January 11, 1918

Private Samuel Chell

Full military honours were accorded to Private Samuel Chell, of the Sherwood Foresters who died of tuberculosis in Ashbourne on January 3, 1918. His funeral was reported this week in the Ashbourne Telegraph.

The 28-year-old had already completed six years’ service with the regiment at the outbreak of war, but his military career was to be cruelly cut short within weeks of arriving on the front line.

The son of Mr E Chell of Compton, he was sent out to France early in the conflict and was severely wounded at the first battle of the Aisne in September 1914.

He was sent back to England with a shattered hand and was discharged in January 1915.

“Recently he had been employed at Nestle’s Ashbourne factory, where he was much esteemed both by his employers and by his fellow workmen. He had been ill about 11 months, and leaves a wife and three children.”

The funeral at the parish church was attended by a ‘very large number’ of sympathisers.

“The sad cortege was headed by a firing party carrying arms reversed, under the command of Sergt. T Edge, which was followed by the Old Volunteer Band, under Bandmaster WH Wibberley, playing the Dead March from Saul. Then followed the hearse, the coffin being covered with the Union Jack, after which came the three coaches carrying the mourners. These were followed by active servicemen on leave, the discharged soldiers, and the Volunteers under the command of Capt. JR Mellor.”

After the service, conducted by Canon Morris the procession reformed and proceeded to the cemetery where the firing party fired three volleys over the grave and a bugler sounded the Last Post.

The death of Samuel Chell prompted a letter to the editor of the Ashbourne Telegraph from the town branch of the National Federation of Discharged and Demobilised Sailors and Soldiers.

“This man was discharged from the army with a shattered hand; later tuberculosis developed. After being unable to work for the past 11 months, this malady carried him off. His pension at the time of his death was 3s 6d per week.

Surely Tommy Atkins would shrink from singing ‘God Save The King’ when his King and Country allows him to linger to the cruel fate of consumption on 3s 6d a week. What must Tommy in the trenches think of this? A man with a wife and three children.”

Chell was not the only ‘Old Contemptible’ for whom the federation was concerned. The second case raised in the letter was that of Private E Wibberley, said to have done his share for King and Country.

“What he has done has made him deserving of a better fate than the workhouse. Could not a bed have been found for him at the local Cottage Hospital, or at the Red Cross Hospital? I might venture to say that the feelings of our townspeople is against him being allowed to remain there. This man is as good as the best of Britishers and should be properly cared for.”

J Tetlow, the federation correspondence secretary pointed the blame for both Chell’s and Wibberley’s financial plight at the town’s Pensions Committee.

“Have they done anything for these men, or are they a committee in name only? Surely having taken on the duties they should carry them through.”

Wibberley was said to have been in receipt of just 13/6d for himself, wife and three children.

Two young Ashbourne officers were mentioned in the New Year list of honours for distinguished service.

Captain RE Gibson of the Royal Army Medical Corps, a former Ashbourne Grammar School pupil was mentioned in despatches and Captain AFN Henstock had been awarded the Military Cross. Henstock had joined the Welsh Fusiliers in December 1914, later earning a commission to the Sherwood Foresters and had served with the regiment in France for two years.

News from the Brassington correspondent ran to just nine lines on the back page, but recorded news of no fewer than five village soldiers.

“Mrs G Charlton, of Corslow’s Farm, Brassington, has received official news that that her son, Sergt. WA Charlton is missing.
Mr and Mrs Wright have had news that that their son, Pte. W Wright is wounded.
Lieutenant T Breakwell has been home on a week’s leave, but returned on Monday.
Pte. F Francis is now at home on a fortnight’s leave from France.”

The new year saw Ashbourne in the grip of winter and facing the severest of food shortages yet experienced.

“1918 has opened with sensational weather, although the severity of it has not been welcomed by many. Tuesday last was probably the coldest day yet experienced this winter, the wind being exceptionally keen.”

The cold blast brought heavy snow, making travelling ‘difficult and treacherous’.

