportedly ‘full up’.

“It is possible that our people are feeling more confident as to the ultimate result of the war and as a consequence have set aside and ‘nervy’ feeling which they might have possessed at one time, or on the other hand they might possibly be growing more ‘war hardened’ by three years of constant experience of the effects of the war, and realise that however heavy the burden ‘brooding over it’ will not help in any way to remove it.”

The author gave no indication which of the two circumstances he considered to be the most accurate.

The ongoing conflict was the subject of a further piece in which the writer questioned those who thought the war would be over quickly and decisively:

“When Lord Kitchener predicted that the war would last three years his prediction was received in certain quarters with scepticism and doubt. His prediction has been fulfilled, which proves that his estimate of the enemy’s strength was not overrated.”

He said a friend of his, who had spent six years in Germany and only arrived in the UK on the eve of war, had predicted that Germany would never be defeated by force of arms, but could be beaten financially and economically.

Among other ‘Local Military Items’ was news of two more Ashbourne deaths and two more soldiers wounded.

Private William Thacker of the Royal Garrison Artillery had been killed on July 31, and his wife informed by the wife of a fellow soldier. Thacker, who had one child, lived in Sturston Road, Ashbourne, and had previously worked for Mr G Gaunt and Messrs P Birch and Sons.

Lieutenant WAM Boissier, son of a former curate at Ashbourne Parish Church was reported to have accidentally drowned. Boissier, too left a widow and a child.

The dramatic tale of how Sergeant Joseph Hughes was wounded was told in a blow-by-blow account, described in a letter home from a hospital in France.

Hughes told his mother that at about 4am on July 31 the Manchester Regiment, in which he was serving, went over the top and succeeded in reaching the German second lines.

“He was in the act of jumping into a German trench, when, owning to the slippery nature of the ground, his foot slipped and he was precipitated into the trench. A German on top of the trench tried to bayonet him, but he managed to catch hold of the bayonet with his right hand, cutting his thumb severely in doing so. He stuck to it however and the German then drew a dagger and jabbed him in the palm of the left hand and in the elbow. Luckily at that moment somebody shot the German dead, thus effecting the escape of Sergt. Hughes, who had been caught at a disadvantage. He was unable to fire his rifle as it was clogged up with mud.”

He was reported to be progressing well at the 18th General Hospital.

Hughes, who had previously been employed at Barton’s brass foundry in North Leys, joined the Sherwood Foresters in October 1914. He had three brothers also serving.

A wounded Kirk Ireton soldier who stayed at his post despite being wounded and facing great danger had been awarded the Military Medal. Private Dean, son of Mr and Mrs Dean of Mill Field Farm, had been serving at Mount Sorrel near Ypres in June. He had since recovered from his injuries and returned to the front line.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog



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August 3, 1917

One of the first men in his village to volunteer for military service, on August 14, 1914, was Tom Hadfield.

From a home and job in Parwich, Hadfield signed up with the 1st Lincolns and found himself involved in some of the bloodiest encounters in the Dardanelles.

“On one occasion his battalion went into action 621 strong, and at the end only 16 were unwounded.”

The paper reported that he had received a bad shoulder injury and was treated for six months at a hospital in Cairo before being sent to France, where he met his death on July 16, 1917.

News of his fate came in a letter to his sister from Lieutenant TW Oldershaw, published in the Ashbourne Telegraph. He told of how Hadfield’s body had been buried in the village churchyard, within sound of the guns.

A second letter was also reproduced:

“I am sorry to send you such bad news. Poor Tom Hadfield was killed last night, or rather early this morning. I must say I am deeply grieved more than I can say, for Tom and I were very good chums, and I do not know what we shall do without him. He was the next man to me on the Lewis machine gun, and a finer, steadier fellow I never saw. We were just coming back from the line to the reserve line, but Fritz seemed to know all about it for he shelled us very bad. I can assure you Tom did not suffer, as he only said ‘Oh’ and all was over. I cannot say any more except I know Tom died trusting in God.”

This touching message letter was signed Private P Pearce.

