October 12, 1917

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

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

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

The Ashbourne Telegraph informed its readers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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October 5, 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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September 28, 1917

Apologies:

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

David Penman

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September 21, 1917

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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September 14, 1917

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

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

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

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

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

He continued to outline the facts as he saw them:

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

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

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

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

In a passionate and highly politicised speech Canon Morris continued:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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September 7, 1917

The Government Order fixing the prices of everyday food items had been announced and the prices were detailed at length on the cover of the Ashbourne Telegraph in the first edition of September 1917.

The cost of ham, bacon, lard and British cheese were now dictated by the Food Commissioner, with penalties for anyone breaking the rules.

“The instructions from the Ministry of Food are that butchers are to sell their meat at a profit of 2½ per lb; butter is to be sold at a profit of 2½d per lb, with a further ½d per pound for credit or delivery.”

Further prices were listed for sugar, cheap tea, jams and jellies, together with maize, oats, butter beans, haricot beans, peas and lentils.

Among the shortages caused by the war was the supply of matches, a real issue considering the number of people who smoked in the early years of the 20th century.

The problem had arisen because home manufactures could not take up the demand caused by the ban on imported matches from Sweden, resulting in many tobacconists selling out. The result was a growing interest, apparently, in what we now know as lighters.

“There is an enormous demand setting in for the little mechanical lights or ‘pocket tanks’.”

The arrival of a ‘Government Motor Plough’ at Joseph Brown’s Shirley Mill was reported to have attracted a great deal of interest.

“An average of 5 acres per day was ploughed, three furrows being taken at a time, and Mr Brown, who is the Parish representative of the War Agriculture Committee, was highly satisfied with the work done.

“Considerable local interest was evinced in the work of the tractor and a number of farmers from this and neighbouring parishes were present to inspect and criticise what was to them an innovation.”

The correspondent reported that the majority of those who witnessed the ploughing were ‘favourably impressed’.

Disquiet had been voiced for some months about the price of milk and a meeting in the town’s Green Man Hotel unanimously agreed to set up the Ashbourne and District Co-Operative Milk Producers’ Society.

The Telegraph’s Notes of the Week observed that in other areas such co-ops had resulted in saving farmers time and money in only having to deliver to a central depot, leaving them free to spend their time more productively. Producers would not face bad debts and would be regularly paid for their milk; and the depot would be better placed to regulate supplies and quality.

The columnist also passed comment on the death of 81-year-old Henry Hood, one of the town’s oldest and best-known residents.

“He lived a simple and rigorous life, which may account for the wonderful physique which he retained until quite recently.”

He had been an Urban Councillor and the paper observed that, although his views did not always meet with the approval of his colleagues, he “never shirked his duty nor hesitated to express his opinions”.

Mr Hood was said to have remembered seeing the stage coach coming through town and was well acquainted with local history.

Mercifully there were no further reports of casualties among the Ashbourne men fighting for King and Country, but Colonel Fleming of Mayfield received news of the loss of his nephew, Lieutenant Fleming DSO., of the Canadian Regiment, who came over to Europe with the first wave of Canadian troops. He had been decorated for bravery while carrying wounded while under fire.

  • 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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August 31, 1917

Unseasonable rainfall in Belgium was turning the Flanders battlefields into a hellish quagmire in which Allied forces were literally bogged down. In the fields of England crops were in danger of rotting in the ground.

“Just as the winter of 1916-17 created a record for severity and length, so the August of 1917 is doing its best to create a record for wet. Shakespeare’s words “The rain, it raineth every day” have been unpleasantly bought to our minds during this month,”

commented the Ashbourne Telegraph.

Readers were advised to lift their potato ‘seconds’ still in the ground as they were unlikely to develop any further.

Despite the seriousness of the situation a correspondent’s lighthearted rhyme was printed to bring some levity to the subject:

The rain it raineth every day,
Upon the just and unjust fellah,
But chiefly on the just, because
The unjust has the just’s umbrella.

Ashbourne’s Sherwood Foresters suffered another death in action; 25-year-old Private J Clifford Taylor.

Taylor, who previously worked for grocers Howell and Marsden, had enlisted early in the war and was drafted out to Gallipoli where he was involved in some fierce encounters before being sent to Cairo on Christmas Day 1915, seeing action in Mesopotamia before going with his battalion to he Western Front in France in July 1916.

He had been home in Dig Street for a few days but returned to the front on July 16. Less than five weeks later he was dead. Taylor had three brothers also serving: Victor, with the Grenadier Guards; Reginald, a sergeant with the Sherwood Foresters and Wilfred with the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Another family, this time with three sons in the Army, received news that their youngest son had been shot by a German sniper.

