Although the majority of Ashbourne men who were serving ‘with the colours’ were doing so in northern Europe some were doing their duty in more exotic climes.
Petty officer Charles Stevenson of HMS Hampshire was on a flying visit to his home in Ashbourne when he dropped into the offices of the Telegraph to relay his thanks for the ‘woollen items’ he had received as a Christmas gift.
He told the paper that his ship had been in Japan when war broke out and was present at the fall of Tsing Tao (the German port in China besieged by British and Japanese forces) and had been cruising the coast of Sumatra, before sailing to the Bay of Bengal where it had been involved in the capture of the surviving crew of the battleship Emden. His journey via Gibraltar to Devonport had involved sighting two German submarines.
The ‘woollen items’ might now have been of more immediate benefit as HMS Hampshire’s next mission was in the North Sea.
There was no respite in the drive to attract new recruits to join the armed forces. The letters page of the Ashbourne Telegraph carried an appeal for men to sign up to one of the many ‘pals battalions’ comprised of groups of men recruited locally who were promised they would serve together.
The Sportsman’s Battalion, Recruits Wanted: “Mr W T Maulton, a well-known gentleman farmer of Brailsford, and for several years hon’ secretary of the Brailsford and Ednaston Horticultural Society has joined the Sportsman’s Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers and writes to us from Hornchurch Camp (Essex) as follows: –
I shall be greatly obliged if you will allow me a short space in your paper as I feel sure it will bring more men to arms.
The 23rd Service Royal Fusiliers, Ist Sportsman’s Battalion, requires more recruits and will accept any man of smart appearance up to 45 years of age, providing he is fit and willing to serve for the war.
The camp is situated 14 miles from London and is one of the most comfortable and best fitted up in the country.”
News may have been in short supply this week as a column on page 7 was largely occupied with a series of jokes, such as: “Scene, Main gate of barracks. Small Boy (to sentry): ‘I say, mister, I want to join the sojers.’ Sentry: ‘Want to join the sojers do you? Why, you ain’t tall enough.” Small Boy: ‘Look at that short ‘un over there.’ Sentry: ‘Oh, that’s one of the officers.’ Small Boy: ‘Well, I’ll join the officers; I ain’t particular.’”
In a lengthy statement Lieutenant-Colonel H Brooke-Taylor informed readers that a regiment of Home Guards was to be formed for Derbyshire, affiliated to the Central Association of Volunteer Training Corps.
Public meetings were to be called in each district to encourage able bodied men too old or too young to join the fighting units to join the new defence corps. It was anticipated that members of existing rifle clubs, of which Ashbourne had a thriving unit, would be affiliated to the new regiment and become members of the Home Guard as soon as possible.
It was envisaged that smaller communities would raise sections and larger towns companies to form Battalions along lines of the parliamentary constituencies. The Derbyshire Regiment would be under the command of the Lord Lieutenant, The Duke of Devonshire.
There were some events not interrupted by the war: “The Most Modern and Up-To-Date Fire Proof Electric Theatre in Great Britain” – the Empire announced the debut performance in Ashbourne of Prof. W. H. Chilvers “The renowned Siberian Skater, in an exhibition of Figure Skating, Solo Skating, also an Uproariously Funny, Burlesque Act including The Great Bottle Act.”
And a two line statement on page 4 reports: “It is understood that the ancient game of Shrovetide football will be played as usual this year.”
It was not unusual in the columns of the Telegraph to see items, which at first glance looked like news, but we really advertising disguised as editorial matter. Once such ‘advertorial’ this week was based on the up-coming centenary of the great historic Battle of Waterloo: “A hundred years ago next June the fate of Europe was decided on the field of Waterloo. For an hour, while the battle was at its height, Napoleon, it is said, sat in his tent in a state of profound lethargy. His masterful brain was in bondage to a body worn out by indigestion, of which he was a victim. This historic example shows the impossibility of keeping bodily and mental fitness unless stomach, liver and bowels are healthily active. Thousands have proved that the best means of achieving this are Mother Seigel’s Syrup after meals, for all digestive weaknesses.”