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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June 8, 1917

In what was momentous news in 1917, dairy farmers in the Ashbourne area voted unanimously to form a Co-Operative Association – and a lengthy report of the meeting dominated the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph, to the exclusion of any coverage of local soldiers.

Milk prices had been the subject of debate in recent months, with farmers objecting to the prices they were being paid, while consumers were fearful of being overcharged.

The meeting in the Town Hall was chaired by MP Captain FitzHerbert-Wright, who told the assembled farmers he thought they were up against two powerful bodies in the milk world, and as long as they remained individual farmers it would be case of the small man against the big, powerful and wealthy corporations.

“It stood to reason, and every business man knew it that when it was a case of the individual man against the big powerful corporation the man got the worst of it.”

Everyone knew that Nestle and Company had two big factories in the district and there was a milk combine. Capt. Fitzherbert-Wright told them if they wanted a fair deal it would be a “very difficult row to hoe”.

The reasons for forming the co-operative were given. These included:

  1. To place the making of cheese in the hand of skilled workmen, who having charge of milk from several hundred cows, could be paid at the rate which skilled and intelligent workmanship demands
  2. To relieve farmers’ households of the sloppy untidiness, and their wives and daughters of the anxiety, which are inseparable from cheese making.
  3. To introduce into farming the benefits of co-operation
  4. To raise the average cheese production of the land
  5. To break the power of the middlemen
  6. To obviate dependence on incompetent dairymaids
  7. To increase profits derivable from dairy farming

Nestle was represented at the meeting and challenged the chairman’s assertion that it was a foreign firm, arguing that it was based in London and was under Government control.

He said: “[The firm] had been the means of saving thousands of British soldiers by their milk and other foods, which were made under a highly scientific process.”

And milk was at the centre of the week’s most dramatic story – an accident which saw 80 churns, about four tons, lost.

“One of the heavy motor lorries belonging to Messrs Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company, loaded with a large consignment of milk was being driven to the factory by E Wibberley of Ashbourne, accompanied by a youth named George Hampson.

The lorry was descending the Hill from Tissington to Fenny Bentley when its brakes failed.

“The lorry (which in itself is nearly four tons in weight) with its heavy load tore down the hill at terrific speed. The driver pluckily stuck to the steering wheel but owing to the great impetus the vehicle had gained, he was unable to negotiate the extremely sharp corner at the bottom of the hill. The lorry struck a telegraph post with terrific impact which was smashed like matchwood, and as the off-wheel of the lorry mounting the bank the ponderous vehicle crashed over on it side, the churns of milk being thrown in all direction, and the milk rushed down the road like a river.”

Wibberley was unhurt, but his colleague suffered head injuries and was treated at the scene by Dr Boswell and later at the Cottage Hospital in Ashbourne where he was said to be ‘progressing favourably,”

An extraordinary paragraph appeared in the Watchbox column, ‘Being comments on local and general topics’.

Purporting to be an eyewitness account of military brutality in Armenia the paragraph read:

“In Harpout and Mezre the people had to endure terrible tortures. They have had their eyebrows plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off, their torturers hew off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they do in shoeing horses. When they die the soldiers cry: ‘Now let your Christ help you’. There are plenty of others worse than that.”

There is no indication of who the eyewitness was, but the extract was attributed as an extract from the ‘Blue Book’, Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16 which had an introduction by Viscount Bryce who had previously chaired an inquiry into alleged German atrocities in occupied Belgium, later dismissed as Allied propaganda.

The use of wartime imagery to sell commercial products has featured in this column on many occasions, and once again this week the antiseptic ointment Zam-buk makes light of military injuries to promote its healing properties.

“In the Wars – Odd jobs around the house, garden or allotment, often result in a crushed finger, lacerated hand or some painful injury. Husband, wife and children are continually ‘in the wars’ but a lot of pain and trouble can be saved by keeping Zam-Buk handy.”

  • 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 1, 1917

Men in the trenches on the front line endured terrible conditions, but by all accounts enjoyed remarkable camaraderie amid the horrors of war.