Private Wilfred Frost of the Sherwood Foresters who had been wounded by shrapnel in the knee was home in Ashbourne on leave. Prior to signing up in August 1915 he had been employed by Mr JC Prince of the Green Man Hotel.

Such was the power of gossip surrounding the call to arms that one man felt it necessary to take out a Public Notice in the Ashbourne Telegraph to set the record straight.

“Owing to the persistent rumours which have reached him that he is about to be called to the Colours, Mr LV Sadler, Dental Surgeon, Ashbourne, desires to state that he is over age and therefore not liable for military service.”

The role of the Military Tribunals and medical examinations was lampooned in a ditty on the back page:

Solomon Grundy
Called up on Monday
Took ill on Tuesday
Worse on Wednesday
Exempted on Thursday
Called up on Friday
Passed ‘A’ on Sunday
That was the Scandal
Of Solomon Grundy!

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog



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July 27, 1917

July 27, 1917

In the 21st century, news of bereavement is often shared via social media, but before the advent of such digital technology the local paper was the first port of call for those intent on broadcasting their loss.

When news of the death in action of J Hellaby reached the family home his brother ensured the Ashbourne Telegraph was informed in time for it to be included in that day’s edition.

“We regret to record the death in action of Signaller J Hellaby, of the Sherwood Foresters, intimation of which has been received by his brother, Mr R Hellaby this morning.

Signaller Hellaby was, before the war, employed by Mr T Edge, Dig Street, for several years, and he joined up in October 1914. He took part in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion, and was subsequently drafted out to France in September last, where he was killed on the 7th inst. He leaves a wife, but no family, and to her and other bereaved relatives the deepest sympathy is extended.”

Elsewhere on the page was a paragraph of news of Sergeant H Wibberley, who had been featured in the previous week’s edition. He had been promoted from Platoon Sergeant to Company Sergeant-Major. Wibberley, of Old Derby Road, Ashbourne, went out to France with the town’s Territorials.

Another convoy of wounded soldiers had arrived in Derby aboard a special train, arriving at the Midland Railway station at 10.30pm on the Monday night. There were 156 casualties, 100 of whom were taken to the Royal Infirmary and the others to Eggington Hall Hospital.

There was a detailed report of the Pedigree Stock sale held at Yeldersley Home Farm on behalf of Captain H FitzHerbert Wright MP. It was estimated there were a thousand people present, including the great and the good.

The star lot was Darlington Cranford 80th, a dairy cow, which fetched 450 guineas and was sold to Sir Gilbert Greenall. The article stated that the Yeldersley herd had one of the best milk records in the country.

Ashbourne was marking National Baby Week with a variety of events organised by the Ladies Committee, the first having taken place two weeks previously when a procession of Ashbourne children was held, followed by a an open air meeting in the grounds of Ashbourne Hall.

This week a ‘large and appreciative audience’ watched the film Motherhood, shown on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ashbourne Empire.

A public meeting on Tuesday heard the chairman of the Urban Council, Mr H Coates say that infant mortality was a ‘serious menace to the nation’ and he had a message for parents.

“This great war had made it more and more incumbent upon them to nourish and safeguard their children and give them every chance to grow up to healthy manhood and womanhood.”

Miss Walmsley, the headmistress of the kindergarten school said that of every million children born in the country, 150,000 died before reaching their first birthday.

She added to the grim statistics by pointing out a further 150,000 died before the age of five and a further 130,000 were still born – a shocking three out of every seven babies never reaching adulthood.

She called for better education, better housing, and maternity and infant welfare centres; quite a progressive list of demands.

And she gained some support from an influential source, Dr Boswell, GP.

“He warmly endorsed Miss Walmsley’s remarks, adding that although the war was a terrible thing, they should remember that life itself was a fight from the very beginning.”

He called on fathers to take responsibility, with the mother, for training their children.

“He said it had always been his ambition to have attached to the hospital a Maternity Centre, and he hoped, in time, a Creche.”

And in an early example of healthy eating advice continued:

“The first and greatest enemy to life was dirt, and the second was wrong diet. From the cradle to the grave wrong diet killed more people than anything else.”

