June 14, 1918

A soldier who enlisted in January 1915 had been seriously wounded – the fourth time he had been invalided from the trenches.

Private WJ Tully of the Gordon Highlanders, who went out to France in March 1915 was reported to be suffering from shell wounds and the effects of poisonous gas. He had been initially treated in a Canadian Hospital in France, but had been transferred on May 3 to Oxford, where he was said to be seriously ill with burns to his body, unable to read or write, with his speech affected.

He had been wounded the first time in June 1915, when he suffered a “fractured scalp” and repatriated.

“Soon after his recovery and return to France he was buried by a French Mortar and dug out, invalided suffering from a perforated eardrum and shell shock. The third time he was invalided home he was suffering from muscular rheumatism and trench feet.”

His parents of Osmaston Manor Gardens had another son who had also been seriously wounded by a bullet.

The War Supplement carried each week in the Telegraph continued to portray the war in a much more positive light, with stories of bravery and service beyond the call of duty, illustrated with positive and cheery illustrations intended to put a positive spin on the ongoing conflict.

This week a photograph headlined Ma’mselle and the Farrier showed a uniformed soldier reclining on the ground with a young woman smiling down on him while a cow grazed nearby. The caption to this peaceful, bucolic scene read:

“A charming picture of a French girl (doing war work as a cow-minder) enjoying a parley-voo (sic) with a Sergeant Farrier.”

It was back to reality for readers who turned to the back page, where it was reported Bombardier Arthur Hammersley of the Royal Field Artillery had died of his wounds.

The 22-year-old from Yeldersley was recalled in two letters which had reached the Telegraph via his sisters who lived in Derby, his parents having died.

The first was from his captain, Raymond Godwin who said Hammersley had been wounded by shell splinters and had not appeared in pain when he was carried away, calling out ‘good bye’ as he was taken to the dressing station.

“He was a wonderfully brave man, very quiet and steady under the most trying conditions. I remember when he was with me in action at [redacted] before the first German offensive. Some ammunition caught fire in his gun pit and set the camouflage on fire too. He with wonderful coolness and gallantry put the flames out even using his bare hands to prevent the flame spreading. His quickness and great courage undoubtedly saved his gun from being blown up.”

There was a sympathetic letter, too, from a ‘pal in the battalion’.

“What a shock it has given me to hear of Arthur dying of his wounds, as we did not think he was so seriously hurt.”

The letter goes on to explain the circumstances in which Hammersley had been wounded.

“He had just returned to his battery from 24 hours’ duty and went over to the cookhouse to get his tea. Instead of bringing his tea away with him as usual he stopped chatting with the cook and others. I had only left the place two minutes before the shell came over and did the damage. Four fellows were wounded: 1 died before reaching the dressing station; 1 is in England; 1 is at the base and poor Arthur is gone.”

Reported as missing, believed drowned was Lieutenant J Hunter of the Derbyshire Yeomanry. The 30-year-old, whose mother lived in Ashbourne, had been a member of the Yeomanry before war was declared and had been mobilised with his regiment.

Further news too, of Lance Corporal Fitzroy Beresford of Mill Dale, Alstonefield , whose capture by the Germans was reported the previous week.

Although his parents had not received word from their son, they had been told by the Prisoners of War Committee that he had been about to come home on leave when he was caught up in the ‘great German rush’ on March 21 and reported missing. He had been captured at Bullecourt and was now being held at Rennbahn.

The army and navy’s demand for men was greater than ever, and the work of the Military Tribunals continued apace. Both the Ashbourne urban and rural tribunals had received letters from the recruiting Officer in Derby and the National Service Representative urging a review of men previously granted exemptions.

Dozens of cases were heard and in many cases certificates were withdrawn or applications refused. Among the more unusual applications was from Frank Maurice Jones, assistant managing director and secretary of R Cooper and Co, corset factory. It was argued that the corset trade was formerly essentially a German industry, but during the 15 years prior to the war the business of the firm had trebled, the bulk of which had been taken from German traders.

The firm had already sent 51 men into the army, with three more joining up the following week.

The evidence must have swayed the tribunal as they granted Jones a further six months’ exemption.

Rupert Marsden, grocer, found himself in front of the Police Court charged with a breach of the Meat Rationing Order 1918.

The court heard that a food inspector had visited Marsden’s shop on May 18 and asked for half a pound of bacon, with which he was served, he paid and left the shop without being asked to produce a coupon.

Marsden admitted the offence and told the court that it had been a very hot day and there was a risk of the bacon going bad. It was market day and he was busy and had ‘neglected to ask’ for a coupon.

The chairman told Marsden that such cases risked rendering the rationing scheme a farce and fined him £10 with 12s 9d costs.

The Clerk to the Ashbourne Justices, RA Holland had written to the magistrates to request leave of absence to allow him to serve with the army.

“It was proposed by the chairman, seconded by Mr P Turnbull and unanimously carried ‘That this Bench of Justices, whilst regretting deeply the temporary loss of their clerk’s valuable services, feel that it can no longer resist his earnest and persistent desire to serve his King and country in a military capacity and agrees to grant the leave of absence desired.’ ”

Captain RE Gibson of the Army Medical Service, son of Mr and Mrs Gibson of Ashley, had been honoured by the King with the appointment as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire [MBE] for services with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

  • 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 7, 1918

The Ashbourne Territorials had been on camp at Hunmanby in North Yorkshire on August  3, 1914, when “sinister reports” prompted them to break camp and head for Derbyshire.

The men disembarked the train at Derby, sleeping in the Drill Hall, before continuing their journey to Ashbourne. That evening the order to mobilise was posted in the town’s Post Office window, and the men were under orders to be on parade the next morning.

The Ashbourne Telegraph reported how the men cheerfully marched off to war:

“A verse of Onward Christian Soldiers was sung as the men marched into the Market Place. Here a crowd of several hundred people awaited them, who gave them a round of hearty cheers as they moved off, headed by the Ashbourne Old Volunteer Band, who had willingly given their services and played several patriotic airs during the long wait, and as they marched off struck up the old familiar tune of “Auld Lang Syne”.

Among their number was William Hudson. He marched from Ashbourne to Matlock and then Chesterfield as British troops were mustered for training before being sent to France.

After seeing action in the front line, Hudson was granted a month’s leave in December 1915, having taken on another term of service.