Back home their loved ones waited in fear and trepidation. Each day the arrival of the postman could bring a letter bearing dreaded news.

And so it must have been for the young wife of 20-year-old William Legrice of Sturston Road, Ashbourne. Her husband, the father of her child, was serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers, having left his job at the Ashbourne Gas Works in September 1916, sailing from France a week after Christmas.

Mrs Legrice had received a letter on May 17 from the Company Sergeant Major HG Ward announcing that he was missing.

“I am pleased to say that although your husband has only been with us a few months he has always done his duty and I sincerely hope that you will be granted strength to bear the news bravely and well, and that you will soon have news from your husband himself to say that he is well.”

The Sgt-Major’s hopes were in vain, as the paper reported:

“A few days ago Mrs Legrice received official notice that her husband was ‘wounded and missing’, and on Saturday morning she received an official intimation that he was dead.”

Private Legrice had enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery, but was transferred first to the Shropshire Light Infantry, and again to the Lancashire Fusiliers. He had two brothers serving in France, Arthur, a Private with the Sherwood Foresters and Harold, a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery, a third brother was in the Navy.

The Ashbourne Telegraph’s roll of honour gained two more names alongside Private Legrice, those of Arthur Allen and Fred Millward.

Private Allen, 20, of Fenny Bentley had died of wounds received in France just before Easter. He had been serving with the Sherwood Foresters and had previously served in Dublin during the riots.

A memorial service was held in the village church. Among the congregation was his brother Harry, home on leave from the Scots Guards.

The Company Captain had written a letter of sympathy to Allen’s mother, part of which was reproduced in the paper:

“He was a very gallant soldier, devoted to duty and greatly respected by all who knew him. We shall miss him dreadfully.”

And it was a letter from the War Office which brought grief to the door of Mr and Mrs Henry Millward of Oxmead, Mayfield. Their son Fred, who had been serving with the Sherwood Foresters since August 1914, had died of wounds received in action. Private Millward was the latest man with links to the Mayfield and Clifton scout troop to have made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country.

The Watchbox – a regular column on page 3 of the paper – recorded that for the third year the populace had been forced to mark Whitsuntide under war conditions.

People took advantage of the fine weather, the column said, and headed out into the countryside.

“Had the times been normal, Ashbourne and Dovedale, with other well-known summer resorts, would have received a larger influx of visitors. But the restrictions on travel, both by rail and road were only too apparent and although there was a big crowd in Dovedale on Whit Monday, the number would possibly have been doubled or even trebled had former facilities been available.”

The writer, recalling Dovedale in Spring before the war, turned lyrical:

“When this great world cataclysm is over and a thing of the past, thousands will again tread the stony path in Dovedale and watch the bright and sparkling waters with admiration for its natural beauty which vies with some of the most famous in the world for supremacy.”

JC Lee and Son, jewellers in Market Place, Ashbourne, had been taking a small single column advertisement on the back of the paper for many months to promote its wedding rings.

“Get that Wedding ring now” it stated. The shop boasted it had all sizes and weights in stock, but warned: “Owing to the Government having stopped to supply of gold to the manufacturers we may not be able to procure any other in the near future. Therefore we say BUY NOW even if you have to put it away for a time. If you wait you may have to be content with a 9ct article, or even lower quality than that.”

Despite the difficulties faced at home poultry keepers were being urged to donate birds for a charitable cause.

“With the object of assisting the peasants of Northern France to re-establish there (sic) poultry yards in the districts now being recovered from the enemy the Agricultural Relief of Allies Committee is organising a gift of poultry which it is hoped will reach a total of 1,000 birds.”

Among the recipes reproduced in this week’s paper was one for ‘American Soup’ which was essentially shredded vegetables, boiled in three pints of water, with a tablespoon of dripping stirred in with a little finely chopped parsley before serving.

  • 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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May 25, 1917

News that 19-year-old Private Frank Henstock, “a bright and promising boy” had been killed was reported in the columns the Ashbourne Telegraph. The passing of his young life merited a single paragraph on page 2 under the News in Brief column. Henstock, of the Manchester Regiment, was the son of former Ashbourne residents Mr and Mrs Frank Henstock, of Hulme, Manchester.

