November 27, 1914
The Ashbourne Telegraph issued an appeal on behalf of the recruiting office for anyone with knowledge of men serving in the Army or Navy, other than the Territorials to fill in a form printed in the paper in order that the town could have a complete list of those who had joined Kitchener’s Army. Cryptically it is stated that by sending in the names, readers ‘may hear something to their advantage’. They were further urged to send in the forms as quickly as possible.
Making the most of the patriotic spirit was JH Henstock, publisher of the Ashbourne Telegraph, whose advert on page two of the paper urged readers: “Although we are at war with the Germans we have peace and goodwill at home. And surely the Germans will not prevent us from expressing the good-will to each other in the fashion we have been doing for some hundreds of years. From time immemorial we have sent Greetings to our Relatives and Friends by means of attractive CHRISTMAS CARDS.”
The promotion for the shop’s range of British-made cards in ‘patriotic designs’ states: “Our soldiers and sailors will look for the English Christmas Card to remind them of home.”
To reinforce the point the advertisement concludes that at 1d upwards the English card makers had produced value equal, if not better, than the ‘over-vaunted Foreigner’.
A Dance at Parwich Institute raised £2 15s 6d for the Ashbourne Belgian Refugees. More than 70 people attended the function and danced ‘until a late hour’.
Trumpeter Wallace Wright of the 11th Hussars, wrote home to his mother in Fenney Bentley to report his adventures in battle just north of Mons, in particular a encounter with German guns which they charged and captured, taking 100 prisoners.
“We then scoured the neighbouring farms looking for stragglers, and needless to say we found a few in the mangers of the stables. I pointed my gun at one of them as he crept out of his den, and you would have thought he was mad by the way he shouted ‘don’t shoot’ and put his hands up.
“So we took them prisoner including the ambulance corps, every man Jack of whom was armed. I was a bit wild and I was going to run my sword through one of them who had fired at us, and when he had emptied his revolver I had charged at him, but he begged for mercy and you can’t kill anyone in cold blood. I trotted him off as a prisoner and took his pistol.”
He relates how for several weeks they had fought and marched towards the Belgian border, before holding trenches at Messines: “Needless to say we have lost a lot of men, killed and wounded, but we have given the Germans more than they bargained for and we are pleased to know we have checked their advance on Calais.”
He was being treated in a hospital at Cambridge for a severe case of rheumatism caused by lying in the trenches. He told his mother that he had only had his trousers off once in three months and that was to change his underpants with a pair ‘pinched’ from a German saddle bag.
“I can’t describe the awful scenes you see out there; villages burning, shells bursting, and bullets whizzing. It’s like an inferno; and the place is so infested with spies you can’t trust anyone. The women are ten times worse than the men; we caught one woman signaling with an electric torch and we handed her over to the French.”
A local soldier, whose exploits featured in the previous week’s edition was reported to have died of his injuries. Corporal Reginald Salt of Fenny Bentley, who was aged 20, died en route from hospital in France to England. He was said to have been buried at Abbeville with military honours.
The latest report on the progress of Ashbourne’s Territorials stated that they had been receiving training in trench digging by the Royal Engineers at Braintree, where despite weather said not to be ‘congenial’ they were continuing their duties with ‘commendable zeal’.
A bizarre news item was carried in the Telegraph under the headline: The Prophecy of the Monk Johannes
In a Latin document purporting to date from 1600, the paper reported, the war had been predicted by a monk in Belgium. It stated that the antichrist would be king of one of the nations and The Prince of Lies ‘although he would only have one arm’ would have armies like ‘infernal legions’.
“In order to defeat the antichrist more men must be killed than Rome has ever held. It will require an effort from all the lands, for the cock [France], the leopard [England] and the white eagle [Russia] would not suffice to overcome the black eagle [Germany and Austria] if they were not helped by the prayers of all the human race.”