January 2019

This weekly ‘real time’ analysis of the Ashbourne Telegraph during the years of the First World War will no longer be updated.

Great War Reports, has been published since July 1914 in the current day Ashbourne News Telegraph as well as online. The research is also the basis for a chapter in the recently published book World War I: Media, Entertainment and Popular Culture edited by Chris Hart (Midrash Publishing).

My thanks go to the many thousands of people – from the UK and around the world –  who have taken the time to read the column either in print or online, but also to my friend and research colleague John Dilley who has conducted a similar project with the Harborough Advertiser newspaper (newspapersandthegreatwar).

I hope that greatwarreports will remain a useful tool for anyone interested in Ashbourne’s history, the men of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment – the Sherwood Foresters – or the Great War in general. Here you will find a searchable database of over four years’ of war coverage in The Ashbourne Telegraph.

David Penman
dpenman@dmu.ac.uk

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December 27, 1918

Weather extremes have always been a staple of newspaper coverage, particularly over the difficult Christmas period when public holidays interrupt the usual workflow.

It was no different in 1918, when a sudden snowfall fired the imagination of the editorial team at the Ashbourne Telegraph who, if judging by other content, had little else to fill the empty columns around the Christmas sales advertisements.

“A snowstorm of considerable severity raged over the Peak District on Thursday morning, although the fall was very light in the Hope and Edale valleys, at Chapel-en-le-Frith and on the Peak it was very heavy, and there was an almost equally heavy fall at New Mills and Hayfield.

The storm had an extraordinary effect in Chapel-en-le-Frith. It was the cattle market and Christmas fat-stock show, but the heavy storm rendered the roads completely unfit for travel, and there were only two beasts in the market and about half a dozen farmers. What should have been the Christmas market was, therefore, completely destroyed.”

The report also detailed snowfall in Ashover, Chesterfield  and other areas.

“There was a heavy fall of snow in the Buxton district, commencing in the early hours of Thursday morning and continuing at intervals throughout the day accompanied by a bitterly cold northeasterly wind. The ground is now covered to a uniform depth from four to five inches and it only requires a touch of frost to harden the crust to bring tobogganing once more into vogue.”

Many columns of the paper were devoted to the yuletide celebrations, with details of how to play party games and a selection of cartoons and humorous items. Sitting rather uncomfortably alongside was news of the death of 20-year-old Private Albert Moreton of Mayfield.

“Moreton had been killed in action on March 21st, the day on which the Germans suddenly flung themselves in such masses upon the British front and obtained a temporary success, and which was later so magnificently reversed.”

The young man had joined the Staffordshire Regiment in January 1916 first serving in Ireland.

“He was drafted to France on the 24thof February, 1917, and had taken part in some of the severest fighting out here and was on the eve of his first leave home from France on the 21stof March, since when no news had been received of him, and although exhaustive enquires had been made for news of him, none came and his parents went through that long and trying period of uncertainty.

More recently a message came in a letter to his parents to Ashbourne from a prisoner of war that Pte Albert Moreton had been killed, but his parents kept hoping on that this would prove untrue and that he would safely return with the release of the prisoners.”

This hope had been cut short by official notification that Albert had indeed been killed that day in March.

Captain Graham Callow, of the Sherwood Foresters, had been awarded the Distinguished Service Order. Capt Callow, whose family home was in Green Road, had been a member of the Derbyshire Yeomanry at the outbreak of war and was mobilised first to Egypt and then France.

“He was granted a commission with the Sherwood Foresters and was awarded the Military Cross and twice mentioned in despatches. He is the youngest of Ashbourne officers to gain the Distinguished Service Order and his many friends in Ashbourne heartily congratulate him on the distinction of being the first Ashbournian of the new army to receive this decoration.”