In the regular King and Country column came news of two more soldiers.

Private Frank Bowler was recovering from a shrapnel wound to his foot in the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. The son of Mr and Mrs Bowler of Derby Old Road, Ashbourne, he previously worked at P Birch and Sons, builders, and had signed up in April 1915.

Private C Smith, of the Canadian Regiment, had had two brothers die while in the King’s service; one in France in September 1916 and another, who had served throughout the South African War, but had been “seized by illness” and died after returning to England.

Rocester village news carried a report of another soldier killed in action. Private Thomas Bentley had been mortally wounded by shellfire on the morning of May 14.

His wife, who lived in Ashbourne Road, received news of his death from her husband’s commanding officer with the Royal Welsh (sic) Fusiliers. He had seen three months’ active service on the Western Front.

“The news of his death was received in the village with general regret, and great sympathy is felt with his widow and two young children.”

Company Sergeant-Major Harry Wright of Fenny Bentley had been presented with the Distinguished Conduct Medal in a ceremony at Derby Barracks. He was reportedly given a ‘hearty cheer’ by soldiers on parade.

The medal and the Medaille Militaire, which he previously won, went on display at Messrs Barnsdall’s in Dig Street, Ashbourne.

A severely injured Belgian soldier was reported to have made a remarkable recovery after treatment by surgeons.

“He was wounded on the Yser in November 1914, and sixteen bullets were found in his body. After life had been despaired of evidence of breathing was discovered and the unconscious man was taken to England, where it was a week before he regained consciousness. He was examined at Birmingham Hospital, and seven bullets were found in his head and nine in his legs.”

Whether the story of Jakov Weemaes is genuine or propaganda is uncertain, but there is no doubt that the wounds suffered by fighting men tested doctors and nurses to the limits, and advanced the progress of surgical technique.

The privations of war were increasingly gripping the country, and government imposed restrictions growing by the month. The Telegraph reported that the President of the Board of Trade had ordered restrictions on civilian use of petrol, in order to preserve supplies for shipping and the armed forces. In future no petrol was to be used for pleasure purposes.

On the same page rationing was being introduced for horses from May 21, although the rules were complex.

“No restriction is placed on feeding with hay, straw, or dried brewers’ grains, but subject to this, the use of any cereals or cereal products in the feeding of horses is regulated.”

As with all regulations there were exceptions and exemptions.

“Horses on national work are excluded entirely, including stallions used exclusively for stud purposes, thoroughbred brood mares, and broodmares in foal or with foal at foot. The order affects other thoroughbreds, carriage horses, hacks, hunters and polo ponies, and horses mainly used for other than business or trade purposes.”

Meanwhile the price of milk had been fixed by the government at 1s 8d a gallon, but Ashbourne War Agricultural Committee heard that farmers were unhappy with the regulation and warned about the impact in future. One member stated:

“Not a single member of his local society would think of selling his milk next winter at 1s 8d.”

And Ashbourne Rural Council considered a suggestion that the public should be given free access to rivers in order to catch fish to eat, to supplement their diet.

The council was concerned that nets might be used rather than lines.

“They would also have to consider such questions as trespass and fishing rights.”

The chairman said he did not think the increased supply of food from this source would be significant.

The move to allow the public to fish the rivers was heavily defeated in a vote.

  • 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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May 18, 1917

Tributes were paid to four men from the Ashbourne District who had lost their lives in uniform, and a fifth, feared dead, missing in action for a month.

Private Albert Hudson, a young man “who knew no fear” had been killed by a shell on April 27 – less than 10 weeks after landing in France. Hudson, who was serving with the Sherwood Foresters, was one of 12 men from WH Foster’s angling suppliers in Church Street, Ashbourne, who had enlisted. Prior to going out to France he had been sent to Ireland to deal with the 1916 Easter Rising, described here as ‘the rebellion’.

