November 15, 1918

This photograph was taken in the forest of Compiègne after reaching an agreement for the armistice that ended World War I. This railcar was given to Ferdinand Foch for military use by the manufacturer, Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits. Foch is second from the right.

The Great War – HG Wells’ “war to end all wars”– was over. The Armistice took effect on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, bringing an end to hostilities which had engulfed Britain and much of the rest of the world since the summer of 1914.

The Ashbourne Telegraph announced the news not with triumphalism, as might have been expected, but in an understated, measured, almost literary fashion:

“After four-and-a-quarter years of bloodshed and destruction, which at certain periods has been marked by the gravest anxiety for the destiny of our country and nation as well as that of others, the greatest struggle the world has ever known has ended.

The colossal display of might and power which Germany organised and with which she hoped to dominate the world has been vanquished, and the Kaiser has ended his career in a most ignominious and unchivalrous manner. Germany’s partners in the diabolical plot have lost their thrones and brought their nations to ruin and on the verge of famine.”

The editorial said that German militarism had been shattered beyond hope of recovery and in accepting the peace terms had practically surrendered unconditionally.

The Germans were stated to have agreed to evacuate Belgium, Alsace-Lorraine, and Luxembourg, but also all territory on the left bank of the Rhine, including the cities of Coblenz, Dusseldorf and Cologne. The area was to be occupied by Allied and United States forces who would also control all crossings of the Rhine between the Dutch and Swiss borders.

The paper gave details of the surrender of arms: 5,000 field guns, 30,000 machine guns, 5,000 locomotives, 2,000 aeroplanes and all her submarines, together with the disarming of all warships; and the release for repatriation of all prisoners of war.

The reaction of the town, by contrast, was reported to have been ecstatic.

“The receipt of the news of the Signing of the Armistice under which the hostilities were to cease caused enthusiastic excitement in Ashbourne and District.

The first message was received during the morning and immediately the employees at Mssrs Nestle and Mssrs R Cooper and Co. were released from their work and given a day’s holiday.

The ‘hummer’ of the former firm gave the signal to the whole town and the engine whistles and fog signals gave additional force to the long wished for signal.

Almost immediately flags seemed to spring from nowhere and the streets were gay with bunting within a few minutes, several streamers being run across the streets at different points.”

The Urban Council was in a meeting and immediately formed a committee to arrange a ‘public meeting of thankfulness’.

The report of celebrations took on an almost cinematic detail:

“Rows of girls and children, carrying flags and singing patriotic songs were soon parading the streets and every face radiated happiness.”

Later the Urban Council gathered on the balcony of the town hall, chairman JO Woodyatt confirmed that the Armistice had been signed before Canon Morris offered a prayer of thanksgiving and the National Anthem was sung.

Similar scenes were witnessed in the outlying villages, with reports from local correspondents published under the News of the District column.

“News of the signing of the armistice was received in Rocester with great joy. Work ceased immediately at the principal places of employment and flags and emblems of loyalty and joy immediately appeared at windows of the houses. Festoons were stretched across the streets and miniature flags were carried by the children who were released from school shortly after then news was received.”

In Shirley flags and banners appeared ‘as if by magic’ and the church bells rang out joyfully. In Wetton the church rang its bells and the school flag was hoisted and saluted by children as they marched past, while in Osmaston a special church thanksgiving service was held and fresh flowers placed on the graves of loved ones.

But the celebrations were tempered by the news of more fatalities as a result of the conflict, even in its final throes.

Lance Corporal Caleb Tanner, who had just weeks earlier been awarded the Military medal for conspicuous bravery, was killed by a bullet to the chest as he led a charge on a German machine gun post.

Lance Corporal Caleb Tanner

“The deceased young soldier, who was 21 years of age, had a wide circle of friends in Ashbourne with whom he was very popular, and he carried his popularity with him to his regiment where he was highly esteemed by both officers and men.

He had been out in France two years and nine months, during which period, up to his fatal wound he had neither wound nor sickness.”

Tanner’s parents in Smith’s Yard, Church Street were told by his officer that he had died instantly.

“Your son was one of the bravest men in the company, and I believe he was really enjoying the chance of getting at the Bosche.”

The intimacy of the Sherwood Foresters is conveyed in a letter from Sergeant Percy Beardsley:

“I don’t know how to start my letter to you to offer you my deepest sympathy in the great loss you have had. I am sure it will be a great blow to you as he was always his mother’s lad, but I pray that God will help you bear it bravely.”

The personal tone of the letter continues:

“He was a great favourite with all he came in contact with – same as he always was at home. Knowing him as I did as a baby, I feel his death very much, and he was always one of the best lads I had.

He had just got a gun in action when he was killed by a bullet – instantaneously. He had still his old smile on his face when we buried him yesterday.”

Just two days after the town received news of the Armistice one of the first soldiers to march off to war, former Territorial Private Fred Chell, died after a lengthy illness due to the effects of being gassed by the Germans.

Chell, who was 26 and had a wife and two young children, had been mobilised with the Territorials and marched out of Ashbourne Market Place with the cheers of townsfolk ringing in his ears.

Having served his time he returned home and took up work at Nestle, but in 1915 he was recalled and sailed to Ireland to suppress the Irish Rebellion, before being drafted to France.