Not all men of the regiment had served with such tireless distinction:

“Private John Ward, Sherwood Foresters, a native of Kirk Ireton, was at a special court at Wirksworth on Friday, remanded awaiting an escort on a charge of being absent from his unit. Police constable Turner found he man asleep in the gasworks at Wirksworth.”

Of course the impact of the Great War would reverberate not only in the months and years to come, but down the generations. Remembrance services marking the centenary of the Armistice were among the most poignant moments of 2018 and the stories of the men who fought in France, Belgium and in many other theatres of war are still being uncovered today.  But this is the final instalment of this weekly column which has been published since July 1914 in the News Telegraph and online.

David Penman is a senior lecturer in journalism at De Montfort University, Leicester. You can read more of his week-by-week analysis of the Ashbourne Telegraph in his searchable weekly blog at greatwarreports.wordpress.com

The research is also the basis for a chapter in the recently-published paperback, World War I: Media, Entertainment and Popular Culture
edited by Chris Hart
(Midrash Publishing) ISBN: 978-1-905984-21-3

 

 

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December 20, 1918

In the five weeks since the Armistice, 25 of Ashbourne’s prisoners of war had returned home. The remaining 20 men were expected ‘almost any time’ the Telegraph reported.

“Several of the 1914 men who have been at Soltau and Hanover camps appear to have been released during the past week, and their friends are looking forward to their arrival in time for Christmas.”

The Prisoners of War Aid Committee announced that there were to be two fundraising events over the festive period: a Grand Football Match on Christmas Day, between ‘the old local clubs Town and Bridge’, and a Boxing Day dance.

The committee arranged a welcome for men as they arrived back in Ashbourne. Privates Tranter, Renshaw, Woodward, Handley and Plant were led in procession by the Boy Scouts Bugle Band from the station to the Market Place where the men were official welcomed on the balcony of the Town Hall by councillor JP Woodyatt.

A similar event was organised a few days later for Private W Taylor, Gunner WH Dixon, and Privates C Henney, T Shepherd and L Webster.

A ceremony in Chesterfield saw the colours of the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters handed back to the regimental escort by the Marquis of Hartington, having been placed in the parish church in February 1915. The flags were to be taken to France because the battalion had been chosen as one of the units to march into the German towns on the Rhine.

“At the conclusion of the ceremony a procession was formed, and marched to the Market Place, where the colours were saluted. The Mayor, in a stirring speech, recalled, amid applause, the brilliant achievements of the Sherwoods.”

Among those selected to represent the Ashbourne company at Chesterfield was Corporal JH Robinson. He estimated there were 12,000 people in the crowd, and reported that the colours were to be taken to France to be decorated by Marshal Foch in commemoration of the gallantry of the 46th Division in swimming the canal at Ypres.

“I am told that after the presentation the colours will be carried through Paris, followed by the remnants of the division. From there they will be brought back to London to be inspected by the King.”

Private H Smith of the Trench Mortar Section of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment, who had been held prisoner by the Germans since March returned home to Osmaston unannounced.  An item in the District News column recorded his friends’ regret that they had not been able to offer him the ‘hearty welcome’ they would have done, had they known the date and time of his arrival.

There was cheering news for Mr and Mrs M Brown of Osmaston who had not heard from their son for six weeks, and must have been fearing the worst. Private H Brown had written to say that he was fit and well and marching towards the German border.

The village of Wetton’s correspondent reported that a number of soldiers had been home for leave: Privates Sam Bould, Jabez Baker, W Mart, Driver E Higton and Lance-Corporal FS Thompson.

A report of demand for boys to join farms in Australia not attracting sufficient numbers had prompted the following comments from Colonial Secretary HF Colebatch: “Some parents may think their boys too clever or too well-educated for farm work. This is a mistake There are many boys too dull or too ignorant to make a success of farming – none too bright or two well educated.”

  • 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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December 13, 1918

Lance Corporal Caleb Tanner, who had been killed just days before the end of hostilities had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal a matter of weeks before he died.