His mother, formerly of Royal Cottage, Calwich, received news of his death in a letter from the Captain of his company:

“I was quite close to him when it happened, and had been speaking to him but a moment before. My heart goes out to you in your great sorrow, the loss of a brave, sunny-tempered, generous boy, who knew no fear.”

His letter, touchingly concluded:

“I shall miss him dreadfully. He was a general favourite, both in my company and throughout the battalion… Once more I tender my heartfelt sympathy with you in your sorrow, which I pray you may be given strength to bear. You have lost a gallant little gentleman – I a friend.”

Mrs Hudson had two other sons serving King and Country, one of whom had been in France for two years.

Words of condolence also reached the home of Private Charles Sowter, of the Lincolnshire Regiment, whose death had been reported the previous week.

His regimental chaplain wrote:

“Your son took part in an attack with the battalion, and he has now entered the higher world by the glorious gateway opened for those who have laid down their lives for their country.”

In terms, less empathetic than those offered to Mrs Hudson, TB Hardy continued:

“For him we must not mourn, but I pray God to give you strength to bear your natural grief, and in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, that you will meet again.”

Sowter had married just before going out to France, leaving just an hour after the ceremony, and had not returned home since.

Private Albert Silvester, of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who had worked at
W Barnes, agricultural engineers, in Ashbourne, joined up in August 1914 and had died ‘in the fighting line’ on April 9.

Silvester, son of Mr W Silvester of Derby Road, had previously been wounded and spent a few days in Ashbourne before returning the front line. Mr Silvester Snr, had previously lost a grandson in the sinking of the battleship Queen Mary.

Corporal John Lowndes, 20, of the Sherwood Foresters, whose mother lived in Buxton Road, died instantly from a rifle shot while working his gun. His Captain said of Lowndes: “No one ever more gladly or responded to the call of duty.”

Bert Westhorpe, a 22-year-old Private in the Scots Guards, whose mother lived in Mayfield Road, was a likely casualty, the paper reported, in Egypt, where he had been serving with the Expeditionary Force. Before the war he had worked at Mr Whitehead’s farm in Bradbourne and enlisted in April of 1916.

Elsewhere in the paper it was recorded that two local officers had received distinctions. Brigadier RG Jelf, DSO, had ben given the command of an infantry brigade on his return to France having recovered from injuries sustained in the Battle of the Aisne in September 1914; and Brigadier-General GD Goodman, previously Captain of the Ashbourne Company of Volunteers had been mentioned in despatches.

In a rallying cry to save food waste, Mrs Alfred Praga’s column in the Weekly Dispatch was reproduced on the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph.

She had a message for the menfolk:

“We can’t afford as a nation to waste one single crumb, one single grain, even of rice or barley, if we are to win the war. Your mistress is not ‘being mean’ when she asks you to keep within the Government bread rations; not to put jam or marmalade on your bread at the same time as butter; not to indulge in your usual eleven o’clock lunch of cocoa and the rest of it. She is showing the noblest patriotism.”

And she turned scorn on those denigrated cooks:

“It is only very ignorant and underbred people who speak slightingly of cooks nowadays.”

She left readers with a final message:

“This war will be won, must be won, not in France or Flanders or upon the seas, but in the kitchens and larder and dining rooms and restaurants of England.”

In the first year of the war there had been much debate about women drinking, with allegations of debauchery made and fiercely rebutted. Such claims reared their head again at a meeting of London City Mission, which heard there had been deterioration in the character of women, especially those whose husbands were in the Army.

“Public houses were full of women, it was stated, some of whom, hitherto respectable, were now associating with others who had lost self respect. ‘Dirty, unkempt, ragged, brutal in appearance, and vile in their language’.”

Such was the shortage of labour, that the collection and disposal of rubbish was becoming a problem. An item on the back page of the Telegraph stated that local authorities were urging householders to sift out and burn cinders and leave bins where they could be emptied with the least labour.

And in an early example of household recycling the piece states:

“Kitchen waste, paper, cardboard &c; is now so valuable that its separate collection is desirable.”

  • 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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