Corporal Alfred Hawkesworth, 23, had been born in Kniveton and educated at Ashbourne Grammar School. A grocer’s assistant in Birmingham at the outbreak of war he immediately volunteered and joined the King’s Royal Rifles. He was drafted out to France in February 1915 and had been involved in several of the fiercest engagements with the enemy.

After 18 months at the front Hawkesworth was struck down with pneumonia and after convalescing in Mansfield returned to Ashbourne before going back out to France.

A letter to his mother from Captain NT Sampson read:

“It is hard to say how his friends and myself feel his loss – he was a good a cheerful lad, and had been promoted to corporal on my recommendation only a short time before.”

The question of women doing work traditionally considered ‘men’s work’ was considered in an interview, reprinted from The Buxton Herald, with Mr Ryan, of the Buxton Lime Firms, who had introduced a scheme to get more women into work.

“Generally I would say 10 women are worth seven or eight men ­ but we have not the men. We have some cases and some women in jobs where [wo]men are doing better than some men had done. The girls are quick, intelligent and willing and take up certain special lines of work quickly and efficiently, but they are all enthusiastic ­ – patriotic and heroic to a degree.”

He pointed out that some of the women were widows, sisters or mothers of men who had died. Others had menfolk overseas fighting.

Brothers Cliff and Fred Brown were both home on leave in Osmaston; the eldest two of Mr and Mrs M Brown’s five sons serving. Cliff, a driver in the Royal Field Artillery on the Western Front arrived home on Friday for 10 days, his brother Fred, an Articifer with the Machine Gun Corps, came home the following day for six days away from Clipstone Camp in Nottinghamshire. The paper noted that Driver Brown had had ‘thrilling experiences’ during his two years’ of action and had been in ‘several tight corners’.

  • 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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August 24, 1917

A German invasion of England was still considered a possibility – albeit a remote one – in the summer of 1917, and across the country volunteers were training to repel enemy forces.

The Telegraph observed:

“It will be much more assuring to the nation as a whole, if, instead of a bewildered populace, there is a well-trained and well-organised home army to meet any enemy which is rash enough to set foot on English soil.”

Among the men engaged in such training were the Ashbourne Volunteers, whose machine gun section came out top in a Battalion competition.

Private Albert Henry Scriven of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was reported to have been killed in action in France on July 31.

Scriven, 39, of Station Street, and who worked for JW Lister in St John Street, left a wife and two young children. A member of the Weslyan Church Choir and the Cecilia Choir, the paper reported his loss would be deeply regretted by both groups of singers.

Also reported dead was Private Frank William Cox, 25, of the Sherwood Foresters, who had previously been employed as a window cleaner in Ashbourne.

“The once famous Ashbourne Wakes is only a Wakes in name this year,”

bemoaned the writer of Notes of The Week.

“Just as the pancake holds the post of honour on the table at Shrovetide, so the roast duck with its customary toothsome additions was the favourite dish for Wakes Sunday.”

Monday was reportedly the time for indulging in ‘cheap excursions’ to the seaside, departing early in the morning, and Tuesday saw the shops and business closed with further opportunities for excursions. Wednesday saw Ashbourne Cycling and Athletic Sports held in the Shaw Croft, said to be ‘as famous as any in the Midlands’.

“In earlier days there was usually some old English sports in the Market Place, comprising goose swarming, apple ducking, treacle-roll eating and other similar competitions.”

The writer lamented that apart from shops closing on the Tuesday, due to the war there was ‘nothing reminiscent of the old days’.

A new patriotic endeavor was announced with a large advertisement on page 2 of the Ashbourne Telegraph.

“For the Flag. For Country Home and Freedom,” it proclaimed, announcing two Grand Fetes – one at Harpur Hill on September 15 and one the following weekend at Peak Dale – were to be organised to promote ‘Women’s War Work’ and ‘Village Home Life’.

The fetes, under the auspices of The Buxton Lime Firms Cottage Gardens Association Ltd., and The Buxton Lime Firms Women War Workers League promised ‘Five Massed Silver Prize Bands’ with £250 in prizes.

The Buxton Lime Firms were also due to exhibit their herd of Kerry milch cows, and pedigree pigs, while the BLF Cottagers were lining up a herd of goats, demonstration bee hives and their collection of giant table rabbits, said to be the largest rabbits in England.

All the proceeds were to go to Buxton Cottage Hospital and the district nursing associations serving the Peak District’s quarry villages.

The events were the idea of Mr T Ryan of the Buxton Lime Firms Company, whose involvement was saluted on a later page:

“To use Mr Ryan’s own words: ‘When the welter of this war was over the village and village community would loom large in the work of reconstruction. The village, the countryside, was the cradle of the race and the work of building up must commence there. They must lift the whole status of village life and make the villages places to which men and women would be glad to come back to and not places where they were glad to get away from.”

Among the plans outlined by Mr Ryan were to establish a pedigree herd of Kerry cows; six cows and a bull had been bought from an estate in Surrey. Six pedigree pigs had also been purchased.