“He was present at many of the engagements in which the Sherwoods gained distinction, but later he was severely gassed, as a result of which he was invalided out of the army, since when he has been under treatment, succumbing ultimately on Wednesday evening.”

Chell had lost two brothers, Joseph, killed in action, and Sam, also from the effects of gas poisoning.

Chell was the son in law of Mrs Fowell of the Coach and Horses, Dig Street, whose only son, his ‘inseparable chum’ Lance Corporal S Barker, was killed in 1917.

Mr and Mrs Burrows of Cauldron Lowe had received official news that their only son, had been killed in action, aged just 21.

Captain PE Burrows, who had previously been awarded the Military Cross, had been killed while serving with the Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles in the Indian Army.

Burrows, had been commissioned into the Sherwood Foresters in 1915 while still at Denstone College and saw action in France before transferring and sailing to India in April 1918, then volunteering for service in Palestine.

A message of condolence had been received by his parents from the King and Queen, together with a number of tributes.

His commanding officer, Major Ashmore of the Gurkha Rifles wrote:

“In action I consider him to have been one of the bravest officers it has been my lot to meet. He was killed on September 19th during the big attack on the Turkish lines on the plain. He led his company on a bayonet charge on a strong point in the Turkish second line through uncut wire. He was struck by a bullet in the body and died a very few minutes later.”

Other families to receive bad news included Mr and Mrs Beresford of King Street who were notified their son Isaac, serving with the Sherwood Foresters had been posted as missing on October 5, after four years out in France. Pte Beresford had been one of the first Ashbourne men to receive the Military Medal for holding a post under heavy bombardment when all his comrades had either been killed or wounded, then counter attacking killing several of the enemy and capturing one.

Mr and Mrs T Gilman of Shirley had lost their younger son George, serving with the Sherwoods, killed by a shot to the head by a sniper on September 24. He had been in Canada at the outbreak of war and had twice volunteered but been rejected by doctors. He returned to England in 1916 and again volunteered and was on that occasion declared fit to serve.

Another Shirley soldier, 23-year-old Rifleman Beresford Maskery, was reported to have died of pneumonia on November 2. He had joined the Kings Royal Rifles in 1915 and twice been wounded and invalided home, returning to the front in February 1918.

Also victim of pneumonia was Private Frank Foxon, 23, of the Royal Army Medical Corps who had died on October 30 in Gibraltar where he was serving as company cook

Private Frank Millward of Shirley Park Farm, formerly with the Durham Light infantry and latterly with the Machine Gun Corps had been severely wounded in France and repatriated where he had been dangerously ill in hospital in Liverpool. His parents had since been told that he had had a leg amputated and was no progressing well.

  • 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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November 8, 1918

The end of the war was just days away – but the Ashbourne Telegraph reported the deaths of no fewer than four servicemen from the district in its second edition in November, 1918.

Private WA Brassington of Gravelly Bank Farm, Yeaveley, had initially joined the Sherwood Foresters in January 1917, but was later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers, serving in Italy from November. There he contracted trench fever and was invalided home.

“On his recovery he was sent out to France, and the notification states that he was killed in action on October 11.  He was home for leave only six weeks ago.”

Trooper Frank Bradbury of the Derbyshire Yeomanry was reported to have died in hospital in France on October 29. Like Private Brassington, Bradbury had previously been invalided home from the front line.

He joined up in March 1915 and was drafted out to Salonica where he served for three years before contracting malaria.

“On recovery he went out to France and the sad news was received by his young wife that he passed away at a hospital in Dieppe after a few days’ illness.”

Before the war Bradbury had been employed by grocers T Mellor and Son and later by Howell and Marsden.

Another soldier to die in hospital overseas was Lieutenant JB Hay, formerly assistant master at Ashbourne School. It was thought influenza was the cause of death in Genoa on October 29.

“A clever violinist he was always ready to give his services at local concerts and was a member of the Ashbourne Orchestra, with whom he played first violin.”

A telegram received by Mrs Jones of Waterloo House, Compton, informed her that her son in law Corporal Charles Mellor had been dangerously wounded. This was followed a few days later by news that he had died of his wounds.

The 28-year-old soldier previously worked for butcher L Allen in The Square and had signed up in August 1916, initially with the Royal Field Artillery, later transferring to the Lancashire Fusiliers, with whom he served for many months in France.

Sergeant WK Hughes of the Northumberland Fusiliers had written from hospital to inform his mother that he had been wounded.

“He says he was first hit in the face with a piece of shrapnel, and whilst assisting a comrade to the dressing station, he was again hit in the leg by another piece of shrapnel, or a bullet, lodging in the left knee cap. He writes cheerfully and says he is progressing alright.”

Major Alan W Turnbull Of the Seaforth Highlanders was said to be dangerously wounded. He was the nephew of Mr Peveril Turnbull of Sandybrook Hall, and had been staying with his uncle only the previous month after a course of instruction for senior officers at Aldershot, before returning to the front where he worked with Regimental Staff.

“This is the second time Major Turnbull has been wounded, the first occasion being at Loos.  Mr Peveril Turnbull has had five nephews in the war, of whom two have been killed.”

