November 16, 1917

The latest Ashbourne recruit to the Sherwood Foresters to have ‘died a soldier’s death’ was Lance Sergeant Stevenson.

Stevenson, who was 31, had worked at the Foster Brothers’ fishing tackle works in the town before joining up in November 1914.

He was sent out to France in August 1915, the Ashbourne Telegraph reported, and had seen ‘a great deal of heavy fighting’.

In a letter to his parents in Union Street his Captain wrote:

“He was killed in action whilst taking part in a successful enterprise against the enemy. He did the work entrusted to him thoroughly and well and died a soldier’s death, doing his duty nobly. His body was brought back to our lines by his comrades, and he will be buried in a British Military Cemetery. We shall all miss him dreadfully in the company where he was a great favourite with all, always doing his work in a quiet and efficient way.”

News, too, of the death of Lance Corporal Frederick Thomas French, from an old-established Ashbourne family. French, who was 28 and serving with the Leicesters, had previously worked for T Edge of Dig Street. He left a wife and young child.

Yet another soldier from the district was reported as having been killed in action. Private Fred Hall warranted just three lines in the Brassington district news. It stated simply that he had been killed and was the son of Fred Hall of Harboro Farm.

There was more detail of the injured Bombardier Fred Dakin of Osmaston. Dakin, who was serving with the Royal Field Artillery, had received shrapnel wounds to his lower left leg on November 1. His wife had received a letter from Lieutenant CG Woodward informing her that her husband was in hospital in France and was doing ‘fairly well’, having lost a lot of blood.

The paper detailed his training after joining up in March of 1915 under the Lord Derby scheme. He had previously worked at Osmaston Manor.

“He has undergone some thrilling experiences on the West Front and has had one leave home,”

the correspondent wrote.

Harry Mills of the Machine Gun Company of the Scottish Rifles was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery. The commendation stated:

“When his officer was knocked out by a shell this NCO immediately assumed command, showed great energy and determination. Throughout he displayed the greatest enthusiasm and cheerfulness, and set a fine example of hard work and endurance under all circumstances, which was followed by men who showed great confidence in his leadership.”

Sergeant Mills was the son of Mr and Mrs T Mills, formerly of Ashbourne, who had had two other sons serving in the Army. They too, had a remarkable story.

Both Victor and Oswald Mills had been injured during the battle of the Somme and were repatriated to England, where they met for the first time in seven years – in hospital – Oswald having been in Australia at the outbreak of war.

Victor Mills was in 1917 guarding German prisoners, while his brother had returned to Australia having been invalided out of service.

One of Ashbourne’s major employers had taken out a notice in the Ashbourne Telegraph to counter allegations that the company was supplying milk to Germany.

“It has come to the knowledge of the Nestle and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company that rumours are being circulated that the company is sending Condensed Milk to Germany.

“There is not a shadow of foundation for such rumours and the company is endeavouring to trace them to their source, and hereby give notice that proceedings will be taken against any person found to be originating or repeating such untrue and libelous statements.

“In the interests of justice and fair play the company, which is largely supplying the Army and Navy and Allied Forces with its production, invites the assistance of anyone who is able to information which will enable the company to take steps to publicly clear its name from such gross accusations.”

This was not the first time Nestle and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company had been embroiled in rumour and intrigue. Earlier in the war there had been allegations that the company was German-owned and had had to write to the paper to rebut the potentially damaging accusation. On that occasion questions were asked in the House of Commons.

A public meeting had been called in Ashbourne under instructions from the Minister of Food as part of the Food Economy Campaign.

Ashbourne (Urban) Food economy Committee had taken an advertisement urging every household to be represented at the meeting in the Town Hall at 8pm on Tuesday, November 20.

The Ashbourne War Agriculture Committee had applied for 45 German military prisoners to work in squads on the land.

  • 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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November 9, 1917

A lengthy letter from the chaplain of 103 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, brought news of the death in action of Bombardier Douglas Hepworth.

Hepworth had been in the Army three years and out in France for two. He had been employed at drapers J Lister in Ashbourne at the outbreak of war.

Although his parents lived in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, they had informed the Telegraph of their loss, passing on the contents of the chaplain’s letter.