“The first market of the new year was marked by an unprecedented occurrence – the local butchers had practically no meat to offer in the open market. Many families were without their customary joint for Sunday’s dinner and although the butchers did all in their power to meet the extraordinary situation, there was not enough to go round.”

As a result of the shortage butchers in the town took out a notice on page two announcing that their shops would only open on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays until further notice.

The paper made a plea on behalf of the butchers, pointing out that it was not their fault as they were simply caught between the producer and customer, and had no power over government-controlled prices. But the columnist went on to suggest that farmers might be exploiting the situation.

“Before the war rabbits could be bought for anything from 1/6 to 2/- a couple. Farmers are now asking 5/- to 6/- a couple – Why? Perhaps the feeding stuffs of wild rabbits have been ‘controlled’ or is it the farmer is ‘uncontrollable’.”

Perhaps recognising that this opinion might cause a backlash, the next item, headlined The Farmers’ Position acknowledged the importance of agriculture.

While suggesting that farmers had an ‘improved financial position’ due to the war, and that ‘town dwellers’ were annoyed because strong, fit young men employed on farms were still at home while others ‘less blessed in physique’ were being sent out to fight, the writer urged restraint.

“There are few who have not ‘played the game’ as there are in every community, but the opinion of the general public should not be moulded on these, but on the agricultural community generally.”

  • My fellow researcher and 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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January 4, 1918

Although readers did not know it at the time, 1918 was to be the final year of The Great War. The editor of the Ashbourne Telegraph took space on page two of the first edition of the new year to wish readers “as happy a new year as circumstances will permit”.

“For the third year in succession this wish has been expressed in the shadow of the greatest war the world has ever known – a war which has extended its evil efforts to the innermost corners of the earth.

“The past year has been one of great stress and difficulty for all and it is only a general loyal spirit which results in any achievement nowadays, and it is gratifying to find this spirit so manifest in the town.”

He thanked readers, correspondents and advertisers for continuing to support the newspaper, which had faced loss of staff to the armed forces, restrictions on paper and difficulties with transport.

“We do not venture into the realms of prophesy, but we hope and trust that before next New Year’s Day that this great world struggle will have ceased and that more peaceful, times will have come to pass.”

His final sentiment was that it would be a lasting peace so that Ashbourne’s children would not have to experience the same conditions. The desire for an armistice would be granted, but the next generation of Ashbournians were to face the harsh prospect of another war with Germany in little more than 30 years.

This pen manufacturer had a novel slogan: Before leaving for the trenches is not too late to discover that your pen is empty if it is an Onoto.














The New Year saw the return of something not seen in the Ashbourne Telegraph for many months – letters home from soldiers on the front line, still exhibiting a cheery disposition:

“BEF France, December 17

Just a few lines to let you know that I received the Christmas parcel quite safely, and would you kindly thank all my friends for same. I am going on alright and hoping to be home before long. We are having good weather out here, I hope it is the same in Ashbourne. Sorry I cannot write any more as we are very busy.

I remain, yours truly

Gunner C Burns.”

The Ministry of Food had employed a songwriter to promote their cause, hoping to emulate the success of recruiting songs, which had been in vogue in the early months of the war.

“This song will undoubtedly make the appeal for economy more popular, more human, and add tremendously to the effective and ubiquitous poster ‘EAT LESS BREAD’. The final chorus of It’s Up To You! Goes as follows:”

We’ve got the men, we’ve got the guns,
We’ve got the money too,
But the food ships are too few;
So it’s jolly well up to you
To see
Old England through!
For it’s not just guns that’ll beat the Huns,
There’s a job for us all to do
You must lose a bit of dinner if you want to be a winner! It’s up to you!

The food shortage was also the topic of a rallying cry to grow more vegetables.

“Every man with a garden, if he is a patriot, will resolve in the new year to make it produce more for his own table than it did in 1917.”

The writer suggested that if he produced a surplus he could sell it and use the proceeds to buy bread or meat but that the first priority was to stock the his larder from the garden.

