Although the dateline is Friday, December 25, the Ashbourne Telegraph was actually published on the Wednesday and carried a number of advertisements for Christmas presents for those still in need of gifts, including CH Coates, of the Square, Ashbourne, offering, for ladies, “fancy neckwear in very great variety”, and photographs from R and R Bull’s Victoria Studio.
Perhaps not suitable for Christmas, but of seasonal appeal was a prominent advert from Thomas Wardle’s St John Pharmacy for Wardle’s Lung Healer, Wardle’s Malt and Oil, Wardle’s Cod Liver Oil Emulsion, and Wardle’s Neuralgic Mixture, all priced at a shilling or less.
Messages from Ashbourne soldiers at the front continued to find their way into the columns of the Telegraph. In a letter to his mother, of Station Street, Private Jim Lee of the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters made light of his plight with stiff-upper-lipped understatement: “It’s a bit warm where we are now. They are popping away like blazes at the time of writing.”
He wishes his mother an enjoyable Christmas and adds: “I wish it were all over, but I do not think it will be long now; we are shoving them over like skittle pins.”
Private Lee’s letter to a friend also found its way to the Market Place newspaper office in which he says he is ‘in the best of health and living like a fighting cock’.
He reports that Tom Wagstaffe had been wounded in the leg and that a shilling and a penny which had been in his pocket at the time each had a piece shot out of them.
But he was not entirely preoccupied with the war, but thinking of his pastimes too: “I am hoping to be home to see the first ball thrown up on Shrove Tuesday. Beer is 5d here, and we can’t get no fags except the French sort, and they make you cough too much, so you can send us a few… I see Derby County are going strong for promotion I think they will manage it at the first time.”
In yet another letter, this time addressed directly to the editor, Private Lee thanks the people of Ashbourne for the parcel he had received. He writes: “I must tell you Ashbourne is well represented round where I am; we are just waiting our turn to go in the trenches again. There are up here ‘China’ Wibberley, George Renshaw Jack Fowler (Tissington) and a lot of others.”
Spirits were high, too, among those Ashbournians serving with Kitchener’s Army at Bordon Camp in Hampshire. Gunners C Burns and G Taylor wrote to the Telegraph to thank the Ashbourne Friends for the gifts sent for Christmas.
“We hope they will spend a jolly good Xmas, as we are hoping to have the same if we are away from home. We get plenty of drill, plenty to eat and a lot of fun, but there is one thing we all want at Borden (sic), that is to go and have a smack at the Germans. We want as many as possible of the Ashbourne men to join the RFA and come with us when we go out.”
Further gifts were on the way to soldiers serving King and Country. The Telegraph reported: “Messrs. Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company have lately dispatched a generous and handsome parcel of gifts to their soldier employees, at present serving with the colours, and whose places the firm are keeping open for them.
“The gifts, which are enclosed in a stout tin box , carefully protected inside, and wrapped on the outside with thick waterproof paper, comprised the following:
1lb bock of Swiss milk chocolate; 2lb block of nut milk chocolate; 2 tins cocoa and milk; 1 tin full cream; I tin coffee and milk; 2 briar pipes, 1 packet pipe cleaners; 1 tobacco pouch; 3 packets cigarette papers; 1 tin tobacco; 2 pairs of socks; note paper and envelopes; patent drop lead pencil; 1 tin matches.
“Accompanying the gift is a handsomely designed card, with the Allies flags in colours embossed thereon, and bearing the motto: ‘For Freedom. Christmas 1914; New Year 1915.’”
The publisher of the Telegraph, Joseph Henry Henstock, offered a 1915 Ashbourne Year Book with every copy of the paper, and urged readers to ensure they got their copy.
The Belgian Relief Fund benefited to the tune of £26 11s 6d from dealings at Bakewell Cattle market in a Much Sold Pig: “The pig, given by Mr Ben Thorpe of Grindleford was worth 30s and when sold on the first occasion realised £8, 2s 6d. Mr C Bailey, who became the owner, raffled it the following week for the same object and this brought in £15 10s. Mr H Outram, of Grindleford purchasing the winning ticket. This gentleman again put the pig in the market and on Monday it was once more sold. Mr Turner of Grindleford bought it for £2 19s and gave it back to be offered again.”
A lengthy report detailed discussions about the formation of a Derbyshire Volunteer Training Corps. A meeting had been called by The Duke of Devonshire, Lord Lieutenant for Derbyshire, following communication from the War Office to consider what steps should be taken ‘for the better protection of life and property in the event of an invasion or raid’. The Duke stated that ‘events on the East coast’ had given the discussions greater urgency. He was referring to the bombardment of Scarborough, Whitby and Hartlepool.
An enterprising Belgian refugee living in Alrewas House in Ashbourne was offering French and Flemish conversation lessons to children and adults ‘on special terms’.