There was a poem printed on the front page of the paper, written by Edwin Hudson of Mayfield. It may not be of the quality of the celebrated war poets such as Wilfred Owen, but would likely have conveyed the sentiments of many of the paper’s readers.

Camp Time Recollections.

Three years have passed since when, with joy and laughter,
Our Terriers went to camp.
With no stray thought that war would follow after,
Their joyousness to damp.

Each greeted each on that fair Sunday morning,
The full-grown man and boy.
With ne’er a care beyond the fortnight’s training,
Their pleasure to alloy.

With contempt they treat the scornful wailing,
“These men will never fight.”
“England’s last hope” and “Saturday Soldier” hailing.
They met with gesture bright

For in their hearts they knew the pledge they’d taken,
Would some day be revealed.
That in the future slander would be shaken,
And truth be unconcealed.

Three weary years against the Kaiser’s boldest,
Have they endured the strain;
And none did yield from youngest to the oldest,
Nor shrink at death or pain.

Three years of active warfare long and dreary,
Exposed to rain and sun,
Yet though the fight is long and limbs are weary,
They rally and fight on.

Month after month on fields of France and Flanders,
Their ranks have thinner grown;
That homes on banks ‘tween which the Dove meanders,
May not be overthrown.

Now to the remnant left we send this greeting;
May heaven protect each one,
Wives, Children, Mothers, soon may you be meeting,
And lasting peace be won.

(Edwin Hudson, Mayfield 23.7.1917)

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog



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July 20, 1917

News reached the town of a military promotion for a young Ashbournian. Private FS Coates, son of Mr and Mrs CH Coates of The Square, had been granted a commission in the Royal Flying Corps.

Previously apprenticed to chemist James Osbourne he was, for two years, chief dispenser at Red Cross Hospitals in France. He then joined the Artists’ Rifles and then gazetted to the RFC.

In the same column, the typesetters were able to update the page as new information became available:

“News has been received that Pte FW Wood, of the Sherwood Foresters has been dangerously wounded. He is the youngest son the late Mr John Wood of the Ashbourne Dairy, and brother to Miss Wood of Church Street. Later messages state that he is progressing favourably.”

The regular King and Country column featured two more servicemen whose talents and bravery had been recognised.

Sergeant H Wibberley, 23, serving with the Sherwood Foresters, had gone out to France as a Lance-Corporal in February 1915, but soon rose to the rank of Sergeant and then Platoon Sergeant. Earlier in the year Wibberley, whose mother lived in Old Derby Road, had attended 3rd Army School and he had since been offered a commission.

Second-Lieutenant FA Samuel, of the East Surrey Regiment, had been recommended for a medal for his bravery on July 8.

“He was recommended for the Military Cross for gallantly leading the remnant of his company to the attack on some German trenches, which they captured and held for several hours till reinforcements arrived.”

There is further evidence that the production of the Ashbourne Telegraph was becoming increasingly difficult. In previous weeks publisher’s statements announced that the staff had been severely depleted by losing men to the forces, and, increasingly, the columns were being filled with national snippets rather than locally-produced copy. This week at the top of the News in Brief column on page 2 was a paragraph admitting that the previous week’s feature on the sale of shorthorn cattle at Yeldersley Home Farm had been reprinted from the Derbyshire Advertiser –“to the editor of which our acknowledgements and thanks are due”.

Also making a comeback this week was fiction, in the form of a short story, Miram – A Sussex Sketch, filling a large section of the back page.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog



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July 13, 1917

Heavy German shelling on the morning of July 1, 1917, took the young life of Ernest Simmonds, who had enlisted in Kitchener’s Army nearly three years earlier.

Lance Corporal Simmonds, from Clifton, was just 23 when he died, and it fell to his friend Alf Bennett to break the news to his parents in Bond’s mill yard.

“Ernest was hit by a piece of shrapnel and killed instantly. He was a good soldier and a true pal, always willing and quite fearless. His loss will be deeply felt by the men of his section with whom he was a great favourite.”

Simmonds who had, before joining the Sherwood Foresters, worked at Bond’s mill and been a prominent member of the Hanging Bridge Football Club.