“Not a day, or an hour must be wasted throughout the whole year to produce the desired result. The hours spent digging every Saturday afternoon are worth far more to the country than cheering on the football crowds. The time for that sort of thing has long gone by.”

The Ashbourne Prisoners of War Aid Committee heard that the Christmas Dance had raised more than £40 for the fund, and that letters of thanks for parcels had been received from Pte J Yeomans, Drummer G Atkin, Pte F Sowter, Corp. CH Chell. Pte G Startin, Pte J Bright, Sergt EW Radford, and Pte. G Renshaw.

A large display advertisement on the front page of the newspaper promoted the printing business of the Telegraph’s publisher JH Henstock.

“The War & Printing
The demands on the manhood of the Nation have denuded almost every business house of its regular staffs. We have lost nearly 75 per cent of our pre-war staff, and most business houses are continuing with difficulty. We are prepared to execute orders for any class of printing, which we will deliver in as reasonable a time as possible under existing circumstances.”

One of those members of staff who had left the Telegraph to answer the call to arms was J Broadhurst, an apprentice at the paper. He had written to his parents in Mayfield Road from Mesopotamia, where he was serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps, to say he had visited a cinema and had been ‘greatly interested’ to see the programme had included pictures of Thorpe Cloud, Dovedale, Matlock and other Derbyshire scenic spots.

In addition to publishing the Telegraph and acting as a jobbing printer, JH Henstock was also a bookseller, stationery and fancy goods merchant. This week a lineage advertisement at the foot of front page promoted a range of ‘Real Comic Post Cards’ on sale at the shop in Market Place.

Elsewhere the firm promoted its book binding services (we can bind your magazines, war publications &c and &c) and pens.

Driver Reginald Hallsworth of the Royal Field Artillery married Miss E Allen in a family service at Osmaston Church.

  • My fellow researcher and 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 28, 1917

The final 1917 edition of the Ashbourne was published on Friday, December 28, and looked much like the newspaper had done ever since the shortage of newsprint had forced the editor to cut pagination from eight pages to six and then four.

There was the usual heavily-populated advertising on the first two pages including auction sales, agricultural machinery, cures for all imaginable ills, jobs, music lessons and groceries.

Editorial matter was largely confined to the second half of the paper and included court cases, tips on poultry keeping, news from the town and villages of weddings, concerts, whist drives and deaths of prominent residents.

What was unusual this week was that there were just two paragraphs under the heading Local Military Items.

The death of Private F Naylor of the North Staffordshire Regiment, killed in action in France on November 29, was briefly recorded. And a few lines stated that Acting Major AN Foster, son of Mr Philip Foster of Red House Clifton had been mentioned in despatches, for “distinguished and gallant service and devotion to duty”.

There had been three police court cases: a driver with only one light on his vehicle, fined 7/6d; a farmer accused of refusing to allow a child to be vaccinated; and a woman charged with abandoning her child to the Poor Law authorities.

The paper was all rather low key, reflecting the mood of the town, perhaps.

“The Christmas holidays at Ashbourne were observed with appropriate quietness, very few events of a public character being arranged. On Christmas Day special performances were given and well attended at the Ashbourne Empire; on Boxing Day a football match was played at the Paddock between Ashbourne Town and Rolls Royce (Derby) and, the same evening, a dance was held and well patronised at The Town Hall in aid of the Ashbourne Prisoners of War Fund.”

Even the Ashbourne Workhouse had a “restricted programme” for its inmates.

But the town pulled out all the stops for the patients at Ashbourne Red Cross Hospital.

“It was the wish of all that all thoughts of war and misery or even rations should, so far as the wounded soldiers were concerned, be banished for that day.”

The men themselves decorated the hospital on Christmas Eve with holly while a choir sang carols in the ward.

“On waking on Christmas morning each man found a well-filled stocking. The Ashbourne’ Girls’ Knitting League had sent four presents to each man.

The writer could not resist peppering his report with military references; after a ‘great bombardment’ of crackers the men were served traditional turkey.

“Having served the splendid bird, in much the same way as the British Army has done its namesake’s empire, and left it utterly dismembered and finished, demolished the plum puddings, mince pies and unlimited dessert.”