His mother received the following letter from his comrades in arms:

“News has just reached the battalion that your late son has been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was recommended for this for his conduct on October 3rd and this makes it seem sadder that he should be killed so near the end of the war and before he could enjoy the honour he had won.

“There is only one other man in the battalion who has been awarded both the Military Medal and the Distinguished Conduct Medal. If you only knew how much the DCM is appreciated here you would not consider your son’s life had been given for nothing.”

The letter told Mrs Tanner that her boy had been buried in a French cemetery, and while that meant it might not receive as much attention from the military authorities, some French people had promised to tend the grave.

The euphoria of the welcome for returning prisoners of war had been tainted by a rumour circulating about the band which had played as the men arrived back in town. The aid committee had written to the Ashbourne Telegraph in an effort to quash the allegations.

“A report is circulating in the town that the Old Volunteer Band required three shillings per man to play for the reception of our prisoner of war. In view of the good which the band has done for our fund and many other objects during the Great War, we wish to publicly deny this statement. We say further that when Bandmaster Wibberley and their Hon. Sec. (Mr G Locker) were approached to play on these occasions they immediately offered to do so, providing the men could be got together owing to several of them working in the country and the uncertainty of the arrival of the prisoners.”

Other than these two items there was little to indicate that the country had just emerged from the deadliest armed struggle in modern history. Rather, the editorial columns were dominated by a lengthy report, running to more than two broadsheet columns of tight-set text, on the Grammar School Speech Day and details of political meetings in the run up to the imminent General Election.

On other pages much of the content was routine in nature, with reports of village dances and whist drives, council finances and a meeting of the Board of Guardians.

Life however was not expected to return to pre-war ‘normality’ for everyone. Legions of women had picked up previously male-dominated roles, and not all would want to return to the status quo.

“Though domestic service of the pre-war style does not appeal to the average munitions girl, a number of out-of-work girls have already expressed a willingness to return to household work in the expectation that domestic service of the future will be conducted on lines more favourable than those of the past.”

The Ashbourne Empire picture house was offering customers the opportunity to see a film which it boasted was ‘one of the longest on record’. The Birth Of A Nation – the story of America from the time of the early settlers – ran for a full three hours.

“In its scope it employs 18,000 people and 3,000 horses and is depicted in no fewer than 5,000 distinct scenes.”

The story took the viewer from the first colonial arrivals through to the Civil War and the murder of President Lincoln, and promised to be ‘accurate in every detail’.

“To depict the ravages of Sherman’s march to the sea, a city was specially built, only to be destroyed before the eyes of the spectators of the picture. 10,000 dollars a day was paid for the use of the use of an entire county in order to reproduce the wild rides of the Klansmen and the approximate cost of the entire production was 500,000 dollars.”

  • 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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December 6, 1918

One by one, Ashbourne’s prisoners of war began to return home and each was greeted with enthusiasm as they stepped off the train.

“On Friday evening Pte Pegge of Clifton was met at that station where he was met by the bugle band and a large assembly of parishioners and friends.”

There were short speeches and rousing cheers.

“On Saturday Sergt R Taylor of the ‘Pals’ Manchester Regiment arrived and was met at the station by the bugle band and the [prisoners of war] committee representatives. He was escorted in procession to the Market Place, where on the balcony of the Town Hall, Mr JP Wooyatt and Mr AA Willmott expressed the feelings of pleasure it afforded the residents to have the local prisoners of war back at their own homes.”

On Monday it had been Private Bertram Plant of the North Staffs Regiment, whose home was in Union Street, who received a welcome party. He was cheered by wounded soldiers at the Red Cross Hospital.

On Tuesday Private F Edge of Green Road and Private James Renshaw of Mappleton arrived. Renshaw had been in the reserves when war broke out and was recalled to his regiment immediately. He took part in some of the early engagements, but had been a German prisoner since October 1914.

