The publication of a roll call of 282 men from Ashbourne who were serving their country last week prompted a swift response from the newspaper’s correspondents in the villages.
The Telegraph noted that some parishes had yet to submit their list, but nevertheless another page was given over to the names of volunteers who had enlisted ‘for the colours’.
Readers of the Telegraph would have noted an earlier appeal for food from Ashbourne soldiers being held as prisoner of war in Germany. This week there was a letter of thanks from the same source, Lance Corporal T Chell, grateful for a parcel which he had received. He said his comrades would also be pleased to receive ‘anything eatable, such as cake, dripping, treacle’ and hoped they might also be sent some mince pies.
Fears of an invasion by German forces had prompted calls for a force to defend the ‘home front’. The Ashbourne Telegraph carried a major announcement placed as an advertisement, which dominated the page.
Derbyshire Volunteer Regiment of Home Guards
A Public Meeting
Will be held at the Town Hall, Ashbourne, on Monday, January 25th
For the purpose of raising a force at Ashbourne for Home Defence, to be affiliated to the Central Volunteer Training Corps and to form part of the Derbyshire Volunteer Regiment of Home Guards
Harry Coates ESQ. JP.
The objects of the movement and the duties likely to be required of the Derbyshire volunteers regiment of Home Guards will be explained, the names of men desiring to enroll taken, and a committee elected in accordance with the rules laid down by the county committee.
The chair will be taken at eight o’clock pm
God Save the King.
NB Those who cannot join the Regular or Territorial Armies should attend to hear how they can assist their Country at home during the present crisis.
There was also a public meeting scheduled in Parwich about which the village correspondent commented: “At a time in our national history when the services of every man are needed, it is hoped that a worthy response will be made.”
In the Local Notes and Comments column the anonymous writer delivered further pressure to sign up for the Home Guard or enlist full-time: “The German army is not defeated yet and until it is, absolutely and decisively defeated, it is the duty of every Englishmen worthy of the name to enlist in any branch of the Service for which he is eligible.”
It might have been a hindrance to the recruitment cause if too may eligible men read other pages of their local newspaper, where first hand tales of life in the army were shared with the readers.
Under the simple headline, Artilleryman’s Experiences, Boots Frozen to the Feet ran the following: “In a letter dated December 27th Gunner Kernahan describes how he spent Christmas. He and a comrade of the same battery passed Christmas Eve in a dugout. ‘The weather then was fine and frosty, and so was Christmas morning’
They prepared a fire to thaw themselves as their boots were frozen to their feet and their overcoats to their backs. Then the horses (also ‘frozen’) were fed and exercised. The two soldiers then celebrated Christmas morning by eating the last of their toffees, breakfast consisted of biscuits and jam and later on they had some pudding.
An old pail which they obtained from a burnt out house not far away came in very useful for cooking purposes.
A few days before, the two artillerymen’s quarters lay in the corner of a very large orchard, comfortable enough, as they had rigged up a tent but for the occasional ‘coalboxes’ overhead. One evening the writer states was so vividly lit up by the flames from a big chateau that he could easily see to write.”
Details of the progress of the conflict were in public demand. In Osmaston a lecture was given in the garage of Osmaston Manor illustrated by ‘a powerful lantern’.
“The pictures lucidly displayed thrilling incidents, and also the devastation caused by the war, in Belgium on the frontier of France,” the paper said.
It was reported that there had been a large audience, which might have been more numerous had the show not started so early, at 5.30pm
Throughout the course of the war the efforts of the British Red Cross Society were reported in the columns of the paper. The latest update stated: “Mrs Heywood has received many welcome woolies during the last few days. From Marchington came 13 nice mufflers, one belt and three pairs of mittens. Mrs T Orme sent six beautiful blue mufflers and one pair of mittens for the Belgian soldiers. Miss Scarborough forwarded ten excellent mufflers for our Staffordshire men in the trenches which were bought from part of the proceeds of an entertainment given At Ladbroke House School. Miss Simpson sent 13 beautifully warm night shirts and one day shirt from Mayfield.”
On the home front it was reported that food was becoming more expensive.
“The price of the quartern loaf is 71/2d which is 2d more than in July which is a very serious propostion to many who have only just enough to make ends meet in normal periods”
As previously stated in this column it was not unusual in the Ashbourne Telegraph in the early part of the 20th century to blur the lines between editorial and advertising.
Under the heading ‘Our Soldiers Want More Zam-Buk’ was a letter purporting to come from a soldier in the trenches who stated: “A box of Zam-Buk out here is like a loaf of bread to a starving man. On the retreat from Mons we had a forced march of 37 miles and not a man who used Zam-Buk on his feet fell out.”
Two further testimonials from named soldiers supported the theme that Zam-Buk, an ointment with reputed healing qualities, was an essential in a soldiers kit bag.
The column ended with the message: “Our readers, therefore, can do their soldier an sailor friends no better service than by sending them gifts of one, two, or even three boxes of Zam-Buk at once! Get Zam-Buk from our chemist and beware of worthless substitutes.
The juxtaposition of editorial and advertising is a constant concern for the modern editor, yet 100 years ago it appeared to be less of a issue. At the foot of the column listing the men of the villages serving in the war is a lineage advertisement, placed by the publisher to ensure no space was wasted. It read:
“The man who doesn’t advertise, gets to the top after a stiff climb, but succumbs to exhaustion from his efforts. The sensible man soars to the top by the advertisement ‘lift’ – and stays there without much effort.”