“I cannot say how much it distresses me to have to write this to you for I know how terrible a blow it must be. But I knew that you would be becoming anxious at receiving no news of your son for several days, so I am writing as soon as possible, to let you know. You will be anxious to know what happened.

“What took place was as follows: – Your boy was killed by a bomb dropped by a German aeroplane. It was in the twilight, at about six o’clock in the evening. He was in the wagon line, standing with a group of friends, when the aeroplane flew over and dropped several bombs, one falling quite close to the group and I regret to say that he and four others were killed by it, several others being wounded.

“I think it will be a little comfort for you to know that his death was practically instantaneous, so that he had no suffering.

“We held his funeral yesterday in a little cemetery close by in a small village, some eight miles behind the fighting line. You will be glad to know that it is a beautifully neat and peaceful little spot, and the grave will be specially marked with a cross, which will be placed at the head.”

The Rev AW Chute then offered his condolences and wrote of Hepworth not really being dead, but having passed into a ‘new and fuller life’.

He closed by informing Hepworth’s parents that their son’s personal possessions would be forwarded to them.

Elsewhere in the paper a series of reports informed readers of servicemen who had been honoured. Ashbournians Lance Sergeant GW Bennett of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment, Private B Brown of the Cyclist Corps and Private CH Kirkland of the Yorkshire Light Infantry were listed, as was Captain BW Wibberley, of the Royal Army Medical Corps who was awarded the Military Cross for tending to wounded men under shell fire. Wibberley, the nephew of John Wibberley of Offcote Place, Ashbourne, had been in Australia at the outbreak of war.

Five Derbyshire police officers had also been decorated for bravery and devotion to duty. Constables Bradwell, Stych, Hardy and Bullimore had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal, while Constable Bowler received the Military Medal.

A stark warning and an unvarnished threat were delivered to farmers over the need to maximise food production as the German disruption of shipping continued to bite.

“Brigadier-General Chandos-Poll Gell explained the situation in regard to the country’s food supplies, and said that it was exceedingly black, for whether they had peace or war they were faced with starvation in 1918.”

Speaking at a crowded meeting in Belper, he told farmers they could avert the crisis if they followed the instructions of the War Agricultural Committee to plough up their land for crops.

“It was a case no of ‘the prison or the plough’. Farmers who did not plough the necessary land would be liable to six months imprisonment or £100 or both.”

The Food Controller utilised the power vested in him under the Defence of the Realm Act to restrict the sale of potatoes. The Potatoes Order of 1917 prohibited growers dealing in several varieties without a licence, and introduced a wide-ranging control over farmers.

“Every grower shall comply with any general or special direction that may be issued by or on behalf of the Food Controller prohibiting the removal of sound marketable potatoes of any other variety from the premises of the grower.”

  • 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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November 2, 1917

Not for the first time, the suggestion that it ‘would all be over by Christmas’ was being touted, and the Ashbourne Telegraph picked up the theme for its front page editorial, as the country entered the 40th month of the Great War.

“Are we passing through the last lap of this great race for supremacy in the world? There are some who say we are, and that the colossal struggle will be finished by Christmas. We can only hope that their predictions are correct.”

The editor pointed out that all nations involved in the war, and many neutral states were in the grip of a food shortage.

“Millions of tons of food that were hitherto sent into the homes of England have been sent to France to keep our brave fighting sons. No one begrudges them an ounce of it, but we at home must necessarily so order as to met the altered conditions.”

Distribution of food was crucial, he said, and the nation which succeeded in this would be best placed for victory.

“Germany are far worse off than us in food supplies, and if the final struggle is to be against starvation it is Germany and her allies who will have to surrender.”

It was because of the food crisis that prices were a hot topic in 1917, and allegations of overcharging were evidently damaging. Ashbourne tea dealer James Edwin Slater reacted angrily to suggestions that he had been profiteering by taking out a sizeable advertisement offering a reward for anyone who could provide information leading to a prosecution of the person who had ‘maliciously or ignorantly’ reported he had been charging five shillings a pound for 1s 6d tea at his Church Street shop.