“After rejoining his battalion at the expiration of his leave he remained with them until August 1916, when he was wounded by shrapnel in the back of the neck after having taken part in the great battle of the Somme and was brought to England in a critical condition. He, however, recovered and after a short spell of convalescence was again drafted out to France, this time joining the 2/7th  Sherwood Foresters.”

In November 1917, while at the front, he fell victim to a virus and was again repatriated, spending several weeks in hospital in Birmingham.

“He returned to France on the 19th of March, this was his fourth journey to the Western Front and was placed in the Sherwood Foresters He was a Lewis Gunner for the greater part of the time.”

But Private Hudson, was not to see England again. His parents at Meadowside, Mayfield, had heard that their son had been killed in action, nearly four years after marching to war with the cheers of Ashbourne ringing in his ears.

Other ‘military items’ this week included news that David Fearn, a native of Brassington, serving with the Vancouver Regiment was recovering in Horton Military Hospital in Epsom, Surrey, from an attack of trench fever .

News, too, of the death of a former Ashbourne police constable while serving with the Sherwood Foresters.

Private Harry Brumby enlisted with the Chatsworth Rifles with the permission of his chief constable in June 1915.

The Telegraph noted:

“It is a sad coincidence the Pte Brumby is the third constable who successively enlisted from Roston who has lost his life during the present war, the two previous men being PCs Pell and Jinks.”

The district news on the back page of the Ashbourne Telegraph commonly included details of community news from the outlying villages; of dances and other entertainment, charity events, church services and other ‘parish pump’ material.

On occasion, however, the correspondent would supply copy of greater impact. In the first edition of June 1918 the entry from Mayfield contained the following paragraphs, packed with information about a native of that parish:

“We are pleased to report that Pte Geo. Collier, of Mayfield Terrace, who was reported missing since April 9th, is quite well and a prisoner in the hands of the enemy.

Pte Collier, who joined the colours in 1916, has been training in the following places: Colchester, Clapton-on-Sea, Margate, South Shields. There are also three other brothers serving the colours – Alfred, Herbert and Fred, who was wounded in the Dardanelles in 1914.”

Elsewhere in the correspondents’ columns was news of other prisoners.

“Mr and Mrs G Beresford of Mill Dale, have received official notice that their son Private Roy Beresford is now a prisoner of war. He was reported missing several weeks ago, but news has been heard that he is now a prisoner in Germany.”

And under the heading of Calton (page 5) it read simply:

“Mrs W Hambleton has received news notifying her that her husband Private W Hambleton, Lancs. Fusiliers, who has been missing some weeks is a prisoner in Germany and is quite well.

Two other families had their loss recorded under the simple headings of Died of Wounds and Killed respectively.

“Mr and Mrs Wint of the Crewe and Harpur Arms have received official notice that their son Corporal Alfred Wint, has died on founds in France on April 18th. Corporal Wint was in the 2nd Sherwoods and had been out in France for some time, taking part in several severe engagements.”

Wint was just 23.

“Mrs Featherstone, of Mill Dale, has also received official notice that her husband has been killed in France. Private Featherstone was in the Sherwoods and he leaves a widow and one child, to whom he deepest sympathy is extended.”

But not all families lost their sons amid the thundering shells of the battlefields. Thomas E Wooddisse had enlisted in the early part of the war with the Sherwood Foresters, later transferring to the Lincolnshire Regiment. After training he was drafted out to India where he rose to the rank of Sergeant with the Supply and Transport Corp.

“There his health gave way and after treatment at various hospitals, he was eventually discharged from the army. Bearing his illness with wonderful patience and cheerfulness, everything possible was done but he passed peacefully [on May 30] at the early age of 23.”

  • 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 31, 1918

Regular readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph, anxious for news of friends, would have turned each week to page five, column three, which was the established position for ‘Local Military Items’.

In recent weeks there had been many deaths reported – the town’s sons who had fallen during the fierce battles that followed the launch of the German Spring offensive on Allied lines on March 21, 1918.

The edition of May 31, 1918 was no different. Private Frederick Blood, of the Sherwood Foresters had died of gas poisoning in a military hospital on May 20. The 38-year-old joined the forces in April, 2017, and had been in France since June. He had been admitted to hospital on May 14 in a ‘very critical condition’, although it had been hoped he would recover.

The nursing sister at the hospital wrote to his family on May 20 to tell them he had died.

“We did our best for him and he was so brave and good and patient to the end. It will comfort you to know that he did not suffer but fell asleep and died quite quietly.”

John William Locker, who was a Private with the Durham Light Infantry, was just 18 when he was killed by a shell while carrying rations to men in another section. News came to his parents in Buxton Road in a letter from an officer in the West Yorkshire Regiment.

“My battalion was fighting over the same ground and one of my signallers came across your boy lying on the roadside and said he had been hit by a shell. He has given his life nobly and lies with other comrades in a heroes’ grave.”

Locker joined up in August 1917 and had previously been apprenticed to James Osborne, chemist. A former Ashbourne Grammar School pupil he had left in 1914 with honours in geography and French.

British Tommies’ letters home were often full of passion and graphic in their description of conditions on the front line. Others were preternaturally formal and stilted.

Lance Sergeant  FC Hodge of the Sherwood Foresters wrote to tell his wife he was being held a prisoner of war at Cassel in Germany.

“My Dear Wife – I am now sending you a card, and hope it finds you well. You see I am a prisoner, and am wounded, but I am going on alright so you need not trouble. Just let Ma and all the rest know about it. I will be sending you a letter soon, so cheer up. With love from F.

Gunner JS Derbyshire of the Royal Field Artillery had been awarded the Military Medal. The former apprentice surveyor, whose parents lived in Buxton Road, joined up as soon as he turned 18 in November 1916.

“Describing the incident in which he gained the distinction he says they had been firing and loading for eight hours, and then were compelled to retire. On reaching the support trenches the officer called for a detachment to man one gun, and four of them with a sergeant at once volunteered. For some time they kept up a rapid fire, but the Germans were practically surrounding these five men. The sergeant then got a bullet in his thigh and two of the men were hit in the arms. They placed the sergeant on a piece of tin and after what seemed an interminable time they managed to get away and carry the sergeant to a dressing station three miles away.”

News had reached Mayfield of another son being held prisoner in a German camp. Private James Richardson, who had been missing since March 21, had been confirmed as a PoW. Richardson who joined Kitchener’s army soon after the start of the war had seen action in ‘some of the fiercest battles’ and had been ‘once wounded’, said the paper.

