Bagnall’s Stores, ‘cash traders’, of Market Place, Ashbourne, were making the most of the military mood to help promote their wares in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph dated March 26, 1915.
Their advertisement read:
Join the Army
The ever-growing army of money-saving housewives with trade with us. Money saving because they buy the FINEST QUALITY of goods at low prices.
Offerings this week included bacon, lard, butter, marrowfat peas, porridge oats and loose starch.
Alongside this advert was a matter-of-fact analysis of the different guns issued to troops, headlined Arms of the Armies.
“Each belligerent nation in the field today is armed with a different make of rifle. Naturally, experts are not agreed as to which is actually the best, though those competent to judge are inclined to favour the British Lee Enfield as the best all round military rifle extant.”
The British-made rifles were reliable, strong and light, the article stated. One factor considered important was the fact that the British rifle’s magazine held 10 shots as compared to five in all other rifles; German, French and Belgian.
There had been an enthusiastic response to the raising of a Home Guard unit in Osmaston with more than 60 men attending drill on Tuesday and Friday evenings.
The Company commander, Sir Peter Walker inspected the men and complimented them on their ‘smartness of appearance’. He had bought more than 50 standard-issue rifles and handed these over to the volunteers, who were given instruction on handling them.
The Telegraph reported: “The commander has also promised to fit out the company with new uniforms and these will be forthcoming shortly after the measurements have been taken.”
A curiously low-key account of Ashbourne’s Territorials’ movement toward the front came in the Notes and Comments column.
The men had been stationed in Essex for many weeks anticipating the order to sail at any time.
The paper reported: “Through the kindness of a local lady we are enabled to use extracts from the diary of a local officer who is serving with the North Midland Brigade. The notes will be particularly interesting to Ashbourne readers as the Ashbourne Company of the territorials are with the North Midland Brigade.”
The diary states: “We left the coast early on Sunday and there was no sleep.”
The account is not specific about location or numbers, but tells of the men being served ‘coffee, chocolate and buns’ by women at the port.
“We had a long but comfortable journey. We started detraining at 6 miles or so from where we are, at 4am this morning,” the anonymous officer recounted.
The diary describes the troops travelling in ‘closed goods trucks’.
“My men said they were more comfy than the English 3rd class, with four a side. Am keeping very fit and well here.”
War pictures this week included an image of a soldier and a camel, headlined: The Ship of The Desert.
“This is one of the pictures which indicate that the term ‘European War’ is by no means adequate to the great world upheaval in which the nations are now engaged. War is being waged with submarines, Dreadnoughts, aeroplanes – and camels! The ship of the desert is shown in our photo meeting Australian sentries on the banks of the canal.”
Ashbourne drinkers hoping to avoid the order to close town pubs by 9pm by visiting licensed clubs instead were to be disappointed. Ashbourne Petty Sessions agreed to a request from the chief constable to include clubs in the order affecting licensed houses in the military area.
And there was an indication of the possible penalties for breaking the licensing laws in a court case elsewhere in the paper, which reported that an Eastbourne publican had been fined £10 for allowing drink to be consumed on his premises outside permitted hours. He had been found with five soldiers in his bar after closing time.
Two more injured men had been admitted to the Ashbourne Red Cross Hospital – Private Phelan, of the 1st Leinsters, wounded in the neck and private W Selwick of the 1st Grenadier Guards with a bullet wound to an eye.
List of gifts to the Red Cross hospital included: biscuits, buns, books and sweets from Mrs Wither and cigarettes and socks for two men from Mrs TT Howell. Among a total of 70 donations, 12 Wesleyan schoolchildren had given gingerbread.
Jack Grant, who had been on the staff at the Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk factory in Ashbourne was reported to have been promoted to the rank of Colour Sergeant. Sgt Grant who was serving with the Oxford and Bucks Light Infantry had been called up as a reservist in August of 1914 and had been involved in the early engagements of the war as his regiment had been among the first to sail.
The paper reported that he had been injured at the Battle of the Marne and was now doing special duties at Portsmouth dealing with German prisoners of war.
More news of local men at the front came from letters sent home to family from, under censorship rules, ‘somewhere in France’. Under the headline Ashbourne Territorials at the Front, a number of names were listed: “Sergt. Fred Johnson, Privates J. Burton, J. Edge, Sidney Smith, Blake and C. Wood speak of having come across Gunner Paul Kernahan R.F.A. (son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Kernahan, North Leys), who has been out at the front since early in September. Private J. Aitkin (son of Mr. and Mrs. J.O. Atkin, Church Street) also mentions he had met Private H. Holbrooke (son of Mr. and Mrs. J.G. Holbrooke, Station Street). Both the Ashbournians named appeared to be well and fit. Gunner Kernahan has had some rough times night and day recently in the ammunition column.”
Sergt. Johnson in another letter to his wife dated March 20 states “they had taken no part in the actual fighting that week, but on the week previous they had been close up to it.”
There was a dramatic tale of a shooting accident on the back page of the Telegraph. “Joseph Onions (17) lives at the Meadow Farm, Holmgate, near Clay Cross, with a Mr and Mrs Rowell, A horse being very ill, Onions was sent into the house for a gun to destroy it. He brought out a single barrel repeating rifle into which two cartridges were slipped; but the owner changing his mind, the two cartridges were extracted, and Onions sent back into the house with the apparently empty weapon. This he pointed at Mrs Edith Emily Rowell and asked if he should shoot her. She replied that she did not want to die yet, whereupon the lad most fortunately lowered the gun and almost immediately afterwards a cartridge was discharged, which pierced a hole through her left thigh. Upon an examination it was found there were two other live cartridges in the gun. The injured woman is making satisfactory progress.