“The report is an unfounded lie,” states Slater, who claims he can prove his case.

“Please read the letter in my shop window from the firm from whom I bought the tea.”

He then has an uncompromising message for those who had repeated the allegation:

“My advice to all those busy people who so dearly love gossip and scandal is to buy their tea elsewhere; we are not the keepers of your purse, and in spite of the many restrictions now coming into vogue, you are still able to spend your money at which ever shop you like, so keep on shouting but for goodness sake make your purchases elsewhere as I have more than I can do now to supply the friends who have favoured me with their valued support during the years I have been in business.”

Two men who had been wounded, recovered and returned to the trenches were reported to have died while serving King and Country.

George Etherington, son of Mr and Mrs Frank Etherington of Compton, had worked as a van driver for Smedley Bros and Mellor in Ashbourne before he joined the Sherwood Foresters in March 1916. He was drafted to France on July 2 and wounded shortly after taking his place in the trenches.

He was again in the fighting line when he was killed. His parents were informed by a letter from a friend.

Signaller AP Clarke wrote:

“I write these few lines on behalf of my mates and myself as friends of George to tell you that he was killed on the night of the 24th. He never flinched his work when duty called and he met his death like a hero.”

A few lines were added by another friend, Private J Bates, who offered sympathy to the family in their bereavement, but said he could say no more because he was too upset.

Private Etherington had three brothers, all on active service.

The second fatality was Henry Courtman of the Machine Gun Corps. He had joined the Shropshire Light Infantry in 1914 and had been wounded at the Battle of Loos in September 1915. After recuperating back in England he had returned to the line in France.

“For some time his family heard nothing of him and on enquiries being made they were officially informed that he had died from meningitis in hospital at Etaples on July 28,” the Telegraph reported.

Courtman, 22, was the second of his parents’ sons to die. His brother Fred was killed in action in April. He had three other brothers in the army: Charles, serving with the Welsh Regiment in France; William, on the North East coast with the Royal Garrison Artillery, and ‘R’, a Farrier with the headquarters staff in France. A fourth brother, George, was serving with the Volunteers Training Corps.

Mrs Allen of Fenny Bentley was also mourning the loss of the second of her two sons, Harry, of the Royal Scots Regiment. His brother Arthur died of his wounds at Easter.

Harry Allen was said to have been ‘universally respected and liked’ in the village, where he was a member of the choir and a sidesman at the church. A memorial service at the church was told by the Rev W Marples that Allen set an example in holding what was right and true.

He had volunteered for service at the start of the war, but was, at first, rejected on medical grounds. He had later been called up.

Hudson’s Soap used the White Cliffs of Old England to promote its cleaning power

A special police court was summoned to hear the case of John Thomas Woodward of Compton, accused of being an absentee under the reserve Forces Act.

Constable Brooksbank told the court he had seen the defendant at the police station and asked him why he was not on the army.

“Defendant replied he was thinking of joining.”

Brooksbank told the court that police had received several enquiries about the defendant, but that he had ‘caused a lot of trouble’ because he kept moving from one place to another.

On August 31, Brooksbank saw Woodward, and he had promised the officer he would go to Bakewell the following morning, but had failed to do so.

The Derby recruiting office said Woodward was an army reservist who had been enlisted in February 1916. He was called for a medical examination in May of that year and attended in late June. He was called up on July 23 to report to Derby on August 6, but never attended.

Woodward told the court he had been employed in Newark and his employers had obtained an exemption until December 31, although he had no card to prove this.

He was fined the minimum penalty of £2 and handed over to the military authorities to await an escort.

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



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October 26, 1917

A former Boy Scout, who joined the Sherwood Foresters as a bugler at the age of 17 was the latest Ashbourne teenager to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Thomas Henry Mainwaring, who signed up in November 1914 was not yet 20 when he was killed in action.

“Little Bugler” Thomas Henry Mainwaring was just 19 when he was killed.

Under the now-routine headline ‘Another Ashbournian Killed’ readers were told of the loss of Private Mainwaring, a brigade runner, on the battlefield.

“From a boy he had shown a most self-sacrificing and gallant spirit, and commenced his training early by joining the Boy Scouts at the age of nine.”