Hundreds of people attended an exhibition of war films on a mobile screen in Ashbourne Market Place as the Government continued its efforts to shore up public support for prosecuting the war to a satisfactory conclusion.

The National War Aims Committee had sent out into the regions ten cinemotor vehicles to bolster support.

“The outfit includes a large five ton van, which travels at ten miles an hour, and carries everything required, including the lecturer, operator, engineer and their personal luggage; a very large screen; a 25hp engine, driving a dynamo which generates a current for a light equal to 6,000 candle power; the very latest projector and a variety of war films.”

The paper reported that the whole enterprise was the “last word in efficiency” and the pictures were clear and steady and as well-lit as those in “the best picture houses”.

Dorothy Fritz, the wife of an interned German was reported to have died of double pneumonia. The paper reported that she had been found to be suffering from carbolic poisoning, and admitted taking the poison when she had an attack of influenza. She recovered from the effects of the poison but succumbed to pneumonia. An inquest was to be held.

  • 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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November 1, 1918

A decisive battleground victory in France on September 29, saw Ashbourne men serving with the Sherwood Foresters of the 46th Midland Division storm the St Quentin Canal near Belle Englise in Northern France. The assault resulted in Allied troops breaching the German’s Hindenburg Line, taking 4,000 prisoners and 70 guns.

A second attack on the German line in the Battle of Ramincourt on October 3, again involved the Sherwoods, with many more of the enemy killed or injured and a further 2,000 prisoners captured.

Such was the impact of these military actions that Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire were reported to be on the verge of declaring a days’ school holiday to mark the occasion. The suggestion came from Major General GF Boyd, commanding officer of the 46th Division.

The Ashbourne Telegraph commented:

“When the full history of that famous attack comes to be written Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire people will have full cause to be proud of their achievement.”

The Sherwoods have been prominent throughout the war, being present at most of the great, decisive battles, suffering losses like other regiments, which were rapidly filled by others who have gallantly maintained the glorious traditions of the regiment.

Few divisions can claim such an heroic performance as was theirs on this occasion, and it is only right that the memory of the victory should be treasured, and that our rising generation should be trained to honour such a brilliant success – one of the most daring and successful in the annals of the British Army.”

But, of course, the “daring and successful” attack had its consequences for many of the men of the 46th division. Albert Etherington was one of the Ashbourne men who had been on a Territorials’ training camp in North Yorkshire when war broke out, and had been among the first to be mobilised.

“He was taking part in the historic attack on Saint Quentin, when the division took that town and broke through the Hindenburg Line, when a large shell fell just against him severing his left leg. In a letter to a friend he says it felt like someone had given him “a big hit with an axe”.

The paper reported how in August of 1914 the Territorials returned from the Yorkshire coast at Hunmanby only to be marched off to Chesterfield a few days later. Etherington was drafted out to France with his battalion in February 1915 and he was promoted to sergeant and brigade Lewis Gun instructor.

“Sergt Etherington, previous to the war, was a well-known and popular footballer in the district, having played for Ashbourne Town and Ashbourne Wednesday Clubs. He also always enjoyed the old Ashbourne Shrovetide Football at which he was generally prominent.”

Four years separated the deaths of brothers Henry and Charles Chell, sons of Mr A Chell of Green Lane, Clifton. Henry, serving with the Essex Regiment, died of a gunshot wound to his abdomen on October 3. Charles, of the Sherwood Foresters had been killed in October 1914.

The vicar of Calton had received official notification that his son, Flight Commander Clement Watson Payton, RAF, was missing in action.

A letter from his son’s commanding officer gave more a more depressing narrative:

“He failed to return from an offensive patrol yesterday morning. I am extremely sorry to say that there is no chance of his safety as his machine was seen to fall out of control after it had been hit by anti-aircraft fire.”

His officer continued with a tribute to Flight-Com Payton:

“Your son had been with me for some months and he was one of my best officers and my best friend when off duty.  I think he was one of the finest boys I have ever met and he always set a splendid example to his fellow officers

You have every reason to feel proud of your son’s achievements. He has destroyed five enemy machines and a kite balloon, and has driven down two other enemy machines out of control. He was a skilled pilot and very courageous.”

Gunner George Taylor of the Royal Field Artillery had written home to South Street, Ashbourne, to say he was currently in hospital in Paisley being treated for shrapnel wounds to his left arm. Gunner Taylor and his brother Sydney had been among the first to answer Lord Kitchener’s call to arms in 1914, and had spent more than three years in France.

Another soldier invalided, and in The Edinburgh Hospital in Bangour, was Private F Naylor who was being treated for inflammation of his left forearm.

An outbreak of flu was sweeping the Ashbourne area and a local GP recommended that as a precaution to prevent its further spread people should stop visiting each other in their homes as “much harm is done this way”.

The latest order to be introduced under the Defence of the Realm Act was the Sale of Sweetmeats in the Theatres (Restriction) Order – prohibiting the sale of any confectionary in any place of public entertainment from October 17, 1918.

  • 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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October 25, 1918

A young soldier, who had recently received the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in the field, was reported to have been fatally wounded in France.

Private WH Phipps, 24, of the Suffolk Regiment, had experienced the full horrors of the war, having twice previously been invalided from the front line.