There were speeches, toasts and cheers and, remarkably, a large scale model tank built by the boys of the Weslyan School and ‘driven’ by Matron.

“On this occasion, however instead of showering deadly projectiles it was in a beneficent mood and from its secret caverns Matron extracted what appeared to be an unending supply of presents for each man.”

In stark contrast to the generosity of the festive menu at the hospital, an item on the back page returned to the question of food shortages.

“There is no excuse in disguising that the food position is bad and is likely to get worse.”

The writer observed that after years of relying upon imported food, with so many ships being lost, and other countries having little surplus food to export, England could not continue as they had in peacetime.

“I feel sure that those in health would not willingly deprive the weak and the invalid of necessities by consuming more than their fair share; nor would any working man or woman in this country knowingly act in such a way as to diminish the rations of the fighting forces.”

He warned that this was the inevitable result if the public continued its reckless consumption.

“There is not enough for everyone to eat his fill.”

Elsewhere on the same page a letter from the Church of England Waifs and Strays Society made the startling claim that “the life of a soldier in France is in less danger than that of a baby in England”, and appealed to readers to support the cause.

  • 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 21, 1917

A 19-year-old soldier, who had worked in the Ashbourne branch of the Derby
Co-operative Society, was reported to have died a hero while fighting with the North Staffordshire Regiment.

Albert Mellor, who had only joined up in February, was said to have been one of his company’s best Lewis Gunners, straightforward and hardworking.

A letter to his family from his officer in the field said:

“I am sure you will be proud to know he died a hero’s death, and practically gave his life for others. He was wounded by a shell in the leg, arms and back, and the shell wounded the remainder of the gun team. Pte Mellor crawled for over 60 yards across the mud to company headquarters and informed them of what had happened, thus enabling the wounded to be brought in just before another shell landed in the same place.”

Despite his injuries he again demonstrated great courage.

“On being carried to the dressing station his stretcher bearers were wounded, and he again crawled to the station and gave information. He certainly deserved the highest honour and was being recommended. I am extremely sorry to lose him.”

The news in brief column on page 2 was one of last elements of the paper to be completed before going to press. As a result late news was often included, and delivered in rather restricted, formal tone.

“Mr and Mrs JR Mellor, Mayfield Road, have received information that their son Sergeant George Mellor has been wounded in the recent fighting in France. His injuries are to the shoulder and of a rather serious nature but he is progressing favourably. After being treated at a hospital in Rouen, he was sent to England, where he is under treatment at Nottingham. Sergeant Mellor joined the 2/6th Sherwoods shortly after the outbreak of war and took part in the suppression of the rebellion in Ireland.”

It was not indicated what, if any, relation Sgt Mellor was of the heroic teenager Albert who shared his surname.

The column also reported that Lieutenant Graham Callow had been promoted to Captain, the paper reported. “By his energy and excellent work [he] has won the good-will of all those with whom he has been brought in contact.”

Censorship was a feature of newspaper reporting throughout the war, with the Defence of The Realm Act hurried onto the statute book within hours of war being declared. The Ashbourne Telegraph had appeared to sidestep many of the restrictions imposed over the course of the war, but on this occasion the censor had approved a paragraph announcing that German prisoners were to be held in Ashbourne.

“We understand that the Ashbourne Hall has been commandeered by the military authorities to be used as an internment camp for German prisoners. The hall, as it is well known, was for many years the seat of the Cokayne family, and later the Boothby family. Recently it was used as a residential hotel, and on it becoming vacant some local controversy was caused through the Isolation Hospital Board purchasing it for the purpose of treating isolation cases. It is understood a portion of the grounds will be wired off, and guards will be on duty night and day.”

As Christmas 1917 drew near, the regular, dominant, advertisement from Woodisse and Desborough, agricultural engineers, for “Ploughs, Harrows, Cultivators, Seed and Manure Drills, Tractors and Tractor Ploughs, Milking Machines, Oil and Petrol Engines, Chaff Cutters, Corn and Cake Mills, Root Pulpers and Cutters and Threshing Machines,” was overshadowed by a promotion by Bayliss Brothers of St John Street.

“The Season of Presents,” declared Bayliss, promising “a large and varied display of seasonable gifts suitable for young and old”.

“Bring you children”, the firm encouraged readers, to see “Toys, Toys, Toys”.

For The Smokers, Bayliss promised: “Cigars and Cigarettes of all brands, tobaccos, packet and loose, of every variety, pipes, pouches and cigarette cases of every description and quality.”

Not to be outdone, JH Henstock, Bookseller, Stationer and Fancy Goods dealer –and also publisher of the Ashbourne Telegraph – had a larger advertisement still for its stock of Christmas presents including toys, photo frames, leather goods, Japanese antimony trinket boxes and brass ink and letter stands.

A Boxing Day football match had been arranged to raise money for the Ashbourne Red Cross Hospital. Ashbourne Town were to play host to Rolls Royce of Derby in the 2pm kick-off in The Paddock. Ticket were priced 6d. The same evening there was to be a dance in the Town Hall, organised by the Ashbourne and District Prisoners of War Committee. Tickets, priced at 1/6d for men and 1/3d for ladies and it promised dancing from 8pm to 2am to Wibberley’s Quadrille Band.

But amid the celebratory atmosphere it was announced that December 30-January 5 1918 was to be SOS (Save Or Starve) week.

A letter from the League of National Safety was printed on the back page of the paper, which stated: “If the British community is reduced to compulsory rationing the blame will be at the doors of those who will no exercise economy in food.”

If the campaign was not successful the writer warned:

“An elaborate system of food restriction will be set up; there will be endless inconvenience and anxiety; the queues will be longer, the prices firmer and the household will be under surveillance of spartan rigidity,”

  • 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 14, 1917

Newly-married George Price was killed by a shell just three days after returning to the Flanders front line.

Private Price, who was serving with the Machine Gun Corps, had been on a fortnight’s leave, returning to Ballidon on Friday, November 2, and marrying Ada Hardy at the village’s All Saints Church on the following Monday.

Son of Mr and Mrs William Price, formerly of Over Haddon, he had been one of the first pupils at Lady Manners School in Bakewell.

He gave up his role as head forester at the Gunthorpe Estate in Norfolk to join the army in October 1914. He had served on the East Coast until July 1916 when his regiment was ordered to France.

The wife of another soldier who was on her way to see her husband, lying critically injured in a hospital in Etaples, France, was turned back at Folkestone by a telegram informing her that he had died earlier that day.

His mother, Mrs Kettle of Mayfield had been informed on November 26 that her eldest son, Private GH Kettle, of the Lewis Guns, Royal Berkshire Regiment had been seriously wounded.

Letters from the matron at the hospital had since been received by the family to say that there had been no hope, as he had been shot in the neck and his spine damaged.

The manager of Ashbourne Waterworks, James Twigg, who had fallen into the 200-feet deep well on December 6 had died of his injuries the following day. Inquests in the 21st century can take many months before they are heard, but in Ashbourne in 1917 the inquiry was held on the first Monday after his death.

Coroner WH Whiston heard from Twigg’s son, who had witnessed the fall, that the dead man had been standing on a greasy iron girder above the well when he fell.

He estimated his father had fallen about 40 feet to the first landing.

“His head and neck caught a plank of wood, and his body on an iron grating and his legs on another plank.”

Despite the catastrophic fall, Twigg called for a light and his son climbed down a ladder and sat his father up. Twigg told his son he thought his neck was broken and he went to get help, which resulted in the injured man being winched to the surface and taken to the Cottage Hospital where he died the next day.

The jury, which heard that the fall could have been prevented had planks been laid across the well, returned a verdict of accidental death.

Many alehouses were facing compulsory closure and payments were made by the Derbyshire Compensation Authority to tenants and owners of the licensed premises.

Among those listed in the Ashbourne Telegraph were: The Blue Bell, Belper, The Shoulder of Mutton, Winster, The Queen’s Head at Bonsall, and the Prince of Wales, Matlock Bath.

The tenant of the Queen’s Head was given just £10 recompense.

A rhyme by “Pan” reproduced by the Telegraph suggests that there was some disquiet about the social divide when it came to the food shortages which were afflicting the British public.

At your four course lunch or your six course dinner,
Or your ample meal a la carte,
Will your lack of roll make you any thinner
Who enjoy the chef’s rich art?
You in clubs and hotels, whom the poor call ‘swells’,
You have much to make strong your heart,
With soup and fish and each made-up dish –
Are you eating the poor man’s part?
You know – you know – how well you’re feeding,
Compared with what some folks eat.
Will you still play havoc with bread, unheading,
(And twice in the day take meat)?
O you who have what the poor have not,
From hors d’oeuvres right through to the sweet,
At breakfast and tea one slice should be
Your ration of bread complete.

  • 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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December 7, 1917

Thirteen Ashbourne men were listed as being prisoners of war. No fewer than seven had been serving with the Sherwood Foresters when they were captured by enemy forces.

Drummer G Atkin, Corporal HJ Chell, Privates J Renshaw, Alfred Taylor, F Sowter, J Tunnicliffe and F Yeomans were in custody along with Sergeant EW Radford of the Durham Light Infantry, and Privates John Bright of the Lancashire Fusiliers, G Startin of the Grenadier Guards, AH Scriven of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and S Yendley of the North Staffordshire Regiment.

“There are few more pitiable objects in war than the prisoner in enemy hands. Forced to work in an enemy country surrounded by a populace who naturally despise him, his existence is at best unenviable.”

The Telegraph observed.

“An exile from his home he finds little enjoyment in his work or leisure and finds any little link with his homeland, and more particularly with his home folk, sends him into ecstasies of delight.”

The paper reported that the cost of sending weekly parcels to each of the men cost £190 a year and the committee was appealing for contributions towards the fund.

In the equivalent of today’s Breaking News a single paragraph appeared at the last column of page – the limited last-minute space for editorial left after the prepaid advertisements and Public Notices had filled the bulk of the page.

Sandwiched between an item stating that Uttoxeter Board of Guardians had decided to buy a 264-pound barrel of pickled herrings for 44 shillings and a licensing extension agreed by that day’s police court for the Fox and Hounds at Bradley, was news of a wounded soldier.

Captain LH Morris of the Shropshire Light Infantry had been brought to England and was said to be ‘progressing favourably’. Captain Morris was the eldest son of Ashbourne’s Canon and Mrs Morris, and therefore from one of the town’s most prominent families. He was one of several Morris sons serving in the army.

In other late news it was reported that JW Twigg, manager of the Ashbourne Water Works had been badly hurt the previous day when he fell down a well. His fall was broken by the first landing, but his injuries were said to be serious.

Such was the shortage of bread that the Director of Food Economy had issued a statement.

“It has been brought to his notice that in many public eating places the charge for a portion of potatoes and other vegetables is so relatively high as to encourage people to order bread instead. This is very much against the national interest at present and Sir Arthur Yapp desires it to be clearly understood that he expects the management of all public eating places to alter their arrangements accordingly.”

“It is stated that it is still quite common for meat, eggs etc to be served on toast or bread. This practice should be immediately discontinued, and the use of bread should be discouraged in every way possible as long as potatoes and vegetables are abundant.”

In a patriotic move The Parwich Dairy placed an advertisement, not for its products, but to encourage people to invest in the country:

“You have bought and appreciated our goods: Will you now take our advice? Buy National War bonds and go on regularly investing in your savings in them. – Parwich Diary, Dig Street, Ashbourne.”

  • 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 30, 1917

In the early months of the war Ashbourne Telegraph reports of fatalities were often accompanied by graphic details of the shells and gunfire. By 1917, whether through a form of battle-fatigue or to protect the sensibilities of the readers, descriptions were much more circumspect.

Arthur Silvester of the Machine Gun Corps had been very badly wounded in the shoulder and died ‘very peacefully’ in hospital. The letter received by his father in Derby Road offered some comfort.

“He was too ill to realise that he was dying or to suffer pain. I told him I was writing to you and he asked me to give you his love. He will be buried with military honours in the cemetery attached, and will be with many of his comrades.”

This, almost reverential, tone is in sharp contrast to the graphic and shocking descriptive letters written home by men in 1914 and 1915.

Silvester, who was 26, had been in Liverpool at the outbreak of war and signed up with the Liverpool Scottish, but was discharged after training in March 1916, due to a physical defect. He was called up in August of 1917, transferred to the machine gunners and sent out to France in October.

Silvester Snr, had previously lost another son, Albert, who had been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry, and a grandson who went down with the Queen Mary battleship.

Two other sons were still serving in the forces, James who was with the Royal Engineers in Mesopotamia and Fred, a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery.

Corporal Richard Simmonds, whose parents lived in Bond’s Mill Yard, Mayfield, had been awarded the Military Medal for gallant conduct on the battlefield while serving with the Sherwood Foresters

“Corporal Simmonds has been out in France for a long time and was with the Ashbourne Company when a German mine was exploded, killing nine of his comrades. He himself had a narrow escape, being partially buried.”

Simmonds had lost one brother, while a second was also in the forces.

The names of soldiers who had been home on leave in Brassington were published.

Driver C Webster had been back in the village for two weeks having travelled from Vimy Ridge. He had previously been in Canada and was serving with the 2nd Canadian Contingency. He was in the Derbyshire village with his brother, R Webster, who was also on furlough from Kent where he was attached to the Yeomanry.

Both men had returned to their units on November 23.

William Pounder had also been home on leave, having been wounded, but was now recovered and returned for active service.

Rules and regulation of food were numerous and one Charles Wilson, a Clifton baker found himself in court – summoned for selling bread that had not been out of the oven for 12 hours and selling bread ‘not the shape or state required’. He admitted the offences.

The case arose because Constable Brooksbank saw a man called Mould whom he knew had absconded from the workhouse.

“He took him back to the workhouse and searched him, finding in his possession half a four pound loaf, which was quite new. In consequence of what Mould told him, witness saw the defendant in Ashbourne the same morning. He showed Wilson the loaf and he admitted it was not 12 hours old.”

When confronted by the officer Wilson was selling loaves from a wheeled basket which contained other loaves not yet 12 hours old, together with some stale ones.

“Witness called his attention to the cottage loaves he was selling and pointed out that he was committing an offence by making the cottage loaves and defendant saying he did not know that.”

His solicitor told the court he had had no intention of breaking the law, but that his oven had been faulty, delaying production. On the matter of the cottage loaves he did his best to keep up with various orders, but that had missed the order about cottage loaves.

The court said they would take a lenient view and fined him 7/6d for the first offence and 5s for the second. They warned him that a further offence would be dealt with more severely.

And bread was the subject of a patriotic message from Sir Arthur Yapp, Director of Food Economy.

“When suffragettes have fasted for their cause and men have gone foodless for days for a wager – and suffered in health very little in consequence – surely YOU can. Eat less bread and avoid the second helping in order to beat the Boche. “

He warned that the food shortage was not a bluff and the nation could not take risks.

“Eat as a patriot.” He declared.

Mrs Stebbings of the Ashbourne Empire was granted a licence for a matinee and evening performance on Christmas Day.

  • 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 23, 1917

Bombardier Walter Burton

Bombardier Walter Burton’s young face gazes out from the pages of the Ashbourne Telegraph, as it reports the deaths of two more soldiers killed in action.

Burton, who was 26, had left his job at Tissington Hall and joined the army as soon as war was declared and had spent ‘a long time on the battle front in France’.

His parents, Mr and Mrs William Burton of Buxton Road received notification of their loss from a lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery.

“I know that nothing I can say can be much consolation for you, but I thought you would like to know that we really do miss him. He had been in the battery a long time now, and had always done his duty well, under the worst of circumstances. I cannot say more than that.”

