Drunkenness among the womenfolk of the nation was a causing concern with reports in the national press of a dramatic increase in the numbers frequenting pubs.
L Eardley Simpson of Bank Chambers, Derby wrote to the Ashbourne Telegraph on the subject: “Since the outbreak of war, considerable correspondence has appeared in the Press to the effect that there has been a decided increase in intemperance amongst women, and the wives of Soldiers and Sailors are alleged to be spending a considerable portion of their Separation Allowance in drink, with the result their children have suffered from neglect.”
Mr Simpson provided evidence from a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children investigation to rebut the allegations of drunkenness among the women folk of servicemen. He said that although inspectors had found an increase in drinking in 26 of 148 areas, in 12 of these the increase was only ‘of a temporary nature’.
He continued: “No greater slander has ever been circulated concerning the habits of any body of people than the assertion that Soldiers’ Wives as a class are lacking in the spirit of self-restraint or that they are given to neglecting their children.”
On the subject of alcohol, there was a report from the ‘Brewster Sessions’ – the annual licensing hearing at Ashbourne.
It was reported that Ashbourne had 51 pubs – one for every 191.6 inhabitants. It was noted this compared to a national average figure of 289.
There had been a small decrease in cases of drunkenness, the hearing heard, compared to previous years, with 72 people convicted – 60 men and 12 women.
The figures for 1915 were swelled by labourer Albert Plant who admitted being drunk and disorderly and was fined 6s with 7s 6d costs.
Derbyshire cricketer GEV Crutchley was listed as missing this week. The paper reported that he was well known as a promising player for the county side.
The Red Cross came in for criticism over the decision by county organisers to decline the offer made by the Ashbourne branch of a temporary hospital in two rooms at the Congregational Schoolrooms.
Following an inspection, local volunteers had been told that their efforts since the outbreak of war to provide accommodation for wounded soldiers had been in vain.
The paper detailed how the local branch had initially transformed the Weslyan Church’s Century Hall into a hospital with ten beds, only to be told that the Government demanded a minimum of 20 beds. The Congregational Church then offered the large schoolroom which was then equipped with a further 15 beds, making 25 in total. However the inspector said the lack of windows in the side walls made room unsuitable.
The paper notes, with heavy sarcasm: “We are glad to think the country is so well provided with such appropriate accommodation that it can afford with scant ceremony to discard what was considered to be admirable by our local doctors.”
Another week passed without any detailed news from the front line, but the Telegraph did include an extract from Pearson’s Magazine entitled How To Shelter From Shells.
“One’s first big shell is an awe-inspiring experience: The sound of the passage through the air – half shriek, half moan – the seen burst of the explosives in the ground, and the high-flinging of the debris. Then the roar of the explosion and the rain of sharp splinters, the majority large enough to kill, all capable of deadly wounds.”
The piece continues to state that if the shells fall on soil little damage is done “unless they happen to fall directly on troops or artillery”.
The writer describes how the terrible damage to historic buildings, such as Ypres’ medieval Halles were more the result of fires caused by the shells than the explosive force itself. He offered the following advice: “One of the first lessons which shells teach the soldier is that it is no use to run away from them; to walk from a danger zone is generally quite safe and much more dignified proceeding.”
Winter was afflicting the Peak District this week in 1915. The Telegraph reported that heavy snow on Sunday morning had left the Buxton area under up to six inches of snow, while more remote areas of the Peak were under a foot of snow and communication with the outside world was cut off.
Ashbourne was looking forward to the annual Shrovetide Football and it was announced that for the first time an official photograph of the players on the way to the Croft would be taken by Mr Hansen and be available at the price of 2d the following day.
The fear of a German infiltration was behind the announcement that the Government had requested a map showing every house in London, drawn up at a cost of £20,000 over 15 years should not be published until after the war.
The war effort, apparently included efforts to capture German trade, and according to a report credited to the Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel efforts had been made in Burton-upon-Trent to develop the town as a centre of manufacturing. Recent successes had been a hosiery factory, an enameling works and a railway wagon repair depot.
The latest development was a toy factory, manufacturing toys previously made in Germany and Austria.
The Telegraph reported: “Local capital to the amount of £2,500 was raised, the Hammond Manufacturing Company found a similar sum and a large freehold property, formerly a tannery, has been purchased close to the railway station.
Skilled workers are to are to turn out at the factory toys in parts, which will be delivered to workers at their homes where they will be finished off.”
Astonishingly the initial workforce of 50 skilled machinists and 200 apprentices were expected to swell in number in the enterprise: “By the end of the year 3,000 workers should be employed at the works and 20,000 in their homes.”
My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague John Dilley is conducting a similar real-time project with the Market Harborough Advertiser. Check out his Newspapers and the Great War blog