After volunteering soon after the outbreak of war he trained at Buxton, Luton and Watford before going out to Ireland with the Sherwoods to suppress the Easter Rising in 1915. Shortly afterwards he was drafted to France, seeing action with his regiment.

His mother received official notification of his death with a letter from his commanding officer, Captain AB Wallace.

“I am writing to express to you my deepest sympathy on the death of your son who was killed in action. I knew him when he joined us at Buxton as a little bugler in 1914, and have watched him grow up, and had myself grown very fond of him. He had been selected as a runner for the brigade and met his death whilst engaged in that important duty.”

Food was once again the subject of the front page Notes of the Week column as supplies of imported goods continued to be disrupted by the effort of the German navy.

Quoting from the National Food Journal, the Ashbourne Telegraph said the average consumer had not yet realised the personal responsibility to restrict consumption.

“National characteristics die hard, and it is one of the deeply ingrained and universal of these which obstructs the work of economy campaigners and explains to an appreciable extent the rise in the price of commodities. We are not a frugal and thrifty people. Prior to the war our extravagance had become proverbial.”

The advice was clear: don’t complain about high pries unless you are prepared to cut back your consumption.

“In the consumption plain duty is to be satisfied with the simplest of diet, and regard the practice of the most rigid economy as a serious moral responsibility.”

Further items in the same column concerned the consumption of milk – suggesting that people who had access to fresh milk should not buy condensed milk – and urging children to understand the need for economy and to eat slowly.

Such messages did not sit entirely comfortably alongside the advertisement from John Spencer of Market Place for his “high class cakes, sponge moulds, and confectionery of every description’” including “Fancy boxes of chocolates and novelties’ and his ‘celebrated Ashbourne Gingerbread”.

For the fourth year women got together to organise Christmas parcels for the troops.

Ashbourne Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Christmas Parcel Fund committee agreed that parcels should be sent to NCOs and men serving overseas, estimated the cost would be £200 and appealed for woollen items to be donated

“The parcels will contain a Christmas pudding, tin of café au lait, tin of Oxo cubes or packet of lemonade crystals, pair of leather bootlaces, khaki handkerchief large carriage candle, packet of cigarettes, wallet, tin of sardines or packet of shortbread, card of bachelor’s buttons, toilet soap, woolen article and Christmas card.”

The News in Brief column on page 2 of this week’s Ashbourne Telegraph included an item entitled ‘Mappleton Bombed!’ in relation to a German airship raid the previous week which had seen aircraft fly over the Midlands en route for Manchester. But the report that followed contained no shocking details of destruction.

“The German report of Friday’s raid is remarkably humorous. Amongst the places they claimed to have bombed are London, Manchester, Birmingham, Derby, Lowestoft, Hull, Grimsby, Norwich and Mappleton. They must have been very bad marksmen!”

The Derbyshire Cure: Ashbourne Chemist Thomas Plant promised Extract of Liquorice would ‘stop that cough’

The air raid which had caused no apparent damage in the Ashbourne area was the subject of a court report in which Barclay’s bank manager Henry Patterson was fined £5 for failing to obscure a light at 11.30pm on the night of October 19. The court heard that Constable Billyard had told him there was an air raid on and the lights should be lowered immediately.

“Defendant replied ‘I don’t care what’s on’. Witness asked him if he intended to lower the lights, and he replied ‘No I don’t, you can fetch superintendent Davies of you like’. Witness then asked him if he knew what the consequences would be, and defendant replied ‘I don’t care what the consequences are’.”

The news in brief column also recorded the fact that snow had fallen on October 22 in Buxton and Hartington.

A snippet of news, buried at the bottom of page 2 recorded that the Ashbourne Depot for the National Egg Collection for the Wounded had sent 114 eggs on October 20 – bring the total collected from the area to 2,250.

  • 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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October 19, 1917

Ashbourne grocers competed for customers by taking out large advertisements offering to supply sugar – now rationed by the Government. Court cases resulted if individuals were found to have obtained extra sugar under false pretences.

The Ashbourne Empire was promising cinemagoers and ‘exceptionally interesting picture’ among its programme for the coming weeks.