One can imagine his comrade was perhaps sparing the Burtons details of their son’s death.

They had three other sons serving: William a driver with the Army Service Corps; Fred, a private in the Lincolnshire Regiment and Jack who was with the Lancashire Territorials.

The other fatality recorded was Private Herbert Baker of the Sherwood Foresters who had been reported missing a month earlier. His mother, who lived in Kniveton received official notification from the War Office that he had been reported dead.

Herbert, 27, was the second of Mrs Baker’s sons to be lost. Matthew, also with the Sherwoods had been killed on November 27, 1916. A third brother, John, had been out in France since the beginning of the war with the Army Veterinary Corps

In the same column was reproduced a letter of condolence to the father of Lance Sergeant J Stevenson, whose death had been reported the previous week.

“It will, I know, be a comfort to you to know that his grave is alongside many another brave British soldier in a very neat and well-kept cemetery.”

A further ‘Military Item’ announced that Frank Dykes of the North Staffordshire Regiment had been awarded the Military Medal. Private Dykes, whose parents lived in Hognaston, had joined the army on October 1914 and seen action in The Dardanelles before being sent to France where he had been for a year.

His brother, John James Dykes, of the Sherwoods, was reported to have been discharged, due to the severity of injuries he received at Vimy Ridge and Gommecourt.

Pressure continued to be applied to farmers to plough up their grassland for cultivation and a meeting had been called at Ashbourne Town Hall, chaired by Captain Herbert Fitzwright MP and addressed by Brigadier General Chandos-Poll Gell, chairman of the county Agricultural War Committee.

Farmers were told that at a meeting elsewhere in the county, a farmer had volunteered to plough up half his land if it would help the national effort.

“That was the spirit they wanted, said the chairman, and they wanted it in every district. But the results [in Ashbourne] had so far not shown this to be the case.”

The system, it was explained was intended to be voluntary, with a certain acreage allotted in each parish, and then allocated to individual farms. There had been the power to make the allocation compulsory, but they had hoped that farmers would be able to provide all the land required.

“The result had, however, shown they were a little to sanguine, and that farmers had not volunteered in sufficient numbers.”

A table reproduced showed that of the 31 parishes listed only two had promised more acres than allotted – an additional 16 acres in Eaton and Alsop an a single acre in Ednaston. Shirley and Yeldersley had met the target but all other parishes were lagging behind. Ashbourne had only promised to plough up half its 12 acre target, while Snelston was 101 acres behind its 145 acre target and Hulland was no fewer than 147 acres short of the 204 expected.

One farmer was reported to have died while ploughing up his land at Church Farm, Hognaston. Samuel Bown, 57, went with his younger son to oversee the ploughing.

“Whilst standing with his hand on the plough, he fell dead, dying as he wished – in harness.”

The paper reported Mr Bown had been a quiet and unassuming man and highly respected in the district. He was buried at the parish church and the congregation at the service sung the hymn Now The Labourer’s Task is O’er with great feeling.

Three days after the farmers’ gathering, the Town Hall was again the venue for a meeting – this time of the Ashbourne Food Economy Committee, set up with the aim of persuading the populace to cut back on their consumption.

The Rev W M O’Kane was reported to have said:

“We have arrived at the time when we have to do something at once or else fall into the Hades of compulsory rationing.”

He urged that the campaign should “try to emulate the unfailing good humour and merry heart of our gallant boys in the trenches.”

Another speaker, Miss Parker, said:

“The English Nation resented being dragged or pushed into things and they were proud of the old tradition that the nation volunteered to do things and did not wait to be compelled.”

A grocery store in St John Street took out a large advertisement on page 3 proclaiming that despite the fact that “many foodstuff are now almost unobtainable Howell & Marsden Ltd have to offer this week Good Things as below:”

Among the goods on offer were Old English Fresh Brawn, Galantine of Ham and Tongue glazed with pistachio kernels and War Eggo (which they declared was not Egg Substitute but ‘real dried eggs’.

  • 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 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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