September 4, 1914

Last week’s editorial imploring readers to ‘stay loyal’ to their local newspaper despite criticism of a reduction in service would have been all the more relevant this week as the Telegraph was just four pages – now half its pre-war pagination and two fewer than had prompted the criticism of profiteering.

Notwithstanding the limited space, the paper reported that a son of the town had been injured in the first major engagement of the British Expeditionary Force in Belgium.

“Amongst the many regulars and reservists from the Ashbourne district who are serving at the front was Bombadier William Thomas Simpson, Son of Mr and Mrs J. W. Simpson of Town Hall Avenue, Market-place, Ashbourne. He is a reservist in the Royal Field Artillery, and was one of the first called to the front.

“So far as it is known he was the first Ashbournian to return from the seat of war, having been wounded in the fierce battle of Mons, where he was fighting 10 hours, without a break, and was ultimately wounded in the right hip and left shoulder by the bursting of a German shell. He now lies in Netley Hospital (Southampton) and in a letter to his parents, he assures them that his injuries are not serious.”

The paper reproduces the letter, which includes the line: “There were some awful sights to be seen, things you will never hear in the papers (I can’t describe them in a letter).”

The paper also reports that the ‘Terriers’ Ashbourne’s territorial battalion had been billeted in Harpenden and was in good spirits.

Recruitment for Kitchener’s Army was moving apace. Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company, which had opened a new factory in Ashbourne in March 1912, was reported to have sent 13 of their staff to join the force.

Under the heading Bravo Calwich is the news item: “It is gratifying to announce that no fewer than eight promising young men employed on the Calwich Estate have enlisted for service during the war. For such a limited parish as Calwich this is highly creditable and is a splendid example to other districts.”

It was also noted that Wooton Hall Cricket Club had disbanded because several members had enlisted to Kitchener’s Army.

Any young men seeking entertainment at the town’s Empire Electric Theatre would have encountered speakers before each performance urging them to enlist as a matter of public duty.

A death locally was also found to be a result of the war. Under the twin-deck headlines Boy’s Tragic death at Kniveton. Brooded over the war, is the inquest report: “A tragic occurrence was reported from Kniveton on Saturday afternoon, when a ten-year-old boy named Joseph Elliott was found lying dead in a cowshed with a discharged gun lying by his side. The boy had been boarded out by the Ashbourne Board of Guardians, with Mr and Mrs Charles Gregory at St James’s Farm, Kniveton, since last April, and although he was of a quiet disposition he was an intelligent and obedient lad. The news of the brutalities of the Germans, however , had apparently impressed him and according to the evidence he brooded over it and seizing an opportunity, fetched a double-barrelled gun out of the kitchen, and loading it, shot himself, using a stick to force the trigger.”

The jury returned a verdict of suicide after hearing that boy had read in a newspaper about Germans forcing women and children to walk in front of them as shields. He asked his foster mother if they would do the same if they came to England and she replied; “Very likely they would, Joey, but we hope they will never come here.”

It is interesting to note that despite the reduction in pagination, and the suspension of a number of regular columns, the Wild Flowers contribution, written by J Osbourne is retained. There is a prominent advert on the front page for J Osbourne Medical Pharmacy.




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