“His first experience of active warfare was when he landed at the Dardanelles on his 21st birthday, and he there contracted dysentery and enteric, being subsequently invalided home to England. After his recovery he was sent to France where he was buried alive by a shell, his injuries resulting in tetanus, from the effects of which he lay in hospital for nearly 12 months.

On rejoining his regiment he was present at some of the heaviest engagements until his death.”

Phipps was the son of Mr and Mrs Phipps of the New Grammar School in Green Road. He had been a pupil teacher at Mayfield Road Boys’ School before taking up the post of assistant master at Witham School in Essex.

News of his death arrived in a letter to his parents from his chaplain. He told them that their son had arrived in hospital suffering from dangerous wounds and despite all efforts had died the following day.

The Ashbourne Telegraph reproduced a letter from West Derbyshire MP Lord Kerry in which he set out his views on peace terms with the Germans.

He explained that his role at the War Office meant it was almost impossible for him to speak at meetings in his constituency.

“In my opinion no cessation of hostilities should take place, nor any breathing space be allowed to the enemy, until he has evacuated every inch of the Allied territory of which he is now in occupation.

Then, and not until then, terms should be granted to him and these terms must be based on unconditional surrender on his part. These should include reparation, financial and otherwise for all the outrage he has committed and the material damage he has done to the various Allies, whether by land or sea. The list of acts for which reparation is required is a very long one and the process of settlement must consequently take time.

I want to see real (not paper) guarantees in the hands of the Allies, both for the satisfaction of our immediate claims and as security that we shall not in the future be plunged again into a war such as that from which we are now emerging.”

Lord Kerry said these were, and had been, his views and that they coincided with those of the Prime Minister, who had summed them up as ‘Restitution, Reparation and Security’.

We now know there was an ‘unconditional surrender’, of sorts, on November 11, but the ineffective Treaty of Versailles which followed and the toothless League of Nations meant that in less than 20 years later Europe was to be plunged into another bloody conflict with Germany.

A similar cautionary tone was taken by the writer of the Ashbourne Telegraph’s Watch Box column.

“The official German reply to [American] President Wilson’s note has not met with the approval of the Allies that the German people hoped.
President Wilson, and indeed all the Allies, know only too well from past experience that German promises are only kept as long as it suits Germany, and there must be some mores substantial agreement than a ‘scrap of paper’.

Although the Germans are by no means beaten yet, their offer bears one very evident fact – that she is tottering and her great dream of world power has become transformed into a grim struggle for self-salvation.”

  • 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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October 18, 1918

The readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph had become accustomed to hearing about fatalities on the battlefields of Europe and beyond, but this week there were a series of fatalities closer to home.

Pneumonia carried off three young people in the town in the space of three days, but this shocking loss of life warranted just three paragraphs at the foot of page 5 of the edition of October 18, 1918.

The first victim, who had died on the Monday, was 38-year-old Norman Jones of Shaw Wood, inspector with the Nestle and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company.

“His genial manner gained for him a wide circle of friends and his loss will be keenly felt by a great many throughout the district. He had only been ill a week,” the article read. Jones left a widow and five children.

Charles H Salt, head booking clerk at Ashbourne Station, and aged just 35, also died on the same day. The paper said his “courteous and obliging manner” had earned him the respect of all. He died in Ashbourne Cottage Hospital after an illness of a “brief duration”.

The third fatality, who died at home on Wednesday, was Doris Lillian Knight, the 24-year-old wife of Percy George Knight of Station Street. “She was the younger daughter of Mrs Baker and was very popular with her friends and acquaintances.”

Pneumonia was reportedly the cause of these deaths, although the ‘Spanish Flu’ epidemic was sweeping the country in October 1918. Perhaps this was the genuine infection responsible for such tragic loss of life.

Two Mayfield Soldiers were reported to have been killed in action.

Private Leonard Lowndes of the Royal Scots Regiment had enlisted in July 1916, and after training in Essex and Ireland went out to France early in 1918 where he had been involved in fierce fighting. A former gardener at Ashbourne Hall Hotel, he was said to have been well known in Mayfield and Ashbourne.

His widow had received a sympathetic letter from her husband’s commanding officer.  The couple had one child.

Sergeant H Davies of the London Regiment had also died in the field in France. His commanding officer had written to Davies’ widow detailing the circumstances of his death.

“He was slightly wounded in the leg during an attack and he was making his way to have his wound dressed when he was hit again with a rifle bullet and killed instantaneously.”

The letter, signed Eric E Morse continued:

“He was an exceptionally brave man and very cool in all danger and by his excellent conduct was a great help to all with him, He was in charge of his platoon when he was hit. Everyone who knew him mourns his loss and none more than I do. He had been my platoon sergeant since he rejoined the battalion at Jerusalem last year and I shall never know a finer man. He was good at his work and a very fine sportsman.”

There was news too of Lieutenant AJ Broughton Bamford, Officers Training Corps, attached to the Machine Gun Corps. He had been severely wounded by a gas shell and treated initially at No.2 Red Cross Hospital, Rouen, but later transferred to hospital in Wandsworth, south London, and then to the Officers’ Convalescent Hospital in Bournemouth, where he was said to be “on his way to recovery”.