His brothers Herbert and Richard were also both in the Army. Herbert was said to be undergoing treatment for wounds in Birmingham, while Richard, who had been injured in the German mine explosion which killed nine of his comrades, was on active service in France.

Other families, too, had received news from the front of their sons. Mr and Mrs G Collier of Compton Street were told their son Fred had been wounded and was now in hospital in France. He had previously been wounded in the Dardanelles, with the Lincolnshire Regiment. He was one of four brothers serving.

Richard Hart, whose parents were formerly Ashbourne residents, had also been wounded for a second time and was in hospital in France. His bother John had been killed in April 1917 when a shell fell as he tried to rescue some men from a barn.

Gunner WH Hand of the Royal Garrison Artillery, coincidentally a cousin of Hart, was reportedly in hospital in Liverpool having received serious injuries to his foot in an accident in France. Hand, the son of Mr Hand of Harley Thorn House in Market Place, Ashbourne, had previously been invalided home, but had returned to France.

Also injured was Sherwood Foresters’ Company Sergeant-Major G Dakin, whose home was in Union Street. He was being treated at Sheffield for wounds received in France, where he had served for over two years.

One of the lesser-known impacts of the war was on the supply of bowler hats, with the Ashbourne Telegraph reported that a shortage was practically a certainty.

“Although millions of men are in the army the makers have lost so many men from the factories to the Forces that they cannot even meet the lessened trade demands. In many case they have not yet delivered hats ordered for last spring. Most hats now cost 75 per cent more than in pre-war times.”

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog



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July 6, 1917


A military medical examination which decided if men were fit for service with ‘The Colours’












An extraordinary confrontation took place at Ashbourne Rural Military Tribunal, where Sir Hugo FitzHerbert, of Tissington Hall, was applying for an exemption for 26-year-old JW Wright, whom he described as ‘odd man about the place’.

The tribunal heard that Wright had joined the army, but in the course of training had been injured and discharged with poor eyesight, but new regulations meant he had been called up for re-examination and passed for restricted duties.

“The man should never have been called up again,” said Sir Hugo, “it’s absurd. He is not fit for any kind of service.”

Chairman: “But he has been passed in class B2, how do you account for that?”

Sir Hugo FitzHerbert: “Oh, I expect the doctors have been got at. Perhaps the military representative gave the doctor half-a-crown to pass him in the class.”

Mr Peveril Turnbull [military representative]: “Are you suggesting that I gave the doctor half-a-crown to pass this man in this class?”

Sir Hugo: “Yes, I have told you before in private that you are quite incapable of carrying out the duties of military representative.”

The report continued with the Chairman telling Sir Hugo that the tribunal could only deal with the decision of the medical board. Sir Hugo made a further, unreported, comment which he was asked, and agreed, to withdraw. He was told the application was being refused and he retorted that he would appeal against the decision.

Lieutenant S Cursley of the Recruiting Staff at Normanton Barracks intervened to address Sir Hugo:

“I hope you will conduct yourself in a more gentlemanly manner when you appeal again. I think your conduct here this morning has been most ungentlemanly and if you had made such remarks to me I should not have let you off so lightly as Mr Turnbull has done. Here is a man coming to do his duty to his country, while you are skunking behind doing nothing.”

News had reached Ashbourne of the death of Private George Roe who was serving in the Cyclists Section of the Sherwood Foresters. The son of Mrs Roe, of Green Lane, Clifton, he had joined up in the early days of the war and died from wounds received on June 28.

A Tissington soldier, who had been severely wounded in France, resulting in having a leg amputated was said to be ‘progressing favourably’ in hospital in Blackpool. Signaller A Charlton joined up in February 1916 and went out to France with the 2/7 Sherwood Foresters in March 1917.

A paragraph called on readers to inform the paper of news of their loved ones.

“Will relatives of Ashbourne and district men on leave from the front or who become injured or killed, kindly send us details as soon as possible ? There is no charge for the insertion of such news.”

The confident predictions of 1914 that the war would ‘be over by Christmas’ would have been a long-distant memory by July 1917, but predicting the end of the conflict was still a topic of interest. According to the British Weekly the views of American and French experts was “that two year is the shortest period named by the most optimistic for the end of the war”.