There were fewer restriction on advertising claims a hundred years ago, if this example from the classifieds section of the Ashbourne Telegraph is anything to go by:

“Be attractive, grow luxurious hair, have perfect skin, complexion and teeth. Marvelous recipes; 1s each; the four for 2/6d., Satisfactory results guaranteed. Send at once – Wilson, 49, Victoria Street, Belfast.”

There was other dubious advice in the editorial columns too, this time from William Lawton, founder of the British League of Housewives. He claims that when tobacco was in short supply it was possible to smoke rhubarb leaves instead, ‘with every satisfaction’.

“I discovered my smokers’ leaves,” he says, “through becoming acquainted with the habits of the people of Thibet, who always smoke rhubarb leaves. Moreover, they were formerly used in this country for adulterating tobacco.”

  • 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 24, 1918

An experienced Ashbourne soldier was awarded the Military Cross for his “fearless devotion to duty in the face of the enemy” on the Western Front.

Captain Graham Callow, whose family lived in Green Road, had been involved in his battalion’s withdrawal from their position to the Dernancourt-Buire line in the last week of March.

His citation was reproduced for readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph.

“His steadiness and absolute coolness under the most trying circumstances made him a most invaluable adjutant. He continually reorganised leaderless men and used them to very great advantage in assisting to repel the enemy.

At Happy Valley in front of the Albert-Bray road he took command of a platoon at a very critical juncture, when the enemy had worked round the exposed left flank of the battalion and was enfilading our whole position with accurate sniping and machine gun fire.

By clever use of cover, he worked his men close up to the enemy who were established on a ridge, and successfully drove them off and saved the situation. This he carried out entirely on his own initiative. Throughout the whole operation he displayed fine courage, showed extraordinary disregard of danger and was always cheerful and was an inspiring example to all ranks with whom he came in contact.

“The results obtained by the battalion were in a large measure due to his conduct and the fact that the men took their cue from him.”

Callow’s story is all the more remarkable because, having served his allotted time in uniform, he had been discharged from the army in April 1916. But instead of returning to the relative peace of Derbyshire he joined up again and was granted a commission with the Sherwood Foresters. He went out to the front line in January, 1917, and was twice injured during the course of the year.

Callow had been a member of the Derbyshire Yeomanry at the outbreak of war and he served on the East Coast before being sent to Egypt in April 1915 then to the Balkans and later Macedonia.

News from Mayfield this week included two men serving ‘with the colours’.

Mrs Collier of Mayfield Terrace had received official notification that her husband George had been missing since April 9. Collier, who had previously been a painter at the Nestle factory in Ashbourne, was serving with the Durham Light Infantry and had only been drafted out to France a week earlier. The paper stated, somewhat superfluously: “His wife is very anxious for news of him.”

The Parker family, of Velvet Row, heard that their son Fred, of the Royal Scottish Fusiliers, was a prisoner in Germany. Having joined up in March 1916 he was sent to France in August that year, and invalided home in December.

“After a short period of convalescence, he was again sent to France, where he was wounded in November 1917. After returning to France he was taken prisoner on April 12.”

His parent had already had their eldest son, John, killed in France in 1916.

There was news, too, of two Ashbourne men being held by the Germans.

“Pte GC Woodward, of the Leicester Regiment, son of M Woodward of Compton Street, Ashbourne, has been a prisoner of war since march 22. Pte Woodward was formerly employed by Messrs JO Jones and son of Ashbourne.

“Pte Bertram Edgar Plant, (North Staffords) was captured by the enemy at Bullecourt on March 21 and is now a prisoner in Germany. The parents, Mr and Mrs J Plant of Union Street have also received information that their nephews Pte Edward Plant (Sherwood Foresters) died of wounds in hospital at Camiers on May 7. Pte Plant was 39 years of age and joined the army soon after the outbreak of war. He had served in France about two years and had previously been wounded.”

Lance Corporal Percy Walker, of Hognaston was awarded a Parchment Certificate for gallantry and devotion to duty west of the Somme between March 23 and April 2.

Walker, who was serving with the Northamptonshire Regiment joined the army in January, 1915, and went out to France in May of that year.

“He has been wounded five times, the last being only a few weeks ago, but we are pleased to say he has recovered and is very probably back with his regiment now. We extend to him our congratulations and hope he may be spared to return home.”

The regular Letter from London column was concerned with the Germans’ use of psychological warfare alongside brute force and arms.

“The Germans sent their baby murderers to Scarborough and their Zeppelins to London and to other English towns, not that they expected to achieve direct military results from the raidings, but they thought they could scare us. That was where their psychology came in. They argued that if they paralysed us with fear we would scream for peace like a rabbit in a trap, and that then the war would be won.”

The writer then continued with his national stereotyping.

“Germany is much worried lest Spain should throw off neutrality and join the Allies, and into Spain the agents of Germany are pouring money and effort for the purposes of propaganda. Very queer propaganda it is too.”

He said the Germans had printed, in Spanish, leaflets detailing some of the atrocities carried out by their forces on the people of Belgium and cataloguing the possessions seized, including underwear, women’s handkerchiefs, umbrellas and parasols.

“These things sound trivial to the point of laughter, but remember that the Germans are clever psychologists – they have thought it all out and they want to illustrate their terrible doings in terms which will appeal to and be understood by simple and ignorant people.”

Ashbourne men who were members of the Volunteers were expected to train regularly to prepare to defend the community in case of invasion, and each week orders were posted in the columns of the paper. As the month drew to a close the men were to be instructed in Field Dressing on Monday, May 27, and on the Wednesday to do field work including, Advance, Flank and Rearguard.

Food supplies continued to be short, but poultry keepers were not allowed to augment their family’s fare by slaughtering the occasional bird. A notice from the Ashbourne Food Office announced.
“In the case of birds consumed by the household, the head thereof must detach from the meat cards of its members, the appropriate number of coupons as set out in the table of Coupon Rates for Self-Suppliers, copies of which can be obtained from the local Food Office, and must cancel and preserved these coupons for production to the Food Office when required.”

A family’s grief at losing sons in the war can never have be truly captured in print, but the 34-word report on page two of the Telegraph seem inadequate in the circumstances.

“News has reached the parents at Matlock that Sergt Albert Henstock, son of Mr SJ Henstock, is officially reported as missing since March 21. Two of his brothers have been killed in the war.”

