The columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph once more brought readers news of sons of the town, killed in action in the fields of France or Belgium. This time it struck still closer to home.
Private Claude Boden had been a member of staff at the Telegraph at the outbreak of war and a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.
He had been working at the VAD Hospital when the first batch of wounded arrived in town, and enlisted in November 1915 in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He had been drafted out to France in January 1916.
Boden had been on active service for 20 months and had not returned to Derbyshire since going out.
“He had two arduous experiences in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, in the second of which he received a slight leg wound,” read the report of his death.
He later took part in action near Albert and marched on Bapaume in the Spring of 1917.
“Later, when on the Hindenburg Line he had a narrow escape of being taken prisoner.”
He was killed on July 31 during the Great Push and Private Fred Clare wrote to his mother:
“He was one of the best, as I know, having been comrades for over 12 months. His sunny nature and cheerful disposition won him many friends.”
Also remembered was Charles Ward, of the Seaforth Highlanders, who had been killed near Ypres on August 3. The family had received two letters. The first, addressed to his father, from Lieutenant Todd, brought news of his death and said his comrades would miss his ‘cheerful voice and witty remarks’. The second, longer, letter was from Ward’s chaplain, William Cranford, and was addressed to his mother.
He reported that ‘Charlie’ had been almost out of the shelling area when he was killed.
“I confess that it was with personal sorrow that I heard the news. I knew him – we all knew him so well – but I knew him as well and better than most.
“I have seen him binding others’ wounds on the battlefield and Charlie was ready to give us a song – as he said once – ‘to cheer the men’. He showed splendid perseverance and cheerful endurance, and none of those who knew him will ever forget him or the example he showed.”
And it was a telegram, followed by a letter from her son’s commanding officer that must have brought both fear and hope to Mrs JW Samuel of Sandybrook.
The telegram said Lieutenant FA Samuel, who was serving with the East Surrey Regiment had been reported missing on August 5, believed to have been taken prisoner.
The letter that followed read:
“During an attack yesterday Lieut. Samuel had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by the enemy, but as far as we know (and we believe it to be correct) he is not wounded.”
Lieutenant Colonel Knapp told Mrs Samuel that the Germans treated prisoners much better than earlier in the war and said he had no doubt she would soon receive a letter from her son.
“I much regret the fact of losing Lieut. Samuel, as the battalion can ill spare such an efficient officer. I have again put his name in for recognition of services.”
Samuel had a few weeks previously been recommended for distinction and spent some time back home. He had only been back in the front line a few days when he was captured.
Other men were less enthusiastic about serving ‘King and Country’. Alfred Hill, 21, of Compton, was charged with being an absentee under the 1916 Military Service Act. When questioned at his home as to why he had not reported to Bakewell on July 31 said he had not received his papers.
The Telegraph’s report detailed his responses when questioned by police:
“He had received some addressed to Alfred J Hill, but that was not his name. He added that he had thrown the papers into the fire. On August 9th witness [Constable Billyard] served him with a railway warrant and asked him to report at Bakewell at 9am on the following morning. He replied, ‘I shan’t go’. Witness had again seen the defendant at 9.15am that morning, and in reply to his questions said ‘I shall not go either for you or anyone else.’ The railway warrant and other papers had gone the same way as the other papers.”
Hill pleaded guilty, was fined the minimum 40s, and handed over to the military authorities.
Food supplies continued to be seriously depleted as a result of the German U-Boat blockade. As a result in July 1917 the Food Controller, Lord Rhondda, fixed the prices of essential foods and local food control committees were set up by both Ashbourne Urban and Rural Councils to enforce the Food Controller’s order.
The Ashbourne Telegraph’s Notes of the Week observed:
“The order, if rightly administered, will ensure everybody getting a share of the staple foods and will do away with the insidious food hoarder – who is despised by both the public and grocers alike.”
Sugar was already rationed but it was anticipated that meat and bread were likely to follow.
One man and four women were fined for breaching food regulations in Derby. Henry Warren was fined £2, while Catherine Harrison, Mary Castledine, Edith Bunting and Emelia Clay were each fined £1 under the Fruit Preserving Order by obtaining sugar ‘other than the purposes for which it was issued’.
The Food Controller also issued an order under the Defence of the Realm Act compelling anyone involved in the ‘production, purchase, sale, distribution, transport storage or shipment’ of meat to notify him of their business.
“Don’t Marry A German” was the eye-catching headline on a lineage advertisement on the back page. The Matrimonial Circle had arranged many happy marriages, it claimed, urging would-be brides to send 6d for an ‘introductory journal’ containing hundreds of genuine advertisements ‘appealing to all classes’.
- My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog