Under the headline A Chance for Little Men it is reported that the War office had reduced the minimum height for recruits the armed forces and that new ‘Bantam Battalions’ were to be formed for men from 5ft tall.
“There is no earthly reason why a man who is small of stature should not prove a fighting unit as effective as those endowed with a larger physique,” states the paper, indicating that smaller men could now volunteer at the Recruiting Office in Town Hall Yard.
Ashbourne postman S. Foster, whose round had been Ashbourne to Wooton was reported to have been killed in action. Foster, a reservist member of the 19th Hussars, had immediately been called up at the outbreak of war. He died on November 20.
Earlier in the month he had written to the Ashbourne postmaster to say he expected the Derbyshire Yeomanry would arrive at the front soon, to join the Oxford Hussars and London Scottish. He said the latter soldiers had suffered heavy casualties on their first day in the trench: “ Their casualty list is over 300; a nasty blow for the first time in action. This squadron is having a rest and a terrible battle is being waged about three miles away. I can hear the rifle and machine gun fire; our batteries are creating a din quite handy, and German shells are exploding a few hundred yards away.”
In a note of understatement Foster told of one of his comrades killed by a bomb dropped from an aeroplane: “He was a terrible wreck.”
More casualties were reported, including that of Captain Frederic George Alleyne Arkwright of the 11th Hussars, the younger son of Mr F.C. Arkwright of Willersley Castle, Cromford. The wounded man had been promoted to captain on August 1, 1914. The extent of his injuries was not recorded.
Another serviceman was in Ashbourne recovering after being wounded in action. Private Arthur Nash of the 1st Genadier Guards sailed from Southampton on October 4 and landed at Zeebrugge on October 7. He took part in the battle of Ypres after a rearguard action during which they marched for 10 hours. He then spent five days in the trenches before being wounded by shrapnel. From the trenches he was transferred to St Omer in Northern France before being transported back to the UK, landing at Plymouth on October 24 – just 20 days after leaving English soil.
The parents of Harry Walton, of White Horse Yard, Ashbourne, had received news that their son had died of his wounds. Private Walton, who at 27 had served nine years with the North Staffordshire Regiment, including six in India, and had returned to civilian life. He was called up once more at the outbreak of war.
Following the recent appeal for Christmas gifts for Ashbourne soldiers, the Telegraph ran a list of donations made by readers. Some gave cash, commonly of £1 1s, while others donated cigarettes, cigars, pipes and tobacco, cakes, chocolate, mittens, mufflers, gloves, socks and handkerchiefs. There were also gifts of soap, cough lozenges and non-specific ‘knitted articles’.
Some servicemen had not had to wait until Christmas for gifts from well-wishers in Derbyshire. A telegram from RG Sweasey, nephew of Mr and Mrs Mansfield of Buxton Road, stated he had received a parcel containing socks, mittens and a muffler.
He said he had written to The Misses Sinfield and friends who had sent the parcel. “But I feel I have not thanked them enough for their patience and trouble in making and sending their loving work which I appreciate very gratefully.”
More ambitious than hand-knitted socks was an appeal launched to raise £600 to buy a Motor Soup Kitchen which the Derbyshire Red Cross said would: “Accelerate the distribution of warm soup coffee &c to soldiers at the front and under fire.”
Prices of goods were obviously a topic of concern for all consumers. Howell and Marsden’s, grocers of St John Street stated that although they were paying an additional 3d/lb duty on tea, they were absorbing some of the cost and only passing on 2d/lb. And they assured customers: “We shall sell our Packet Teas at the Old Prices until our Present Stocks are Exhausted.”
To drive home their reasonable approach to pricing they highlight that: “We are very pleased to give our clients the advantage of the favourable contracts we made prior to the declaration of war.”
Elsewhere on the pages Wigley’s boot warehouse of Ashbourne declares its school boots ‘for hard wear’ are the same quality and prices as before the war.
In an extract from Pearson’s Magazine, the Telegraph carries a piece that states it is a standing joke in the trenches that the Germans were starving due to lack of supplies. “To catch a German, Tommy has an excellent recipe: Go outside a wood with some toasted cheese on a bayonet and whistle God Save The King.”