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