With the Fighting Forces of Europe was to be shown in six parts, tracing the Great War from its origins in the troubles in Serbia.

“The first part will show officers planning and watching battles, troops taking up fresh positions and removing a pontoon bridge after troops cross a river. Germany, with types of German soldiers, battleships and Zeppelins will also be shown. The Russians will be shown crossing almost impassable mountains at a height of 10,000 feet,”  stated the blurb.

Future episodes, it was promised, would England’s ‘staunch friend’ France, Belgium’s ‘immortal struggle’, Japanese gunboats, Italian horsemanship, Greek sharpshooters and Swiss infantry and cavalry.

British troops and navy were also heavily featured in the film which readers were assured was: “one of the finest and most comprehensive collections of war subjects ever shown.”

What was not explicit in the promotion was that the series contained footage shot in colour. With the Fighting Forces of Europe was multi-media Kinemacolour film, directed by Charles Urban, which mixed library footage of troops and national locations with some actuality footage of Belgium in late 1914 – believed to be the only colour film taken of the war on land.

Closer to home men were in training to repel any threat from an invading force, and a ‘dad’s army’ of volunteers were put through their paces in front of senior officers.

“Blackwell was the scene of a ‘fight’ on Sunday when to test the efficiency of the local Volunteers a sham fight was arranged between the Alfreton and District Company [and] The Blackwell and Shirebrook Company.”

Brigadier General GM Jackson acted as referee and at the end of the exercise took the salute and congratulated the men on their work.

There was no other news of men in the fighting line, but there was cause for celebration for one soldier who was married at Mayfield Parish Church.

Sergeant Joseph Keetley Hughes, serving with the 16th Manchester Regiment, and son of Mrs and the late Mr Henry Hughes of Town Hall Yard, Ashbourne, was married to Ada Annie Sutton, daughter of Mr and Mrs Chas Sutton of Mayfield Terrace, Ashbourne.

The bride was given away by her brother, Fred Sutton, and the best man was Sergeant WK Hughes, the groom’s brother, serving with the East Yorkshire. Regiment.

But the war meant the marriage was not the event it might have been in peacetime.

“Owing to military duties the following brothers of the bride and groom were unable to be present: Sergeant RH Hughes, Corporal JK Hughes, Royal Engineers, Private C Sutton, North Staffs Regiment.”

Other regular events continued, seemingly unaffected by the war. WS Bagshaw and Sons’ annual foal sale set a record 200 foals sold, with some fetching more than 45 guineas each.

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



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October 12, 1917

Such was the frequency of fatalities among Ashbourne’s soldier that the headline ‘Another Ashbournian Killed’ was reused in edition after edition. In the days of letterpress printing the line of type may have actually been lifted over from one week to the next.

The parents of 19-year-old Mark Faulkner had been used to receiving regular correspondence from their son, but had heard nothing for several weeks. The post this week in 1917 brought official notification that he had been killed in action on August 26.

His last two letters home to Old Hill had been dated August 21 and August 24. The latter stated it would not be long before he was once again in ‘Blighty’.

The Ashbourne Telegraph informed its readers:

“He maintained a most cheerful and optimistic strain in his letters, and showed a very tender affection for his parents and sister at home.”

Private Faulkner had once been employed at the Ashbourne Telegraph office and had been a rural postman at Ashbourne Post Office immediately before joining the army.

The paper had censored the original typesetting of the page by damaging the metal type in order to obliterate detail of where Faulkner had been serving, observing the provisions of the Defence of the Realm Act.

“He was trained at Brocton, Cannock Chase and Derby and had been out at [redacted] for some time.”

This adherence to the law was in sharp contrast to the freedom with which the editor had revealed sensitive information in 1914.

Wasting resources, particularly in wartime, was a cause for concern. Ashbourne Urban District Council had taken out a Public Notice urging residents to save water.

“Householders are asked to see that no waste is permitted through running taps, or defective ball taps. Periodic inspections will be made, and proceedings will be taken against any person wasting water. Any person willfully or negligently causing or suffering waste of water is liable to a penalty of £5.”