Although there was little, if any, suggestion that the end of the war was imminent within the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph, there were definite indications that peace was in the thoughts of people in the town. Ashbourne Urban Council chairman JP Woodyatt told fellow members that he had taken no action over the proposed National Kitchen to help alleviate food shortages because, with the prospect of peace there might be “no necessity”. Mr Kennedy agreed with his opinion.

Mr Woodyatt’s confidence was not in line with the official views of the Ministry of Food, which was urging people to redouble their efforts to moderate their consumption of bread, with the growing fear of bread rationing.

“While prospects of a rationed loaf are remote the demands being made on shipping for the conveyance of troops from America make it very necessary that the public should exercise a rigid economy during the winter months its use of not only bread but foodstuffs of every kind.”

Government control of supplies was introduced, with the Milk Distribution Order 1918 and the Milk Dealers’ Order 1918 giving the Food Controller the power to take over any premises of milk wholesalers – including cheese factories – if it was deemed necessary to divert supplies.

And while talk of peace might have been in the air, the 5th Volunteer Battalion of The Sherwood Foresters’ orders for Sunday included bombing, entrenching and  fire control. On Monday recruits were scheduled for: “Drill, Musketry, Bolt Drill, Bayonet Fighting, Saluting Drill and Rifle Exercises.”

Thursday’s training included: “Musketry, Bolt Drill, Muscle Exercises and Lectures on Advance Guards and Outposts.”

The Wetton village correspondent updated readers on Private L Gilman, who had been reported missing in action on March 21, during the major German offensive on that day. The family had received notification that he had died while a prisoner of war in Germany.

“Private Bert Allcock has been home on leave. Sgt H Allcock was also granted leave to enable him to see his brother.”

  • 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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October 11, 1918

The second of two brothers became the latest Ashbourne soldier reported to have been killed as British troops continued to push back the German line in Flanders.

Lance-Corporal Clifford Kitchen, whose younger brother Harry had been killed in September 1915 in the Dardanelles, was the son of Mr and Mrs T Kitchen formerly of Belle Vue Timber Yard.

Lance-Corporal Kitchen, who was serving with the 15th Sherwood Foresters enlisted in August 1916 and had been in France since Christmas of that year. He had taken part in many engagements and survived the German offensive in March. He died on October 1.

Captain Graham Callow wrote to inform Kitchen’s wife of her loss.

“I cannot say how sorry I am to have to write to tell you that your husband was killed by shell fire yesterday. He was a fine fellow and always on the spot when there was any trouble. We shall all miss him very much, none more than myself, as I knew him so well.”

His widow, mother of his two young children, was told her husband was considered among the best NCOs in the battalion, whose place could never be filled.

It would have taken some time for news of the death of Private Leonard Thorpe to reach the offices of the Ashbourne Telegraph. Although Thorpe had worked for Birch’s of Station Street for more than 15 years and had been a prominent member of Ashbourne Air Rifle Club he was a single man and his mother, who lived in Rhyll, was contacted as next-of-kin by a nurse at the hospital in France where he had died from wounds.

Thorpe, said to be 35, had had a dramatic military career before being mortally wounded.

“He joined the forces about two and a half years ago and after being in France some months was wounded, being invalided to Ireland. On his way from Ireland his boat was torpedoed, but he succeeded in getting safely away. He had been out in France about 18 months and had taken part in some of the heaviest fighting.”

Sergeant William Ward of the Sherwood Foresters had written to his mother in typically stiff-upper-lip tones from hospital where he was being treated for a bullet wound to his arm, the bullet having gone right through the limb.

Apart from this, he said, he was “in the best of health and never felt better”.

Perhaps the tone of the letter was out of consideration for his mother, who lived in Sturston Road; she had already lost one son in the war, with two others in hospital.

Second Lieutenant JP Davies of the Royal Field Artillery had been awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous service in France, where he had been serving since February 1915, having gone out as a sergeant in the  North Midland Howitzer Brigade. He had later been transferred to the RFA and promoted before being granted a commission. His brother, who held the same rank with the London Regiment was serving in Palestine. They were the sons of Ashbourne’s Superintendant D Davies.

There was an honour too for Mrs TMH Bamford, the quartermaster of the Ashbourne Red Cross Hospital. During the three and a half years since the hospital opened Mrs Bamford had been at her post every day without a break. The first day she had not been on duty was when she travelled to Buckingham Palace to be invested into the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by His Majesty the King.

Increasingly positive reports were coming back from France and the UK’s ‘courageous decision’ to move a large body of British troops from the British front to support General Foch’s assault on the German line.

“Since July 18th the British forces alone have recovered for France a thousand square miles of territory, have recaptured 250 French villages and have taken more than 120,000 German prisoners.”

A dispute over the price of milk caused extraordinary scenes at Wirksworth where the local Food Control Committee commandeered a dairyman’s milk supply and supplied it direct to the public.

“A depot was opened at the Town Hall and female clerks from the Food Control office, assisted by special constables, distributed the milk. The townspeople were acquainted with the latest development in the situation by the sending round of the town crier with his bell, and the milk was quickly disposed of at 5d a quart.”

The dispute arose after farmers demanded 7d a quart for their milk up until Christmas and 8d from Christmas to May, but the Food Control Committee fixed the maximum price at 5d, which farmers refused to accept.