  • 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 17, 1918

Residents gathered in the Parish Church for what the Ashbourne Telegraph described as ‘one of the most notable’ memorial services to servicemen who had lost their lives since the outbreak of war, nearly four years previously.

“The vast congregation assembled to pay tribute to the heroism of nine more of Ashbourne’s heroes who have given their lives for their country.”

The men being saluted were: Captain Arthur Frank Newman Henstock, Sherwood Foresters; Bombardier Richard Henry Beresford, Royal Field Artillery; Gunner Neville Walker, Royal Field Artillery; Gunner Frank W Potter, Royal Garrison Artillery; Private George Mellor, West Yorkshire Regiment; Private Robert Ward, Durham Light Infantry; Rifleman Frank Atkins, Rifle Brigade; Private Henry Wibberley, Sherwood Foresters; and Private Edward Plant, Sherwood Foresters.

The vicar, Canon Morris, used a Biblical text to talk of the temptation to seek power at all costs and the abuse of that power.

He quoted ‘a German writer’ who apparently said:

“Some thirty years ago there had fallen on the German people a wave of materialism and covetousness and irreligion; overweening arrogance and impertinent contempt for the right of the weak, a mania for world domination and a veritable lunacy of power.”

Canon Morris said the soldiers they had lost, had died fighting for the world’s morality.

Captain Henstock’s heroic end, he said, would not be forgotten.

“As he was attending church parade on Palm Sunday he was called to march his company to the farthest fire front of the battle – a distance of 18 miles, and to hold an outpost ‘at all costs’. The enemy came in overwhelming numbers; Captian Henstock’s men fell, one after another, to rise no more, and when resistance was no longer possible he bade the few survivors withdraw, but stayed behind himself and fell riddled with bullets.”

News of more men killed followed on page 5 under the headline Local Military Items.

Private William Webster “a singularly bright, cheerful and hearty lad” had been killed on April 11. The 23-year-old was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Isaac Webster of Hognaston.

“He went out full of hope, determined to do his best for his country, a resolution which he nobly fulfilled.”

Webster was serving with the Hampshire Regiment, having previously been attached to the South Staffords. He originally joined the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment in May 1916. He had been wounded before, but recovered and returned to France as a Lewis gunner.

Rifleman Frank Atkins, whose life was marked by the memorial service in the parish church, was reported to have two brothers injured in hospital. Harry, of the Sherwood Foresters, had been gassed and was under treatment in France, while 19-year-old Fred was in hospital in Wales having been wounded after just three weeks after leaving England, losing a finger on one hand.

Private Harry Pegge’s mother, of Clifton, had received news that her son had been missing since March 21, while serving with the South Staffords. Pegge, a former office worker at the Nestle factory in Ashbourne joined up when he was 18, and was drafted to France shortly before Christmas 1917.

The letter from his captain offered little comfort:

“I have just take over this company. My Sergeant-Major, Quartermaster Sergeant and Company Clerk have all been killed and as a consequence news of anyone is hard to get. Pte Pegge is still missing, but there is a chance he is a prisoner of war. I say this with reserve though.”

News too of a Sherwood Forester injured for the second time. Private Neville Gettliffe had suffered wounds to his left arm.

The final Local Military Item recorded that 2nd-Lieutenant TC Chadwich, son of Mr and Mrs Chadwick of Belle Vue had been promoted to Acting Lieutenant and awarded the Military Cross. He was said to be serving on the Western Front with the 42nd Siege Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery.

Almost hidden amid the News of the District columns on the back page of the Ashbourne Telegraph was news of a Sherwood Forester, taken prisoner during one of the year’s biggest battles.

Mrs Smith of Osmaston had received news from her son, Private H Smith, who was attached to the Light Trench Mortar Battery, informing her that he had been taken prisoner and was being transported to Germany.

Private Smith had been reported missing on March 21 – the day the Germans launched their Kaiserschlacht.

“I have been taken prisoner at Bullicourt [Bullecourt]  (21/3/18) and I am now on my way to a prisoner of war’s camp in Germany. As the English prisoners are being distributed to different camps I cannot yet get a definite address. Do not write until you receive further news, which follows at first opportunity, I am quite well.”

An unnamed soldier’s quick response saved a young girl from drowning in a well.

“As some children were playing an open well in the Ashbourne Hall grounds on Thursday last, one of them, Florence Harrington, aged 12, daughter of Pte and Mrs Harrington of Town Hall Yard, fell into the water, which is about six feet deep. A soldier who happened to be passing near by ran to her assistance and jumped into the well. After some difficulty he succeeded in hauling her out in an unconscious condition. Mrs O’Kane, who witnessed the accident from her garden ran and rendered first aid and the little girl recovered consciousness and she was taken home.”

  • 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 10, 1918

A remarkable first-hand account from the trenches of a Great War battle – and life as a prisoner of war – was published in the Ashbourne Telegraph this week in 1918.

A letter from a soldier who had been part of the “contemptible little army” which in the early days of the war had fought to prevent the Germans reaching the French and Belgian coast had been received in Derbyshire.

Sergeant EW Radford of the Durham Light Infantry had written to his mother in Hognaston from Sheveningen in Holland, where he was being held prisoner of war, in conditions he described as ‘heaven’ compared to his time in Germany. The text of his letter was reproduced at length.

“You ask me to tell you of some of my experiences in Hun-land. It would take sheets to tell all that I went through. I was no luckier than the majority of NCOs. I was taken prisoner on the night of the 24thof October, 1914, at a place near Lille named Emnetiers  [Armentières]. We had been having a rough time of it ever since we left the Aisne and had only taken this place from the enemy on the Sunday, 18thOctober.

We had lost a large number in doing this, and consequently when the counter attack came on the Tuesday we were in poor straits to find enough men to hold out; but we did. How we did it God knows, for it was hell.

The Sherwood Foresters were in the front line in our section with C Company of my regiment, the remainder of the companies being distributed along the line at various points where it was weak. We held out all day till about 8pm at night when the Germans broke through our left and right flanks.”

He said they received the order to retire, with his company to stay behind to hold the line while others took up new positions.

“All the Sherwoods, except the company detailed to stay with us, went back, but had not gone far before they found they were surrounded. They attempted to fight but it was of no use, they were hopelessly outnumbered. My company was next to go and we ran right into the same trap as the first party. We managed to get a message back to the remaining company of Sherwoods and they hung on in the trenches all night but had to give in next morning.”