A sportsman of some repute was reported to have succumbed to ‘failing health’ after being injured in France. Charles Dexter, of Derby, who had played football for Ripley, Ilkeston, Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth and Brighton and Hove had joined the Sportsman’s Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, but was invalided home after about six months in France with ‘septic poisoning’. Dexter, who was also described as being “a cricketer of no mean order” had been discharged from the army and died aged 27.

Bizarre attacks on three stallions in two separate incidents in Rocester and Clubley were reported.

“There have been dastardly outrages in the neighbourhood, recalling the Great Wyrley cattle maiming incidents of a few years ago, valuable entire horses being attacked in their stables and being seriously mutilated.”

In the first incident Conqueror XXII had been stabbed overnight at Blakeley Farm, Rocester. The wounds were so severe that the animal’s intestines protruded and it subsequently died.

In the second attack, on the same night, two horses in loose boxes at a farm in Clubley were badly injured. Both were said to have suffered ‘deep ugly cuts’ inflicted with a sharp knife. Clubley Forest King had sired offspring which had broken sale records at Ashbourne Foal Sales, while Roycroft Forester was brother to Roycroft Forest Queen, considered one of the best mares in the shire horse world. Both animals in the Clubley incident were expected to recover.

It was thought the culprit must have known how to handle horses, but also been prepared to risk being injured himself.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great Warblog




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June 29, 1917

The deaths of two village men was the most prominent news item in the Ashbourne Telegraph as June drew to a close in the summer of 1917.

Private George Mellor of the Scottish Rifles had been killed in action in France, and news of his death had been conveyed to his family at Bulls Gap Farm, Swinscoe by his officers.

Mellor had enlisted on March 1916, leaving employment at Mayfield. A memorial service was held at the Swinscoe Memorial Chapel, where Mellor was a member of the congregation.

Able Seaman Albert Edward Maskery, son of Mr and Mrs Samuel Maskery of Mappleton, had joined the Royal Naval Division in June of 1916. He was just 20 when he died of shrapnel wounds to his chest.

His parent had only days previously received a letter from their son in which he revealed that he had been injured, but the wounds were not serious and he was expecting to return to England, soon.

Elsewhere the editor was clearly struggling to fill the space, despite the paper having long since been reduced from eight pages to four by the shortage of newsprint and, latterly, staff.

There were, of course, the usual array of advertisements for agricultural equipment, livestock sales, prams, and foodstuffs. But genuine, local editorial content was definitely on the thin side.

Alongside the dubious ‘advertorials’ claiming miracle recoveries from being crippled as a result of taking Baker’s Backache Pellets, and the wonders of Doan’s backache kidney pills and Alkia Saltrates, there was the regular Profitable Poultry Keeping column, a review of the week’s programmes at the town cinema, The Ashbourne Empire, and details of the latest meeting of the Board of Guardians.

Perhaps most out of place was a lengthy reproduction of notes from a sermon delivered at a church in Folkestone, Kent, by the Rev Charles Lister Bradley, chaplain of Magdalen College Oxford. There was no explanation as to why this would be of interest to the readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog


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June 22, 1917

Not for the first time, the reporting of war-related items at home took precedence over news from the front this week in 1917.

Although there was news of a soldier being killed in action, far greater space was devoted to the workings of the Ashbourne Agricultural War Committee’s deliberations over land to be brought into food production.

Rifleman Arthur Leason may not have dominated the pages, but the report of his death was accompanied by a service photograph.

Leason, of the King’s Royal Rifles was said to have been one of his battalion’s best shots. News of his death reached his mother in Green Lane, Clifton, from his captain who told her her son had been killed by a shell burst which also killed and wounded several of his comrades. Arthur, who previously worked in the Ashbourne Nestle factory, was the second son Mrs Leason had lost in the war.

On the following page a five-line brief at the foot of the page appealed for information about a missing soldier:

“Private Gervase Wood Brindley, 329269, 2nd South Staffordshire. Regiment. Any information concerning this soldier will be gratefully received by Miss Brindley (c/o Mrs G Gather, St John Street Ashbourne.”