In the latest of intriguing notices to be posted in the Ashbourne Telegraph was a warning from Mrs G Haywood.

“Someone has falsely started a rumour that Mrs G Haywood’s former husband has reappeared as a prisoner of war in Germany. The rumour is absolutely untrue. Anyone repeating this scandal will be prosecuted.”

The circumstances behind thisnotice, and why the rumour was considered scandalous have been lost in the passing years.

  • 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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October 4, 1918

In this picture reproduced from a photograph taken on the British Western Front in France the captured Germans seem to show traces of having suffered food shortages.

Flags and garlands were hung in the street to welcome home a soldier who had been on active service for three years and eight months.

Private T Fowell, sixth son of Mr and Mrs Fowell of Mayfield Road, Ashbourne, returned on leave to his home in Derby to a hero’s welcome.

Fowell enlisted with the Derbyshire Yeomanry in October 1914 and embarked to Egypt as an officer’s servant to Lord Hartington, with whom he stayed until Hartington returned to England. Fowell then served Major Worthington of the Royal Engineers’ signaling section.

“It will be remembered that Fowell is one of four brothers who have answered their country’s call. Of these, two have been discharged – Pte Jas Fowell, of the Australian Forces, who was wounded in the Dardanelles, and Pte Joseph Fowell who was gassed in France.”

Four men were reported to have received Military Medals: Private Ernest Whitehouse, 19, of Rocester had written home from hospital in France to say he had been awarded the medal; Private WH Phipps of the Suffolk Regiment, a former pupil teacher at Ashbourne Boys’ School; Sapper GF Birch, previously secretary of the Loyal Cavendish Lodge of Oddfellows at Hartington; and Private ‘Bert’ Pountain, formerly of Rocester.

Under a column and a half of public notices detailing official prices rises in gas and milk, controls on the supply of horsemeat, apples and pears, and beef, veal, mutton, pork and horse bones was a report from the Ashbourne prisoners of War Committee which announced that Private Reg Purdy of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been missing since May, had written to his parents to tell them he had been wounded and was a prisoner in hospital in Crossen, Germany. News that he was still alive was said to have given “much satisfaction” to his parents and many friends.

Price controls and food shortages continued to grip the population and Mr T Basset Bullock secretary of the Ashbourne branch of the National Farmers’ Union wrote to the editor of the Telegraph to defend his members against what he saw as unjustified criticism over allegations of profiteering and lack of patriotism.

“Those statements are absolutely devoid of truth. Framers have never demanded anything but a fair return for their capital and labour.”

He argued that when the government introduced price controls in 1917 the wage of labourers had been estimated at 25s but had since been ‘considerably increased’ while the price of feedstuffs and fertilisers had risen significantly. This meant farmers had been forced to seek an increase in prices.

“If only the public knew the facts they would refrain from casting unfounded aspersions on farmers who have realised the serious position of the country with regard to food production and have patriotically risen to the occasion.”

Arthur Collis, 25, of the Royal Fusiliers was given a military funeral at Ellastone Church. Private Collis who enlisted in 1914 had been part of the Gallipoli landings and the subsequent evacuation.

He was subsequently sent out to France where he was wounded in July 1916.

“On going out a second time he was gassed, from the effects of which he ultimately succumbed.”

The funeral included a firing party of 25 Northumberland Fusiliers, and a bugler sounded the Last Post.

“The matron and wounded soldiers from Ellastone Red Cross Hospital also attended and there was a large gathering of parishioners who assembled to pay their last tribute to the young soldier.”

With winter approaching and coal shortages continuing to bite the Coal Controller was taking steps to protect the population in rural areas.

“The village squire, vicar, doctor or any other responsible person may accumulate a reserve stock of coal for emergency distribution to villagers should the ordinary supply fail at any time during the winter.”

Although villages could buy an additional four or five tons of coal it could not be used to supplement normal supplies and could only be used if normal stocks failed.

The report warned: “It must be strictly accounted for to the Local Fuel Overseer.”

  • 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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September 27, 1918

Although there was no mention of the sinking of the Galway Castle itself, the Ashbourne Telegraph reported that an Ashbourne serviceman had been saved from the mailship, torpedoed in heavy seas by a German U-boat about 160 south of Fastnet Rock, off the Irish coast.

Private Bert Samuel, whose mother lived in Sandybrook, was one of the 143 survivors from the 950 souls on board, including nearly 400 walking wounded South African Soldiers.

His story was almost Boy’s Own in its dramatic narrative:

“Few Ashbournians can claim as much varied service as Pte, Samuel, who first saw active warfare conditions in the South African War. When the present war broke out he was one of the first in the field, being then in South Africa and taking part in General Botha’s historic expedition and final capture for the British of German West Africa.

The arduousness of that campaign is well known and the strain of such an expedition would be sufficient to last most men a lifetime, but Pte Samuel volunteered for France where he was subsequently drafted and took part in many severe engagements, eventually being invalided home.

He was on his way to South Africa to obtain his discharge when the vessel was torpedoed about seven o’clock the second morning at sea.