Academic research has since disproven the commonly held belief that brave troops were sacrificed by incompetent officers – “lions led by donkeys” – here is a contemporary account which supports this analysis.

“All the officers of our company had been killed earlier in the day and the Sergeants were in command. There were about 100 of us taken and about 500 of the Sherwoods. We were marched to Lille that night and on the following afternoon we entrained in horse trucks for Germany.”

Sergeant Radford’s following account is almost cinematic in its description.

“The trucks we absolutely filthy, being full of horse dirty etc. and to make matters worse we were packed like sardines 68 and 70 in a truck, the wounded with us.

We were travelling three days like this without any means of easing ourselves and with only one piece of black bread the whole journey.

We were kicked and cuffed and spat at and degraded in every way at the different stations we passed through; the Red Cross even bringing food and drink to the doors, offering it to someone and then spitting in his face as he offered to take it.”

Conditions were little better when the prisoners arrived at their destination.

“We arrived in Hameln on the morning of October 24 (sic). What a miserable hole! We were put into little huts about four feet high made of canvas and bedded down like pigs, no blankets or anything. There were 62 in a hut about. 40ft long and about 7ft wide; it was horrible.”

It is unsurprising Radford described Holland as heavenly, when he details the hellish conditions in Hameln.

“We were kept like this for nearly three months with poor food and many of the boys died, in fact the surprising thing is everyone didn’t die.

Things were better when we were moved into huts and were able to get ourselves clean, and parcels from home, but times were hard even then.

We were not allowed to smoke and were kicked from pillar to post, even when in your room you didn’t know when a crowd of sentries were going to dash in and you dash out through windows or doors, helped by a bayonet, butt or boot.

Things got better after a time, but the food got worse. I don’t know how we should have got on if had not been for you good people at home. It was only what you did for us that kept us going and enabled us to laugh at this brutality. It might not seem believable, but nevertheless it is true, the boys used to laugh at this, and the Hun could not make it out.

We were all forced to work from May 15thto December 15thwhen an order was given saying ‘Sergts and Cpls need not work unless they volunteer for it.’ The majority of us promptly downed tools and we were then sent to Hustenmoor to do exercise. It was exercise too, as only Germans know how to make it. We were put in a small lager about 100 yards long and 30 wide. There was one hut in it, in which 250 of us were crowded, and we had to sleep on the floor wherever we could.

The commandant of the camp told us he would have us out at work in a fortnight, but he did not know the Englishman then.

We were not allowed to buy anything from the canteen, nor were we allowed to speak to anyone in the other compound. We were out on exercise 7.30am to 12 midday and from 1pm to 6pm. With only a few minutes halt each day. We had to march round and round a field, not allowed to talk or smoke; it was terrible.

If anyone did anything wrong we were kept standing to attention for an hour, perhaps two, in the cold, and once they actually took the coats away from us and kept us standing there; it was nice and warm I can tell you, being the middle of winter. This sort of thing went on for over 10 months, when we were able to get the American ambassador through and he stopped it.

Then they tried a new scheme of getting work out of us, by telling us we had to do camp work. We did not mind doing this but when it got to loading trucks of potatoes and that, to go to the big towns and the front we immediately refused to do it.

Two of the seniors were given one year’s imprisonment for refusing, but still we held out and eventually got the better of them.

They then started sending us away in small parties to various camps, they told us, but various quarries, coal and salt mines it turned out, to make us work, but nothing doing; the boys would not have it at any price.  But didn’t they go through the mill! They were lined up in front of machine guns and threatened to be shot, but still they hung out and eventually drifted into various camps and left to themselves.

I was rather fortunate and was kept back at Hustenmoor, so did not get any salt mines or such things, but I have seen some of the wrecks who came back to the camp, and it was more than enough for me.

This is just a rough outline of my life in Deutschland. I will tell you more some other time. But it will suffice to show you how our “dear, devoted” so-called cousins treated us. They are always saying the English are their cousins and they seem proud of it, although they hate us.”

Sergeant Radford’s account, published without banner headlines, is in remarkable contrast to the positive propaganda in the paper’s War Supplement which carried of a photograph of soldiers preparing dinner at a machine gun post under the heading Waiting For The Enemy – Very Like A Picnic; a message from Queen Mary to the army navy and air force; and a description of British bravery from the government’s official ‘war correspondent’ Philip Gibbs.

Radford’s testimony would have a far greater impact than any government sponsored stories, as this was the account not of an anonymous Tommy, but a man who would have been known to many people in the Ashbourne District.

Alongside Sergeant Radford’s testimony was the, now weekly, list of latest casualties.

Mr and Mrs R Ward of Sturston Road had been informed that their 18-year-old son Robert had been killed by a German shell less than a month after arriving in France. His death came at 6.30am on April 27thwhile fighting with the Durham Light Infantry. The family had three other sons, Fred, Harry and William still serving.

News, too, of the death in action of a former Mayfield resident, Private William Henshaw of the West Yorkshire Regiment. The paper noted that Henshaw had had three brothers-in-law killed in the war: Private Jack Henshaw, Private Fred Moon and Private Samuel Bill.

Ashbourne Town FC half-back ‘Snowy’ Beresford died in the early part of the German Offensive of March 21. Bombardier Beresford of the Royal Field Artillery had been wounded in 1916, but returned to action in September 1917.

Other soldiers lost included Private R Barker of the 17thLabour Company, killed on April 27 and Ernest W Oakley of the Royal Fusiliers.

News of Barker’s death was conveyed to his widow in Snelston by a chaplain who told her that he had buried her husband with five of his comrades in a grave marked with a cross.

Oakley was the only son of Mr and Mrs J Oakley of the Nag’s Head, Hulland Ward. He had signed up in 1915 as a drummer boy and had been home on leave to mark his 21stbirthday in January, 1918. His death in a military hospital in Etaples on April 15 came as a surprise to his family because they had no idea that the injuries he had suffered on March 28 would prove to be fatal.

Newspapers in the early 20thcentury were organs of record, informing their readers of the work of the courts, local councils, and health boards. They also carried lengthy obituaries to mark the deaths prominent residents. One such gentleman was Mr Christopher Gibson – “one of the oldest and most respected agriculturalists in the neighbourhood”.

The 80-year-old farmer had died at his daughter’s home in Westwood on May 8.

“He was a most skillful and successful farmer and has gained many prizes for his cattle and for farm management generally.”