“He said it was the intention to build up two central herds of pedigree pigs, one at Peak Dale and one at Harpur Hill. From these herds the men could procure their store pigs, on the easy payment system as through the Association on cooperative lines. A central slaughtering place and bacon curing station is to be provided in each village. The Cottagers’ pigs, when fit to kill will be cured under specialist hands and the hams and bacon taken to the Cottagers’ homes.”

There were also detailed plans for preserving surplus of vegetable crops.

  • 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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August 17, 1917

The columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph once more brought readers news of sons of the town, killed in action in the fields of France or Belgium. This time it struck still closer to home.

Private Claude Boden had been a member of staff at the Telegraph at the outbreak of war and a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment.

He had been working at the VAD Hospital when the first batch of wounded arrived in town, and enlisted in November 1915 in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He had been drafted out to France in January 1916.

Boden had been on active service for 20 months and had not returned to Derbyshire since going out.

“He had two arduous experiences in the Battle of the Somme in July 1916, in the second of which he received a slight leg wound,” read the report of his death.

He later took part in action near Albert and marched on Bapaume in the Spring of 1917.

“Later, when on the Hindenburg Line he had a narrow escape of being taken prisoner.”

He was killed on July 31 during the Great Push and Private Fred Clare wrote to his mother:

“He was one of the best, as I know, having been comrades for over 12 months. His sunny nature and cheerful disposition won him many friends.”

Also remembered was Charles Ward, of the Seaforth Highlanders, who had been killed near Ypres on August 3. The family had received two letters. The first, addressed to his father, from Lieutenant Todd, brought news of his death and said his comrades would miss his ‘cheerful voice and witty remarks’. The second, longer, letter was from Ward’s chaplain, William Cranford, and was addressed to his mother.

He reported that ‘Charlie’ had been almost out of the shelling area when he was killed.

“I confess that it was with personal sorrow that I heard the news. I knew him – we all knew him so well – but I knew him as well and better than most.

“I have seen him binding others’ wounds on the battlefield and Charlie was ready to give us a song – as he said once – ‘to cheer the men’. He showed splendid perseverance and cheerful endurance, and none of those who knew him will ever forget him or the example he showed.”

And it was a telegram, followed by a letter from her son’s commanding officer that must have brought both fear and hope to Mrs JW Samuel of Sandybrook.

The telegram said Lieutenant FA Samuel, who was serving with the East Surrey Regiment had been reported missing on August 5, believed to have been taken prisoner.

The letter that followed read:

“During an attack yesterday Lieut. Samuel had the misfortune to be taken prisoner by the enemy, but as far as we know (and we believe it to be correct) he is not wounded.”

Lieutenant Colonel Knapp told Mrs Samuel that the Germans treated prisoners much better than earlier in the war and said he had no doubt she would soon receive a letter from her son.

“I much regret the fact of losing Lieut. Samuel, as the battalion can ill spare such an efficient officer. I have again put his name in for recognition of services.”

Samuel had a few weeks previously been recommended for distinction and spent some time back home. He had only been back in the front line a few days when he was captured.

Other men were less enthusiastic about serving ‘King and Country’. Alfred Hill, 21, of Compton, was charged with being an absentee under the 1916 Military Service Act. When questioned at his home as to why he had not reported to Bakewell on July 31 said he had not received his papers.

The Telegraph’s report detailed his responses when questioned by police:

“He had received some addressed to Alfred J Hill, but that was not his name. He added that he had thrown the papers into the fire. On August 9th witness [Constable Billyard] served him with a railway warrant and asked him to report at Bakewell at 9am on the following morning. He replied, ‘I shan’t go’. Witness had again seen the defendant at 9.15am that morning, and in reply to his questions said ‘I shall not go either for you or anyone else.’ The railway warrant and other papers had gone the same way as the other papers.”

Hill pleaded guilty, was fined the minimum 40s, and handed over to the military authorities.

Food supplies continued to be seriously depleted as a result of the German U-Boat blockade. As a result in July 1917 the Food Controller, Lord Rhondda, fixed the prices of essential foods and local food control committees were set up by both Ashbourne Urban and Rural Councils to enforce the Food Controller’s order.

The Ashbourne Telegraph’s Notes of the Week observed:

“The order, if rightly administered, will ensure everybody getting a share of the staple foods and will do away with the insidious food hoarder – who is despised by both the public and grocers alike.”

Sugar was already rationed but it was anticipated that meat and bread were likely to follow.

One man and four women were fined for breaching food regulations in Derby. Henry Warren was fined £2, while Catherine Harrison, Mary Castledine, Edith Bunting and Emelia Clay were each fined £1 under the Fruit Preserving Order by obtaining sugar ‘other than the purposes for which it was issued’.