The signing of the Armistice did not bring peace to all families. Mr George Moon had received official notification that his son Private John Moon of the Sherwood Foresters had been killed in action on October 3.

Moon, who had previously been employed with Potter’s Corn Merchants, enlisted soon after the outbreak of war and after training was sent abroad, taking part in the Suvla Bay landings on the Gallipoli peninsula, later transferring to France and being involved in several major battles.

“Pte Moon, who was 24 years of age, has two other brothers in the army, whilst his father has also served in the forces for over three years.”

The Moreton family of Mayfield had their final hopes dashed by an official notice that their younger son Albert had been killed in action.

“No news had been heard of him since March, although exhaustive enquiries had been made by his parents. None came, however, only from a prisoner of war in German who said he had been killed, but they kept hoping that this would prove untrue, and that he would safely return with the prisoners from Germany.”

The family was told that Albert had been killed on March 21, on the first day of the German Offensive which saw them push back the allied forces, if only temporarily. He had been serving with the 2/5th North Staffordshire Regiment. He was just 20 years old.

 “His death at such an early age is sad, cutting short a life so full of promise, and is deeply deplored by his large circle of friends and the only consolation is found in the gallantry of this young life, and the heroism and sense of duty with which he faced the enemy, and the glorious cause for which he died.”

He enlisted in January 1916, was sent first to Ireland and then drafted to France in February 1917. Prior to signing up he worked in the Gardens of Mayfield House.

A large congregation gathered in Shirley Parish Church for a memorial service to three village men who had recently been killed in France: Private George Gilman, Rifleman Reginald Maskery and Private Charles Green.

Bayliss Brothers of St John Street announced The Victory Christmas in a large display advertisement on the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph to promote its stock of ‘Toys, Games, Fancy Goods’ of ‘quality unsurpassed’ and at ‘prices reasonable’.

They promised a showroom displaying the largest and best ranges ever seen in Derbyshire.

And there was patriotism too:

“Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! An exquisite stock of dressed and undressed dolls. Another success for the Allies. British and French production. Lifelike and pleasing in every detail.”

For the boys there were mechanical and wooden toys, claimed to be ‘both educative and amusing’.

Continuing their theme the store proclaimed:

“The Pipe of Peace. The armistice has been signed, and with it comes the Dawn of Peace; without Bayliss Brothers’ tobaccos, cigars and cigarettes your contentment and peace cannot be complete.”

Spanish Flu was sweeping the county. It was reported that there had been four more deaths in Middleton-by-Wirksworth, all among young people. Almost every household was said to have a patient.

Elsewhere Ashbourne Rural Council heard from medical officer for health, Dr HH Hollick that 16 deaths in the district had been attibuted to the flu.

According to Colonel John Gretton, the Parliamentary Election coalition candidate in Burton-on-Trent British public houses should be reformed along the lines of the continental café.

“Men on their return from the front would look for something better than mere drinking dens.”

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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November 29, 1918

The first Ashbourne prisoner of war to return home received a hero’s welcome when he arrived at the top of Compton this week in 1918.

“Seldom has there been witnessed such an enthusiastic scene as was witnessed on Wednesday evening,” the paper reported.

Private Fred Parker of the 1st Royal Scottish Fusiliers had been met at Derby by the Ashbourne Prisoners of War Aid Committee and driven by car to Ashbourne.

“There was a huge crowd… who raised cheer after cheer as the car pulled up bearing the released soldier.

“The chairman and vice chairman and several members of the Urban Council were present and the Ashbourne Old Volunteer Band with the Boy Scouts’ Bugle Band were in attendance and a procession was formed, which was lighted by two powerful torches carried by Mr Sellers of the Fire Brigade and another member of the brigade.”

Hundreds of people marched along Compton, Dig Street, St John Street and into the Market Place where the “hero of the hour” was besieged with the congratulations of friends and residents.