Having moved into the area from Westmoreland 30 years previously he had served as Mayfield’s guardian and rural councillor for 19 years. On retirement he was then co-opted by both bodies. He was also a church warden and school manager.

“As an incident of his consistent good nature it may be mentioned that practically from the opening of the local Red Cross Hospital he had sent 20 eggs each week, winter and summer, a contribution which was highly appreciated by patients and officers.”

The news angle of his death was buried at the foot of the report.

“It will be recalled that some weeks ago Mr Gibson, with his customary kindness, was assisting a neighbour to drive some sheep to the market, when he was accidently knocked down by a runaway horse, receiving such injuries that he never recovered from. An inquest will therefore be necessary.”

The paper also carried notices letting readers know about changes to the law which might affect them.

Telegraph readers were informed that the Venereal Diseases Order, published in the London Gazette on May 3 would come into force in Derbyshire on July 1.

The Order enacted the Venereal Diseases Act of 1917 which made it an offence for anyone other than a qualified medical practitioner to treat anyone for venereal disease. Conviction could result in imprisonment with hard labour for up to two years.

Raising funds for the Red Cross Hospital continued with a sale at Clubley Hall on May 23. Sports were to be held in the grounds, including bowling for a pig. Other entertainment included the Ashbourne Old Volunteer Band with dancing in the school until 2am.

  • 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 3, 1918

The German Spring Offensive or Kaiserschlacht took a terrible toll on the Allied Forces on the Western Front and this was evidenced by the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph which reported the town’s sons killed, wounded and missing.

Private J Harrison of the Yorkshire Regiment had been killed by a machine gun bullet on the first day of the assault, March 21, and a photograph of him in uniform accompanied the report of his death.

“Patriotic farmer”, Driver Bertram Gadsby of the Royal Field Artillery was also reported to have died from battle injuries received on March 21.

Gadsby earned his epithet having volunteered in August of 1914. Despite having seen action on the Somme and other battle areas he had come through unscathed. But on the fateful day of the Germans’ decisive attack he was fatally wounded, including a broken spine. Gadsby, one of five sons of Mr and Mrs George Gadsby of Hungry Bentley, Alkmonton, died in the South African General Hospital on April 16.

His brother Oswald had previously been killed in Salonica, a second had been wounded, while two others were serving in France.

The parents of Sergeant George W Bennett received news that their 22-year-old son had lost his life in a letter from a comrade in the Sherwood Foresters. Bennett had signed up May 1915 and been sent out to France in March 1916.

“His adaptability to active service marked him for promotion, and he rose to the rank of Sergeant, in addition to which he was, in July last, awarded the Military Medal. He was very popular with his comrades who will mourn his loss deeply.”

For other families the news that their loved ones were missing would have brought its own agonies.

“Mrs Belfield, Union Street, has received official notification that her son Pte Charles Belfield is missing. No news of him has been received for several weeks and his regiment was one of those which got the full force of the German push when it first started.”

Mrs Belfield had two other sons serving, Private Harry Belfield of the Sherwood Foresters, serving in France and Private George Belfield of the Manchester Regiment who had been wounded and was in hospital in Birkenhead.

“Mr and Mrs Moreton of the Terrace, Mayfield, have received official news that their son Pte Albert Moreton of the 2/5th  North Staffordshire Regiment was reported missing on March 21.”

Morteton who had worked in the gardens of Mayfield Hall before joining the army in January 1918 and he had been in France for 15 months.

Correspondence  from Private F Shepherd, lying in a hospital bed would have brought some comfort to his parents. He told then in a “cheery letter” that despite being wounded on April 14, suffering gunshot and shrapnel wounds to his back and arms, his injuries were not serious and he was thankful for rest he was getting.

Four other men were reported to have been taken as prisoners of war: Lance Sergeant FC Hodge, Sergeant Joseph Hughes, Signaller John Shepherd and Private Sydney Rose.

Each had their own story. Hodge, of Snelston had previously been wounded in February 1917 and then invalided to England with Trench Fever. He returned to the front line in August 1917 taking part in some ‘fierce engagements’ with German forces. A postcard dated April 7 said he was being held in Cassell, central Germny, but was safe and well.

Hughes was also being held at Cassell. He had been listed as missing since March 21. He had previously been involved in a number of major battles, including Messines Ridge, Cambrai and Passchendaele. He was taken prisoner at St Quentin. His mother, of Town Hall Yard, had four other sons serving.

Shepherd, son of Mr and Mrs A Shepherd of Alrewas Mill Yard, Clifton, had previously worked at the Nestle factory in the Ashbourne and was a former King’s Scout.

A postcard to his parents revealed that Rose was a wounded prisoner in Langensalza. He had been in France for more than a year without leave.

For families who were used to receiving regular news from their sons in France and Flanders the days between letters arriving would have been full of anxiety. And as the gap grew longer, so would the dread.

Mrs Smith of Osmaston had last received a postcard from her youngest son, Private H Smith, on March 5, and on March 29 she heard from the War Office authorities in Lichfield that he had been missing since the German offessive.

It had been 12 months since he was last home on leave; he had been serving with the Light Trench Mortar Battalion, attached to the Sherwood Foresters.

Another soldier listed as missing since March 21 was 19-year-old Joseph Brassington of Mayfield, but his wife had since heard that her husband was ‘quite well’ but being held a prisoner in Germany. He had enlisted in April 1917 and after training at Byker, Newcastle-on-Tyne had been drafted out to France on September 1. Before joining the army he had worked at Oakamoor Wire Works. His elder brother had been killed in France in August 1917.

This was the grim reality of war; some distance removed from the sanitised version portrayed in the Ashbourne Telegraph’s War Supplement which told of naval exploits and was illustrated with pictures of smiling Tommies, jauntily captioned:

 “British and French soldiers enjoying a beer and baccy and a hand of cards at an outpost in a wood.”

 “Three British soldiers on support duty. Their refuge is a shellhole in a ploughed field. Notice the gas masks carried on the chest and the three bottles of wine ready for dinner.”

“A British soldier watching the burning of an ammunition dump. When our men were forced to draw back they arranged the destruction of their stores, and so managed it that the flare-up took place just when Fritz was putting his hand on the booty.”

  • 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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April 26, 1918

Yet another Ashbourne teenager joined the ranks of those who had lost their lives in the trenches of the Great War.

George Mellor, 18, had only been in France three weeks when he was killed by a German shell.