The Food Controller also issued an order under the Defence of the Realm Act compelling anyone involved in the ‘production, purchase, sale, distribution, transport storage or shipment’ of meat to notify him of their business.

“Don’t Marry A German” was the eye-catching headline on a lineage advertisement on the back page. The Matrimonial Circle had arranged many happy marriages, it claimed, urging would-be brides to send 6d for an ‘introductory journal’ containing hundreds of genuine advertisements ‘appealing to all classes’.

  • My fellow researcher and former De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog
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August 10, 1917

Although there was no news report of the incident in the Ashbourne Telegraph, the Notes of the Week Column on the front page celebrated ‘the Press Correspondents’ unanimous praise’ of the gallant Sherwood Forester’s capture of Westhoek on the Ypres Salient.

“The story of their determined fight in the marshy land which they had to traverse will rank with any of the memorable incidents of the war. The men struggled on in a vile morass, the mud and water being two feet deep, and sometimes waist deep, in which they spent the night, exposed to a terrific barrage fire from the enemy, and after that succeeded in beating off the determined counter attack by the German hordes.”

In hindsight the Ashbourne Telegraph piece could be described as an understatement. Passchendaele, sometimes known as the Third Battle of Ypres, is infamous for the number of casualties – both Allied and German – but also for the hellish conditions caused by persistent heavy rain – which resulted in a quagmire in which men and horses drowned.

The ‘Great Push’, which started on July 31 and was to last for more than three months, was described by Nigel Farndale in the Sunday Telegraph on the 90th anniversary of the battle, in 2007 in a moving personal story.

“On the occasions when the rain lifted, a pall of foaming black smoke hung over the battlefield, blotting out the sun. More than half a million Allied troops and a quarter of a million German were killed during the fighting ­– and often the dead would be buried under a deluge of soil only to be disinterred by the next shell, and reburied by the next.”

Read the full article here http://bit.ly/2thDKIV

In sharp contrast was news of a busy August Bank Holiday in England, with reports that holiday resorts in the Midlands, along the west coast and ‘even up from Scarborough’ reportedly ‘full up’.

“It is possible that our people are feeling more confident as to the ultimate result of the war and as a consequence have set aside and ‘nervy’ feeling which they might have possessed at one time, or on the other hand they might possibly be growing more ‘war hardened’ by three years of constant experience of the effects of the war, and realise that however heavy the burden ‘brooding over it’ will not help in any way to remove it.”

The author gave no indication which of the two circumstances he considered to be the most accurate.

The ongoing conflict was the subject of a further piece in which the writer questioned those who thought the war would be over quickly and decisively:

“When Lord Kitchener predicted that the war would last three years his prediction was received in certain quarters with scepticism and doubt. His prediction has been fulfilled, which proves that his estimate of the enemy’s strength was not overrated.”

He said a friend of his, who had spent six years in Germany and only arrived in the UK on the eve of war, had predicted that Germany would never be defeated by force of arms, but could be beaten financially and economically.

Among other ‘Local Military Items’ was news of two more Ashbourne deaths and two more soldiers wounded.

Private William Thacker of the Royal Garrison Artillery had been killed on July 31, and his wife informed by the wife of a fellow soldier. Thacker, who had one child, lived in Sturston Road, Ashbourne, and had previously worked for Mr G Gaunt and Messrs P Birch and Sons.

Lieutenant WAM Boissier, son of a former curate at Ashbourne Parish Church was reported to have accidentally drowned. Boissier, too left a widow and a child.

The dramatic tale of how Sergeant Joseph Hughes was wounded was told in a blow-by-blow account, described in a letter home from a hospital in France.

Hughes told his mother that at about 4am on July 31 the Manchester Regiment, in which he was serving, went over the top and succeeded in reaching the German second lines.

“He was in the act of jumping into a German trench, when, owning to the slippery nature of the ground, his foot slipped and he was precipitated into the trench. A German on top of the trench tried to bayonet him, but he managed to catch hold of the bayonet with his right hand, cutting his thumb severely in doing so. He stuck to it however and the German then drew a dagger and jabbed him in the palm of the left hand and in the elbow. Luckily at that moment somebody shot the German dead, thus effecting the escape of Sergt. Hughes, who had been caught at a disadvantage. He was unable to fire his rifle as it was clogged up with mud.”

He was reported to be progressing well at the 18th General Hospital.

Hughes, who had previously been employed at Barton’s brass foundry in North Leys, joined the Sherwood Foresters in October 1914. He had three brothers also serving.

A wounded Kirk Ireton soldier who stayed at his post despite being wounded and facing great danger had been awarded the Military Medal. Private Dean, son of Mr and Mrs Dean of Mill Field Farm, had been serving at Mount Sorrel near Ypres in June. He had since recovered from his injuries and returned to the front line.

  • 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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