Pte Samuel, with a few other soldiers, managed to get a raft, which they launched, and on which they remained for some hours, after which the occupants of a boat asked them to come and help them row. Transferring to the boat they assisted in rowing, the sea being very rough all the time, and after rowing nearly eight hours since leaving the ship they were picked up by a destroyer.”

And in a twist to the story, which would seem barely plausible had it been scripted in a Hollywood movie, among the crew of the destroyer which went to their rescue was Seaman E Goodall, grandson of Mr Brown of Mayfield Road, Ashbourne.

The Telegraph noted that Samuel had two brothers, both being held prisoner in Germany.

In other news Captain Leonard Taylor was reported to have been awarded the Military Cross for valour. Taylor was the son of Nurse Taylor of Park Road, Ashbourne.

There was a tribute too, to Private Arthur Collis of Ellastone. Collis, who had served with the Royal Fusiliers had been discharged from the army early in 1918, and died at his home from tuberculosis “as a direct result” of gas poisoning.

“Pte Collis was a fine type of soldier – sturdy and strong – before being gassed. He as at the landing in Gallipoli and afterwards wend to France.”

Under the headline An Unknown Derbyshire Hero – A True Story, is a tale so colourful, so literary, so cheering, it is almost certainly fiction.

It tells of a Derbyshire officer at work, censoring letters, when he noticed an envelope with an address near his own home. He sent his batman to find the soldier whose letter it was.

“I looked up when he knocked timidly at the half-open door, and saw a tiny chap, with very sharp grey eyes, with just the smallest suspicion of a humorous twinkle in them.”

The writer describes how the previously “weak and delicate” young man changed the mood of the platoon.

“This boy who, in earlier days, would previously have screamed if a cat ran across the room was the coolest man I have ever seen under fire.”

He described how the youngster had been with ten other men at a pill box when the Germans decided to strafe their position.

“It was madness to remain outside, everyone got inside the pill box ‘tout de suite’ – except Sandy. He leant nonchalantly against the corner of the pill box puffing at a Ruby Queen watching the firework display.”

Later ‘Sandy’ was reported missing having last been seen carrying ammunition to a Lewis Gun which was then destroyed with the loss of all men.

Months later, when the officer returned home, he cycled to ‘Sandy’s’ mother’s house to talk to her about her brave son, but when he got their she had just the previous day received a letter from him

 “It contained little more than the news that he was a prisoner and in the best of health, but it closed with a flash of the Sandy I had known so well ‘out there’ – The bread is jolly black, but it’s better to be eating black bread for a year or two than shoveling brimstone for eternity!”

Further evidence that this story emanated from the Press Bureau is the fact that Sandy is given no second name, or regiment, and the report is attributed simply to “K”.

It is difficult to understand why the editor of the Ashbourne Telegraph had resorted to publishing such unverified, anonymous, material when the strength of the paper had been that for four long years it had been telling the often unvarnished first-hand stories from the sons of Ashbourne, well known to family and friends in the town and nearby village communities.

21st century consumers have become used to regular above-inflation increases in charges for their gas supply. But few of the price-hikes experienced in recent years can compete with the eyewatering rise in gas prices being proposed by Ashbourne Urban District Council from October 1, 1918. The price was to go up more than 25% – from 3s 4d to 4s 7d for 1,000 cubic feet.

Recent reports had detailed how the council had been making a loss on gas production because the cost of coal had accelerated due to shortage of supplies.

This was reflected in a letter to the editor from the office of the Coal Controller, Sir Guy Calthrop.

“The situation is very serious, and the Controller feels that every effort should be made to bring the facts before the people of the country to increase economy in coal, coke, gas and electricity.”

Some traders were quick to react to the energy crisis. Ashbourne’s Sellers and Son took a prepaid advertisement to announce:

“Diminish your gas consumption by using “The Frugal” Economiser. A better light with 35 per cent less gas. Prolongs the life of mantles. Acts as a governor on every burner. Never wants renewing. Price 2s each.  Sole agents.

  • 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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September 20, 1918

Ashbourne Telegraph War Supplement:


In August alone more than 70,000 Germans were captured in our advance on the Western Front in France. The picture above shows some of the haul – about a thousand of them in one of our “cages”.

Although there were plenty of column inches devoted to the progress of the war this week in 1918, almost all of them were in the pull-out War Supplement which had been a weekly feature of the Ashbourne Telegraph since April.

It may be no coincidence that newspaperman Lord Beaverbrook had been entrusted by the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, with setting up the Ministry of Information which, from March 1918, had taken control of all government propaganda.

Beaverbrook would have been aware of the power of the press and the growing influence of the local newspaper on its readership. The War Supplement was not produced by the Ashbourne Telegraph; it was shared by scores of other local papers. It contained a diet of sanitised conflict updates and pictures of relaxed, smiling troops, positive spin on the progress of the war and other material aimed at maintaining public morale. It was printed centrally and distributed to the host titles, complete with a customised masthead to give the impression that it was a bespoke section.

Closer to home it was reported that a former clerk at Ashbourne’s Parr’s Bank, Randall Allcock, had been killed in action on September 1. Allcock, the paper stated, had been an accomplished organist and pianist who had been ‘ever-ready’ to assist at local concerts. There were no details of where he had been killed, or with which branch of the forces he had been serving.