Private Mellor, of the West Yorkshire Regiment, lived in Sturston Road and had previously worked in Spencer’s bakery in Market Place. He had joined the army in August 1917.

His widowed mother received the news in a letter from his commanding officer in the morning post, and must have taken the document directly to the newspaper office to enable them to include details in that week’s edition.

The letter gave an unvarnished account of the circumstances of her boy’s death.

“Together with two more of his comrades he was working in a trench when a Boche shell dropped right in the trench, killing the three of them and seriously wounding their platoon officer.”

As was commonplace in such communications, the officer assured Mrs Mellor that her son would have felt no pain, as death had been instantaneous. Other words of comfort told the grieving mother that despite the short time he had been there her son’s ‘cheerful manner and willingness’ had won him many friends.

“We brought him back this morning, and this afternoon he was buried by the chaplain in a little British cemetery behind the lines.”

Mrs Mellor’s other son was serving with the Army Service Corps in France, where he had been for three years.

In other news which arrived in the newspaper office on the morning of printing was a report that Signaller CR Thornley, of the Sherwood Foresters had been reported missing over a month previously.

Thornley, who formerly worked at Ashbourne Post Office had joined the forces in November 1914 and been out in France more than two years.

His father, of South Street, once the clerk at the town’s post office had also been out in France, but had returned to England and was engaged in signalling work.

Also missing since March 21 – the first day of the German’s Spring Offensive the Kaiserschlacht – had been 20-year-old Signaller John Shepherd of the Sherwood Foresters, who had been previously employed at Nestle. His parents, of Alrewas Mill Yard, Clifton, had now been informed he was a prisoner of war.

According to the paper he had joined up in October 1914 and can have been just 17 when he volunteered.

The Ashbourne Prisoners of War Committee reported that they had added five more men to the list of those being held by the Germans.

“Gunner WH Dixon, Tank Corps, Station Street; Private W Taylor, Leicester Regiment, Station Street; Private Sydney Rose, North Stafford Regiment, South Street; Private EJ Twigge, Leicester Regiment, Mappleton and Private Shepherd, Sherwood Foresters, Mayfield.”

Further details of the prisoners could be found elsewhere in the paper. Private Taylor, who had been in France for 16 months had seen action in some of the bloodiest of battles including Passchendaele and Ypres. News of his capture came in a postcard to his mother in Station Street. He was being held in Limburg.

She was not the only woman in her neighbourhood to hear news from Germany.

“Mrs WH Dixon, Station Street, has also received word from her husband WH Dixon of the Tank Corps stating that he is a prisoner of war. He was taken in action on March 22 and was sent to Germany the following day.”

Before the war Dixon ran a clothier’s business in Station Street. He joined the army in April 1917 and had been drafted to France in January.

Mrs Hughes of Town Hall Yard, Market Place, had had news of one of her sons in a letter from a hospital in Liverpool.

“Sergeant H Hughes had remarkable escape, being hit in the right shoulder near the neck by a bullet from a sniper when behind the Germans. He managed to crawl for about two hours until luckily he found his own regiment, although at the time he did not know if he was taking the right direction.”

Hughes, of the Royal Engineers joined the forces in November 1915 and had been in France for about 15 months.

His mother was anxiously awaiting news of another son.

“Sergeant Joseph Hughes, who is a member of the Manchester Regiment which made such an historic stand against the first rush of the German attack last month. No news of him has been received for several weeks.”

Two other servicemen were also reported wounded. Captain W Wibberley, a doctor with the Australian Forces attached to the Lancashire division, had suffered a wound to his face, but was expected back in action shortly.  His family were formerly residents of Ashbourne.

Mr and Mrs Slater of Mayfield Road had heard that their son, Corporal WH Slater of the Northumberland Fusiliers, had been gassed and was being treated in hospital in France.

A closely-typeset item on the back page of the paper informed readers that “as in the case of food there will not be a sudden end to paper scarcity with the return of peace”.

Referring to the British Empire Producers’ Organisation the news item said there was prospect of the United Kingdom being able to produce a limited quantity of inferior paper through the “careful collection of ‘waste’ paper and rag, and a little ingenuity in utilising straw and possibly other materials hitherto despised”.

It is curious that these dire warnings appear in a paper which had for the past few weeks been carrying an additional two page of what appeared to be ‘fake news’ in the form of Government propaganda.

There was a veiled warning for the tradespeople of Ashbourne in the final sentence:

“Probably it will be found that advertising announcements must be still more severely rationed, so that the same revenue may be drawn from smaller space.”

  • 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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April 19, 1918

Father-of-three Private Harry Wibberley was the latest Ashbourne soldier to have made the ultimate sacrifice in the battle-scarred fields of France.

The 36-year-old former Nestle factory worker joined up in 1916 and was sent out to the front in November of that year.

There are no details of his passing, other than the rather bald statement: “He took part in the battle of Messines, and was reported missing, and has now been reported dead.”

The paper described him as one of two ‘patriotic brothers’. Lance Corporal George Wibberley had joined the same battalion at the same time, and until Harry was listed missing in action they had been together all the time. George was now serving in Italy.

As a footnote, the paper informed readers that George Wibberley’s stepson, Private Jack Gallimore, who prior to joining the Sherwood Foresters had been employed at the White Hart Hotel, was now serving with the Machine Gun Corps.

“He has been out in France about 12 months and last July was badly gassed, but recovered. He is still helping to keep the hordes of Huns back from the French coast.”

Mrs Mason of Coxon’s Yard was said to be ‘justly proud’ of the fact she had three sons serving their country.

The eldest of her boys had been in action with the Sherwoods. His mother had just received notification that Lance Corporal WH Mason had been seriously wounded during a fierce fight on the Western Front – the sixth time he had been listed as a casualty.

“His younger brother enlisted at the same time and is now in France again having been wounded twice. The youngest brother, who has just attained the age of 21, enlisted in September 1914.”

Mr and Mrs F Bates’ son, Private FW Bates, had only been in France 12 days before he was seriously wounded. Bates, who was just 18, had worked in his father’s business before joining the Durham Light Infantry about a year ago.

News arrived at the family home in Compton from a hospital in France informing them of their son’s condition.

“Pte Bates is wounded in the chest, and very ill. He is receiving every possible care and attention night and day, and it is hoped that that in a few days better news of him would be sent.”

The Ashbourne Telegraph edition of April 12 had included a two-page War Supplement, unannounced beforehand. This week the paper carried a notice on page two.