“Halting in the Market Place, Pte Parker was hoisted shoulder high, rounds of cheers greeting his appearance and, obviously impressed by his enthusiastic welcome, he briefly thanked them for their kindness and interest. Auld Lang Syne was then sung by the crowd.”

Parker then returned to the car and was driven to Mayfield where he was again greeted by friends and former workmates.

A reporter from the Telegraph managed to get an interview the following day, during which Parker revealed that he had been taken prisoner in April and had been ‘between the lines’ labouring near Brussels. He and other prisoners were employed lifting shells, road making, working on artillery dumps, trench digging and other tasks.

There were no direct quotes, but Parker told the reporter what life had been like during his time in captivity.

“The food supplied to them was very poor, and had it not been for the Belgian people, who provided them with other food, they would have suffered much more than they did. In fact, it was the Belgians who kept them alive.”

He related how when he armistice was signed he and the other prisoners were given double rations – a piece of bread and a few biscuits – and told they could go. Some headed for Brussels but Parker and others reached the Allied lines about 15km away and were picked up the Red Cross and transported to Boulogne and then to England.

Amidst those rejoicing peace, and anticipating the return home of husbands and sons from military service, were families anxiously awaiting news.

Mr and Mrs M Brown of Tissington had not heard from their son Private L Brown for five nearly weeks. Brown had been serving with the King’s Liverpool Regiment and previously been awarded the Military Medal.

Similarly Mrs Winfield of Osmaston School was awaiting word of her husband Private FT Winfield of the Seaforth Highlanders who was believed to be a prisoner of war.

His commanding officer Captain George MacPherson had communicated the circumstances of his disappearance on October 28.

“We were making an attack south of Valenciennes at the time, and your husband was with some others of his platoon, holding a house. He was sent to a neighbouring house on an errand and almost immediately afterwards the enemy suddenly counter attacked, and the houses were almost surrounded. Most of the men there managed to get away, but your husband has not been seen again, and we are of the opinion that he must have been taken prisoner.”

Although strict rationing of food was still in force, one of the first ‘peace dividends’ was the lifting of rationing on tea. The Food Controller decided to end restrictions on the supply of tea to retailers from December 2. But it was not quite business as usual.

“The rule requiring retailers to sell only to their registered customers, and to obtain supplies only from their suppliers on whom they have indented under the distribution scheme, will remain in force.”

With Christmas approaching the Food Controller had announced that the ration of butcher’s meat would be doubled in the week before Christmas.

A tragic tale was reported from Wirksworth, where a 55-year-old woman had attempted suicide.

“After conversing with his wife Martha Ford, of Callow, Wirksworth, on Friday morning Isaac Ford, an ex-Metropolitan policeman was horrified to see her running towards him with her throat cut from ear to ear. The woman had been brought to her native place in consequence of her depressed state, due to air raids on London, and the death of her son from wounds added to her depression.  Mrs Ford used her husband’s razor for the deed, which severed the windpipe, but missed both jugular veins. On Sunday night she was not expected to recover.”

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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November 22, 1918

A petition from a hundred farmers in the Ashbourne district calling Saddler F Lowndes of the Royal Field Artillery to be released from military duties led local MP, Captain H Fitzherbert-Wright, to ask a question in the House of Commons.

The Under Secretary of State for War heard that the appeal was being made in the interests of food production and on compassionate grounds.

Lowndes had been serving continuously at the front since early 1915, until he was granted one month’s leave in July of 1918, extended until the end of September on account of the death of his father who carried out the family saddlery business.

His brother had been killed on active service and his mother and two sisters were alone with no one to continue the business other than a German prisoner of war, “which in the circumstances of the family is undesirable”.

The government response was that Lowndes’ leave had been extended to October 20, but that because of his skilled services were required by the army no further leave or discharge could be sanctioned.

News of fatalities and casualties among troops from the Ashbourne area continued to filter home.