The price of foodstuffs, now controlled by Government regulations issued by the Food Controller and punishable by imprisonment prompted a response from the British Empire Producers’ Association, whose chairman Mr C Sandbach Parker had written to local papers to put a case in the farmers’ defence.

The Ashbourne Telegraph reproduced much of the letter on its front page, which it said ‘made out a good case’.

“Our attention has been drawn to frequent references in the Press and statements at public meetings, lending colour to the view that the farming community has been amassing large fortunes during the war, and these fortunes have been made out of the necessities of the people.”

Sandbach Parker argued that Britain’s policy before the war had been to depend largely on imported food, but that of necessity farming methods had had to change.

He said farmers had benefited from higher consumer prices, but had had to pay higher production costs too.

“It is in our opinion grossly unfair that accusations of profiteering should be levelled at the agriculturalists based on the retail prices ruling for commodities.”

And he had a warning for those who continued to snipe at farmers.

“There is a serious danger of ill-informed and often prejudiced criticism resulting it is to be feared, in too many instances, in ill-considered and ill-advised measures which can only lead to a dangerous curtailment of supplies.”

Ignorance being no defence under the law resulted in Mary Redfern of the Izaak Walton Hotel, Ilam, being fined 10s for sending matches through the post. The police court heard that she had posted two boxed of wax matches to a Pte J Payne stationed at Stafford, but that one of the boxes had ignited in transit. The prosecuting lawyer said he wanted the public to know the risks of illegally sending matches through the post.

Redfern’s reckless action was in all probability prompted by the shortage in supply of matches which had previously been reported.

  • 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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October 5, 1917

A letter written on the Western Front brought news to Ashbourne of a second son killed.

Mrs Plowman of St John Street had already mourned the loss of Alec Ford in the war. This time it was his half-brother, 19-year-old George Willis Plowman of the Royal Scots Guards. News of his death came from George’s captain.

“I cannot tell you how very sorry I am to have to break the very sad news to you of the death of your son, Private G Plowman of my company. He was killed today in camp by a piece of bomb dropped from an aeroplane. He was not killed outright, but died very shortly after, and if it is any comfort for you to know, he died without suffering. “

The unnamed officer tells Mrs Plowman that her son had been well-regarded and that he had a great sense of duty.

“He was put to rest tonight in one of our military cemeteries well behind the firing line, and I know that his resting place will be well looked after.”

He promised the location of the grave, a photograph and George’s personal belongings would be sent back to Derbyshire.

“Words I know at a time like this sound empty but is it not a good thing to think that he gave his life for others, and for such a great cause.”

In an unfortunate typographical error Private Plowman’s photograph is captioned, on page 3 as Pte. G.W. Ploughman.

A brief paragraph in the district news gave readers the facts, but hardly conveyed the personal grief which must have accompanied the news.

“Mrs S Whittaker [of Brassington] received news that her son Pte. Alf Repton of the Sherwood Foresters had been killed in action on the 14th of November 1916. Mrs Whittaker had heard last year that her son was missing, and thought to be a prisoner of war. He had been wounded at the beginning of last year in the face and had not long been returned to France.”

All Saints’ Roman Catholic Church was the scene of a memorial service for Lance Corporal Frank Wallis who died from wounds received in action. The priest observed that it was almost exactly a year since there had been a service in the church in memory of Private Adair Thompson. He noted that the two men had been friends in life.

The number of injured Canadian servicemen returning from the front line had led the War Office to take over a number of hotels in Buxton. The Buxton Hydropathic, the Palace Hotel, The Devon and Pavilion Boarding House were all to come under Government control from November. The Palace Hotel, it was reported, was to be devoted to wounded Canadian officers and the other establishments to the lower ranks.

The Army’s demand for uniforms was placing huge pressure on clothing supplies. According to a report in the Telegraph, credited to the Sartorial Gazette, the consumption of cotton drill for uniforms had risen from 630,000 yards a year to 2,120,000 yards a month. The supply of blankets had increased from 139,000 a year to 20,000,000 and a block of contracts for woollen khaki cloth had been made for 14,000,000 yards or nearly 8,000 miles.