Given the prominence of the War Supplement it is somewhat ironic that on another page readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph were able to read the Letter from London column by ‘Thought Reader’ which purportedly exposed the massive propaganda effort by British airmen who were dropping not only shells on enemy lines but also hundreds of thousands of leaflets designed to dent morale among troops and civilians alike.

The writer said: “Official despatches tell us day by day of the regularity with which our airmen fly over German territory and drench it with high explosives; but despatches have said little, so far, about the daily drenchings we have been giving it all this summer with printer’s ink.”

The writer acknowledges the restrictions placed on freedom of speech by the Defence of the Realm Act, but asserts that it “is no offence” to make reference to the propaganda campaign.

“Our airmen, it seems, carry leaflets and pamphlets on most of their journeys (printed in German, but not in Germany!) and they rain these down on the German lines and German towns which they attack. Also, we have invented a balloon which sails on its own, when the wind is favourable, and by means of an automatic clockwork arrangement drops its literature at stated intervals in such a way that the material will be quickly found even if it is not seen to fall.”

The jingoistic Letter From London column, was in all probability syndicated or a product of the Ministry of Information itself.

Auction sales of property, household goods and, most importantly, livestock were a significant source of income for the Ashbourne Telegraph, announcements of which normally occupied two or more broadsheet columns on the front page each week.

One such advertisement which would have caught the eye this week in 1918 was Messrs WS Bagshaw and Sons’ notice of the forthcoming Great Annual Shire Foal Sale. The event, to be held over two days in the Shaw Croft, Ashbourne, was scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday, October 15 and 16. Readers were promised:

“400 valuable Shire colts and filly foals, brood mares, waggon horses and 1, 2, and 3 year old colt and fillies. 200 Shire colt and fillies by the most noted sires in the district and a few valuable brood mares. 200 valuable Shire mares and fillies, waggon geldings and unbroken colts.”

It would have been quite a spectacle. Bagshaws urged potential sellers to register early for a good position in the catalogue and reminded them that the previous year had seen foals making up to 120 guineas, and fillies and brood mares 180gns.

The advertisement also promised £80 in prizes

The Shaw Croft was also the venue for a Red Cross Sale to be held on Thursday September 26. Many of the activities will be familiar to readers today, although perhaps not one of the sideshow stalls listed:

“In addition to the sale there will be numerous attractions in the Shaw Croft, including roundabouts, swing boats, hoop-la, Kicking the Kaiser, goal scoring and rifle ranges.”

  • 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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September 13, 1918

The Defence of the Realm Act, rushed into law within days of the declaration of war gave wide ranging powers to the Government, not only restricting what newspapers could report, but making it illegal to whistle for a taxi, buy binoculars or fly kites. It was also employed to introduce shorter pub opening hours and British Summer Time, among a raft of other restrictions.

Among the Government departments to make use of the Act’s provisions was the Ministry of Food which introduced a dizzying series of measures to control the supply of food.

This week in 1918 a public notice in the Ashbourne Telegraph listed a number of new regulations, including: the Jam Prices Order (No 2); the Rats Order; the Beans, Peas and Pulse Requisites (Amendment) Order; the Poultry and Game (Prices) Order’ the Grain (Prices) Order; the Grocery Syrup (Distribution to Manufacturers) Order and the Canned Salmon (Requisition) Order.

Breaching such orders could be an expensive business. The paper reported that a Yorkshire famer had been fined £112 for selling milk at 6d a quart, when the price had been fixed at half a penny less.

But there was a stout defence of the food regulations later in the paper. Under the headline Coupons or Chaos, the writer argued that it was better to live in a land where there were coupons and regulations, and food, than be exempt from regulation and suffer the consequences – famine and extreme high prices for necessities.

“Coupons and regulations, despite what a few grumblers may say against them and how would-be profiteers hate them, mean equal distribution, fair play in food for rich and poor, and a deterrent to those who are out to victimise the public by overcharging and giving small measure, or quality below the standard required by the Ministry of Food.”

News from the front was scant. Driver Isaac Swindell of the Royal Field Artillery had written to his mother at Station Cottages, Tissington, informing her that he was in hospital in Cambridge, suffering from wounds received in action on August 24.

“He received two pieces of shrapnel, one in the leg and the other behind the shoulder blade, while his head and ear were both grazed by two other pieces, and a fifth piece was stopped by a bundle of letters he had in his pocket.”

The only other Local Military Item was news that Second Lieutenant E Lee of the Derbyshire Yeomanry had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and Adjutant. He was the son of the late Mr JC Lee of Market Place, Ashbourne.

All sections of the community were striving to do their bit to support the war effort. Donations were regularly made to the Red Cross Hospital in Ashbourne and to the Ashbourne Prisoners of War Committee to fill regular parcels for the men being held in Germany. Poultry keepers donated eggs to the national appeal, while all sorts of dances, talks and entertainments raised funds for war-related causes.

One organisation – The Ashbourne Girls’ Knitting League – was formed on September 12, 1914, and over four years had sent out to soldiers and sailors no fewer than “800 woolen articles, 1,153 gifts including handkerchiefs, writing pads, soap, bootlaces, cakes, chocolate, biscuits and 10,065 cigarettes”.

  • 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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