“We have arranged to give EVERY WEEK an illustrated War Supplement specially printed on fine paper giving the best and latest War Pictures. The supplement also includes a summary of the week’s fighting, hints on food production, a War Story, The Woman’s Part, useful and helpful matter in this time of stress.”

Readers were told:

“In order to make sure of your copy regularly order it from your newsagent as very few are now printed over what are actually ordered.”

The supplement was a curious mix of photographs, austerity recipes and uplifting stories of British bravery; the result of the Government propaganda machine, almost certainly.

There was nothing here to match the grim realities of war exemplified by the stories of the Bates, the Masons and the Wibberleys told elsewhere in the paper.

Public lectures were a common form of entertainment and instruction in the early years of the 20th century, and this week the residents of Ashbourne had the opportunity to hear the experiences of the Rev. JR Ackroyd of Derby, who had spent many months in France acting as a chaplain to the forces.

He told how he had had a variety of billets, from the polished oak floor of a house, to a slaughterhouse and a tent in the orchard of a chateau.

“His duties included holding himself in readiness to do anything for the wounded when they were brought to the clearing station, and one of his hardest tasks – a task which he could never get used to – was that of taking down the last message of some dying soldier to his relatives.”

The Rev Ackroyd also paid tribute to the brave airmen who daily risk their lives by flying over enemy lines to take photographs of their positions.

And it was the scriptures which reportedly saved the life of another soldier.

“A khaki Testament and a watch in his tunic pocket saved the life of Private Fred Crouch, of Frenham Road, Rotherham, by intercepting a German bullet.”

  • 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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April 12, 1918

Gunner Frank Potter of the Royal Garrison Artillery, reported wounded in the previous week’s Ashbourne Telegraph, had died from his injuries.

Potter, who was 22, had written to his parents in St John Street “a very cheerful letter” telling them that his wound was “not so serious” and that he hoped to soon be in England.

The young soldier had signed up under the Derby Scheme in 1915.

“He was drafted out to France in August 1916 and took part in the great Somme offensive and was also in the thick of several other battles last June.”

He had been awarded the Certificate of Merit by his commanding officer for showing great courage under fire.

Before joining the army he worked for his father’s firm, WR Marple and Son in St John Street.

Another Ashbourne native, Captain AFN Henstock was reported to be wounded and missing in action.

Henstock was the son of the late Mr and Mrs TJ Hensock, formerly of Church Street.

He had been a young teacher in Sussex at the outbreak of war and, together with a number of Welsh University contemporaries, he volunteered with the Welsh Fusiliers, serving with them for 12 months before being granted a commission in the Sherwood Foresters. Such was his talent as a soldier that he had been promoted to Captain and awarded the Military Cross.

His chaplain had written to his Aunt, Mrs Harry Coates, Walton Bank.

“He was in action with us on the 24th March when his battalion was fighting a rearguard action. He did magnificently right up to the moment he was wounded.”

The following sentence gives just a glimpse of the reality of the battlefield.

“At that time, it was impossible to get any of our wounded away. All that could be done was just simply to bind up their wounds and leave them for the Germans to tend.”

One can only begin to guess the pain and fear faced by men lying injured and immobile as their comrades left them to the mercy of the enemy. But the chaplain has some words of comfort for the family.

“To give the Boche his due he usually [looks after wounded prisoners] remarkably well.”

The Chaplain, George Smissin said Henstock had been “one of the most valued officers in the battalion and one of my warmest friends”.

The use of the past tense leads him to his final message to Mrs Coates, which makes it clear he feared the worst.

“I do hope you get word during the next few weeks that he is doing well, but he was rather badly wounded, and I am afraid you must not build up too strongly in the hope that he is well.”

For the first time the Ashbourne Telegraph published a War Supplement – two additional pages, taking the paper to six rather than four pages for the first time since paper shortages meant pagination was restricted during the early months of the war.

The ‘front page’ of the supplement carried two, large, officially-sanctioned photographs, under the headlines Scenes from The Greatest of Battles, and Two Ways in Which the Enemy Were Held Back.

The first image carried the caption: “British and French Infantry firing on the enemy. The Frenchman crouches in his shallow trench with his legs beneath him. The British soldier prefers to sprawl.” The second shows British Artillery firing on advancing German troops.

It is clear, at least to a reader today, that this is a supplement of pure propaganda intended to put as positive a spin as possible on the advance of German forces in France.

“The Germans did not get the best of it,” ‘Sentinel’ writes. “They threw about a million and a half of their best soldiers against the Third and Fifth British Armies, which together did not amount to more than a fifth of their numbers; they drove our men back but they never broke them.”

Elsewhere readers were told their King was a ‘full-timer’ on war work, that rationing in Germany meant cards for the of the poor while the “rich eat the food”.

A picture on the second page shows a British soldier guarding nine German prisoners of war.

The image is flanked by two quotes attributed to Rudyard Kipling:

“We are fighting for our lives, the lives of every man, woman and child here and everywhere else. We are fighting that we may not be herded into actual slavery such as the Germans have established by force of their arms in large part of Europe. We are fighting against eighteen hours a day of forced labour under the lash or at least the point of a bayonet, with a dog’s death and a dog’s burial at the end of it. We are fighting that men, women and children may t be tortured burned and mutilated.”

And

“Under the Hun dispensation, man will once more become the natural prey, body and goods, of his better-armed neighbour. Women will be the mere instrument for the continuing of the breed: the vessel of man’s lust and man’s cruelty; and labour will be a thing to be knocked on the head if it dares to give trouble, and worked to death if it does not. And from this order of life there will be no appeal or possibility of any escape.”

 

A Public notice on page 2 of the main edition of the Ashbourne Telegraph mysteriously stated:

“Whereas some person or persons have caused malicious and slanderous statements to be circulated concerning my wife Louisa Osborne. Any person repeating same after this date will be prosecuted,
(signed) John Osborne, Dig Street, Ashbourne.
April 9th 1918”

We will probably never know the substance of the scandal, or whether the notice succeeded in limiting the spread of rumour, or simply promoted gossip concerning Mrs Osbourne.

The editor of the Ashbourne Telegraph had an eye for an unusual story, and reproduced the following from the London Express, which reported a trench digging working party had dug up a treasure trove of rare French Louis XV coins dated 1726.

“Two hundred silver coins were found in a jar and were in a fine state of preservation. The coins are now valued at £8 each. Each member of the working party received one for a souvenir.”

  • 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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