A snippet on the back page of the paper would have been of interest to many in the district as it concerned milk prices under the new Ministry of Food price order. It was uncompromising in its tone:

“The Food Controller wishes it to be understood that farmers or others obtaining or paying higher prices than those provided for in the order will be prosecuted, and that in flagrant cases the Crown will urge that offenders be imprisoned without the option of a fine.”

The statement pointed out that the regulation set out maximum prices so there was no excuse for breaching the order.

  • 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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September 28, 1917


No edition of the Ashbourne Telegraph was available at the Derbyshire Records Office in Matlock for September 28, 1917. greatwarreports will return next week.

David Penman

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September 21, 1917

Yet another name was added to the Ashbourne Roll of Honour this week in 1917 – that of Lance-Corporal Frank Wallis of the Grenadier Guards.

“The gallant young soldier who was about 22 years of age was formerly employed at Messrs Howell & Marsdens, Ashbourne, and was a prominent member of the Ashbourne Wednesday football team,” the Telegraph reported.

Wallis, whose mother lived in Mayfield Road, volunteered in December 1914 and had been wounded in 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Once recovered he returned to the front line but was ‘dangerously wounded’ on September 13, and died later the same day.

The paper stated that the Daily Mail had recorded the death of Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Robert Manners, DSO, the half brother of the Duke of Rutland had been killed in action in France, serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers. According to the paper Sir Douglas Haig had announced that the Northumberlands had taken 600 yards of trench north west of St Quentin.

Food supplies, or the shortage thereof, was the subject of numerous different items, as the public continued to face rising prices and limited supplies.

Amateur growers were advised when to harvest potatoes – “If the skin is not properly set, it will give way with a very slight rubbing by the thumb, indicating that the potatoes are not yet reading for lifting.”

Gardeners were told how to preserve surplus beans by salting – “Pick the beans when dry, or dry before a fire. Then clean with a dry cloth and put them raw into big stone jar or barrel; add a layer of vegetables and a layer of salt ¾inch thick and so on till full.

“Cover with a cloth resting on the vegetables and on top of the cloth place a piece of board or a plate weighted with stones or heavy weights, so as to press down the beans.”

Each week, readers were told, the cloth would need to be lifted and the scum which would rise to the top removed.

Meanwhile HT Spencer of St John Street was making arrangements to use his window to exhibit bottled and dried fruit and vegetables, with the intention of highlighting the importance of conserving food.

The consumer crisis was reflected in the Notes of the Week column on the front page.

“Whether it was a matter of coals, sugar, flour, bread, meat or other necessity, in the old days, one regarded them from the standpoint of “How much can I do with?” But nowadays the standpoint is “How little can I do with?’ and if householders do not regard it in this light the authorities are doing all they can – and will do – to impress this essential lesson on them.”

The writer proposed that people could manage on less, and that the nation which kept its people reasonably fed and clothed the longest would be the nation which came out on top “in this world of struggle”.

And in an effort to drive his message home he stated:

“Napoleon had a very effective way with those who wasted the nation’s goods – whether they were selfish food hoarders or grasping profiteers – on being detected they were ordered to be promptly shot.”

  • 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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September 14, 1917

A ‘strikingly simple’ memorial service at Ashbourne Parish Church for the soldiers who had fallen on the battlefield in recent weeks attracted a great congregation.

A parade, headed by the Ashbourne Old Volunteer and Osmaston bands marched from the Market Place to the church in honour of: Signaller J Hellaby, Sherwood Foresters; Gunner W Thacker, Royal Garrison Artillery; Private C Ward, Seaforth Highlanders; Private H Scriven, North Lancs. Regiment; Private FW Cox, Sherwood Foresters; Private WT Coxon, Australian Infantry; Private Claude Boden, RAMC and Private J Clifford Taylor, Sherwood Foresters.

Canon Morris, who had close connections to the military read the sermon, entitled Is It Peace? – the content of which was reported in detail by the Telegraph.

Canon Morris, who had himself lost a son to the war, illustrated his sermon with proverbs and detailed references to the scriptures, linking the topic to calls for peace with Germany.

“Why do you suppose peace proposals, one after the other, are now being pressed upon us? Do you for a moment think that it is the love of peace which prompts them? I do not.”