Private Samuel Smith, who was pictured sporting a fine ‘military moustache’ was reported to have been killed in action in France on October 23.

Smith, from Mappleton, had been serving with the 11th Sherwood Foresters as a machine gunner. His battalion went out to Italy in December 1917, and later to France where they were involved in ‘severe fighting’ up until his death. He left a widow and five children.

Before joining the Sherwoods Smith had been a member of the Ashbourne Voluntary Aid Detachment for several years before the outbreak of war, worked in the town’s Red Cross Hospital, and in September 1915 volunteered for the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in a number of hospitals in England.

The parents of Private Joseph Hudson had received news that the 19-year-old soldier had died ‘on the eve of peace’ while serving with the 10th Sherwood Foresters. He had only been drafted out to France in April after a brief period of training.  Mr and Mrs Hudson, of Mayfield, had lost Joseph’s elder brother, William, in May.

A memorial service was held in Clifton Church for Harry Chell, who had died of wounds received in France on October 8th.

The vicar told the congregation that no family in the parish had a finer record than the Chells: “Five serving, two killed and one a prisoner.”

The Ashbourne Telegraph continued to carry the Government’s Press Bureau-produced War Supplement which this week carried news of the graves of servicemen killed in Europe.

The article, headlined Our Dead Heroes, said that the military situation in France and Belgium meant that restrictions on civilian visits would not be lifted for some time.

“This may cause some anxiety to many in whose thoughts a soldier’s grave is continually present, and the following information is communicated by the War Office in the hope that it may do something to relieve the strain and suspense.”

The piece explained that in the northern part of France was a western area, which had been in Allied occupation, and an eastern area which for four years had been under the Germans, and a central area where the past two years of fighting had taken place.

“In the western area lie the graves of four years’ fighting which have never been disturbed. In the eastern area it is hoped that there may be found also some of the graves of the two corps which retreated from Mons to the Marne.

In the middle area, which includes the Somme battlefield, the tide of war has dealt unequally with the graves of the British dead; some cemeteries are left in good order, while some are partly, and a few wholly, destroyed by shellfire.”

Readers were told that there was no evidence of any graves having been deliberately desecrated the Germans, but that it would take time to repair the damage done by fighting.

Richard Burton, of Smith’s Yard, Compton, was brought before the town magistrates’ court on Friday charged with being a deserter from the Royal Field Artillery depot in Newcastle for over a year.

“Constable Brooksbank stated that about 10.15 that morning in company with Sergt Allen, he visited defendant’s residence and asked him what he was doing there. Burton replied ‘What do you mean?’ and witness asked him if he had his discharge papers. Defendant said he had not, and afterwards admitted that he had been a deserter for the past thirteen months.”

The court remanded Burton in custody to await a military escort.

The war might have been over, but the day-to-day impact on daily life continued much the same.

The National Egg Collection for the Wounded launched a fresh appeal for new-laid eggs for the men being repatriated from Germany. Many were reported to be in a state of complete exhaustion and requiring medical attention and nutritious food.

“Intending donors can have boxes sent to them free of charge and the eggs will be sent by passenger train free under our label. As a special thanksgiving offer this should appeal to everyone, and we beg for an immediate and generous response.”

The director of the appeal suggest that the following week should be Egg Denial Week to coincide with what sounds like an inventive publicity stunt which he said would see “all the dogs of the country begging for us”.

“No one should eat eggs while the needs of these repatriated prisoners remain unsatisfied.”

In anticipation of Ashbourne men being among the prisoners of war arriving back in England the Prisoners of War Committee urged the people of the town to be prepared to show their “appreciation for the sacrifices and hardships our gallant men have experienced”.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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November 15, 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The report of celebrations took on an almost cinematic detail:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lance Corporal Caleb Tanner

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

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

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

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

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

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

The personal tone of the letter continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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November 8, 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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November 1, 1918

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

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

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

The Ashbourne Telegraph commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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