Meanwhile the parents of Private L Brown of Osmaston had received news from their son, serving with the 11th King’s Liverpool Regiment.

“I know you will be pleased to hear that I have been awarded the Military Medal for devotion to duty and bravery in the field.”

Private Brown had been on the Western Front for more than two years and was reported to have taken part in some of the severest battles and been in many “tight corners”.

Amid all the wealth of detailed local news the editor found room for the latest school cricket results; which saw Ashbourne Grammar School beat Lady Manners at Bakewell 98 – 72, despite an undefeated knock of 55 by their batsman Duckmanton, and Ashbourne Grammar edge-out Wirksworth Grammar by 44-40.

There were numerous national snippets too, culled from the columns of other papers, including one which may have been the forerunner of the popular ‘gone mad’ headlines of recent years.

Under the headline Red Tape Gone Mad, is a story pointing out the absurdities of military life. It was an Army regulation that soldiers returning from France had to travel with full kit; but this meant a soldier with the Lewis Gun Section was compelled to swap his revolver for a rifle to carry to his home in Manchester, although he never used one in the field and had never had one issued to him.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog


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June 15, 1917

Many soldiers fell, their bodies never to be recovered, during the Great Push launched on July 1, 1916, and now better known as the Battle of The Somme.

One such man was Private PV Mellor of Osmaston.

Mellor’s ‘aged father’ received the news – which cannot have been entirely unexpected after nearly 12 months – that the Army now considered his son to have died on that fateful day.

The news came in a series of brief letters, which were published on the back page in the Osmaston district news column.

First was a message from the Territorial Force Records Office in Lichfield, which stated simply: “This bright and promising young soldier has paid the ‘supreme sacrifice’ for his country.”

Mellor had only been in France for two or three weeks when his father heard that he was ‘missing’.

Attached below the records office letter was a second message from the officer in charge which read: “It is my painful duty to inform you that no further news having been received relative to (No) 4523 PV Mellor of the [redacted] North Staffords who has been missing since 1-7-16 the Army Council has been regretfully constrained to conclude that he is dead, and that his death took place on the 1-7-16 (or since).”

Finally there was a note from Lord Derby, Secretary of State for War, which said: “The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow.”

The widow of Private Albert Silvester of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who was killed in action on April 9, received news that her husband had been recommended for a military medal for his bravery. Silvester died of wounds received while helping a comrade fire a Lewis Gun, the crew of which had all just been killed.

The ‘proud record’ of Mr and Mrs Joseph Cheadle of South Street Ashbourne was marked on Page 3 of the Telegraph, with four accompanying photographs.

The couple were able to boast six sons and a son-in-law all serving in the King’s uniform.

The men’s names were listed: Corporal F Cheadle, Private George Cheadle, Gunners Joseph and John, and Privates William and Albert. The son-in-law was Private John Mitchel of the Royal Army Medical Corps, formerly of the Ashbourne Voluntary Aid Detachment. All were in France, with the exception of Albert who was stationed at Chelmsford.

Recent weeks had seen the patriotism of the Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company called into question in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph. In one exchange at a meeting of farmers it was alleged – and rebutted – that the company was ‘foreign’.

A letter was published this week from the company managing director in London, Mr G Aguet. He said that the company had been employed in making and supplying condensed milk for England and its allies.

“Although not definitely alleged in the speeches, and in the correspondence in the Press, there have been suggestions made that this company has German interests. We desire therefore to state that this company has no German interests and is not in any way under German control.”

Aguet acknowledged the firm’s Swiss roots, but stressed that it had been operating factories in England for more than 50 years.

“Not only is this company not responsible for the increased price of milk in this country, but has by its factories here, and its importation of milk into the country, contributed largely to keep up the supply and keep down the price, which otherwise would have been higher.”

In what may have been an early example of public relations ‘spin’ the top news in brief item on page 2 stated that the Ashbourne factory manager, Mr Rogers’ brother-in-law’s son, Captain GJV Shepherd had been decorated by the King of Italy into the rank of Chevalier of the Order of the Crown of Italy. The honour was in addition to the DSO granted to Capt Shepherd in the Birthday Honours List.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog


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