He continued to outline the facts as he saw them:

“Three years have passed and we are well on in the fourth year of a war which was to end in six months with the fall of Calais, the occupation of Paris, the command of the English Channel and the victorious march on London. In all these objectives the enemy has failed.”

He said the Stockholm Conference call for peace had been emphatically answered ‘no’ by the ‘plain common sense’ of Britain’s industrial classes.

He said a second call for peace – this time from the Vatican – would again be rejected.

“We want peace – we all want peace – but not on the terms offered us.”

In a passionate and highly politicised speech Canon Morris continued:

“I am speaking at a memorial service where we are met to pay out tribute of affectionate respect to the brave men whose names must now be added to the long list of Ashbourne’s gallant sons who have jeoparded their lives on the high places of the field in France and Flanders and the East.

“They gave their lives to a cause and we who are left to mourn their loss mean to be true to our trust and to see that the price being paid, the goods are delivered, and German militarism is robbed of its venomous sting. If we fail we are unworthy sires of a race of heroes unsurpassed in the chronicles of classic Greece and Rome.”

Powerful stuff, but he reserved scorn for the Pope who, he said, had claimed to be impartial in seeking an end to the bloodshed.

“It was an impartiality which found no word of condemnation for ravished Belgium, no word of righteous indignation for the persecution of Cardinal Mercier, no word of disapproval for ruined and desecrated houses of God, for mutilated children, for murdered civilians and outraged girlhood. And now we are asked to overlook these and a thousand other infamies.”

He argued that to accept the Pope’s proposal would mean accepting each nation was as bad as the other; the English as bad as the German.

“And what have we done to merit this insult? Have we departed from the usages of civilised warfare? Have we sunk Lusitania? Have we torn up solemn treaties? Have we ill-treated prisoners of war? Have we deliberately bombed hospitals and torpedoed hospital ships? And yet we are asked to give Germany all she asks, together with supremacy of the seas! Is it peace on these terms? No, a thousand times no.”

News of men in action was scarce, with just four brief ‘Local Military Items’ on page three.

The first recorded that Lieutenant AFN Henstock of the Sherwood Foresters, and elder son of the late Mr and Mrs TJ Henstock of Church Street had been granted the temporary rank of Captain. Henstock had enlisted as a Private in the Welsh Fusiliers in 1914and subsequently been given a commission in the Sherwoods. He had been in the fighting line, the paper said, for over 12 months.

Mrs Samuel, of Sandybrook, had received official information that her son, Lieutenant F Samuel of the East Surrey Regiment, who had been reported missing in August was injured and being held as a prisoner of war in Hamburg.

“He is reported to be getting on alright as far as circumstances permit,” the paper told its readers.

There was news, too of two injured soldiers. Sergeant-Major Lawrence Marple had written to his father, Mr JT Marple of Hulland House to say that he had a crushed foot and, although the injury was not serious, he was being conveyed to hospital.

He had been in Canada at the outbreak of war and volunteered immediately with the Canadian Army, coming over to Europe in June 1915. He had previously been wounded in France and later recommended for a commission.

Private James Robinson, serving with the Canadian Regiment, meanwhile, was in hospital in Reading suffering from trench nephritis ( a kidney condition with potential fatal results) after taking part in an attack on Lens. He was the son of Mr James Robinson of Agnes Meadow.

Knowing as we do today the role of the national press in the early years of the war in supporting censorship and peddling propaganda, a story on the back page strikes a chord.

The Duke of Atholl supported the national Union of Journalists’ War Distress Fund by writing:

“I gladly commend the fund, for I feel that, whatever cause there may be for recrimination at the end of the war, the conscience of the British Press at least will be clear for they neither forced war nor, when the German challenge was accepted, did they shrink the issue.”

“In the years that followed they consistently supported the Government in the prosecution of the nation’s task, they have cheered the men in the trenches and preached patience and courage amongst the people at home, and when it comes to the question of peace we may be sure that the press will be true to their past record and will stand firmly for a peace with honour and guarantees of future security.”

Historians have since drawn different conclusions about the role of the British Press Barons and the national papers’ role – casting them rather in the role of government propagandists.

  • 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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