The Ashbourne Telegraph edition of August 7, 1914, continued with tradition with advertisements covering the entire front page. The back page, however, carried a central panel with four ‘decks’ of headlines:
Navy and Army Mobilised
THE TERRITORIALS EMBODIED: ENTHUSIASTIC SEND OFF FOR LOCAL WARRIORS
With prescience the opening lines of the article read: “During this last week Europe has been plunged into what may probably be the greatest war in the history of the world. It will certainly be the greatest from the point of view of the numbers of soldiers and sailors involved and the greatest as regards the modern equipment employed.”
With great journalistic skill the paper précised the circumstances which led to war in two sentences:
“The origin of the war was a dispute between Austria and Servia, Austria was backed by Germany, and Servia by Russia. France as an ally of Russia joined hands and England has vainly protested against Germany invading Belgium, an undefended state and violating the neutrality of that country.”
Immediately below this the headline Ashbournians and the War. Splendid response to call to arms.
The report states that the territorials were camping in North Yorkshire when ‘sinister reports’ led them to break camp on Monday (August 3). They immediately headed for home, breaking their journey in Derby where they slept at the Drill Hall. They arrived back in Ashbourne on Tuesday where the same evening the order to mobilize was posted in the Post Office window.
“Late at night a telegram came through ordering the men to be on parade at 10am on Wednesday morning and this was verified by the receipt that morning of official orders. The men, numbering between 50 and 60, under the command of Lieut Blackwall looked very fit after their training under canvas and presented a smart soldierly appearance.”
The reporter noted that the majority were wearing the Imperial Service Badge, indicating they had volunteered for active service overseas.
The Ashbourne troop of the Derbyshire Yeomanry were also on parade and Government officers were said to be requisitioning horses.
The territorials were examined by a doctor before being addressed by Battalion Chaplain Canon Morris who told them they could go with ‘clean hands and a clean conscience’ as the war was not of England’s making and had been forced on them by others.
The colourful description given in the paper allows readers to picture the scene – even after 100 years:
“A verse of Onward Christian Soldiers was sung as the men marched into the Market Place. Here a crowd of several hundred people awaited them, who gave them a round of hearty cheers as they moved off, headed by the Ashbourne Old Volunteer Band, who had willingly given their services and played several patriotic airs during the long wait, and as they marched off struck up the old familiar tune of “Auld Lang Syne”.
The volunteers marched to Matlock where they slept overnight at the Liberal Club before continuing their march to Chesterfield on Thursday.
In other news it was noted that 25 members of the Ashbourne Red Cross Society met on the Tuesday evening where three women volunteered for immediate service overseas with a further 21 volunteering for home service. The Ashbourne Society was said to have the best proportion of volunteers in the county.
A letter from a THB Bamford called for a public meeting to be held to set up a committee which would: “register all men who have or may hereafter be called from their homes who may leave dependents behind”.
He said a fund should be set up to ensure that their families did not suffer as a result of the ‘withdrawal of the breadwinner’.