April 9, 1915

The war effort was being hampered by the diminishing numbers of men prepared to volunteer for armed service, and the Ashbourne Telegraph this week carried, in almost revolutionary tones, an article which blamed Government propaganda for the crisis.

“Why all this talk about the need for more recruits? We all know the Germans are as good as settled. The Austrian army has been smashed once a week or oftener since the beginning of October. It has been routed by the Russians and driven out of Servia. Racial disaffection is rife in the ranks and about the only sentiment common to the whole of the Dual Monarchy is loathing of the Prussians.
German Retreats have become routs, both in France and Russia. The troops that are defending the Belgian positions are mostly boys and elderly men. The ‘moral’ [sic] is broken, and their officers have to urge them into action with revolvers. The detested officers do this from behind for several reasons – one of which is to escape being shot in the back.”

The piece, which was credited to an Australian newspaper, continued with heavy irony:

“The Germans are also starving and short of war material, and their clothes are ruined. The Zeppelins are proven failures, and the British and French airmen have established a moral domination over the enemy.
The Allies have never evacuated a position except for strategic reasons. The battleships that have been sunk were obsolete and due for the scrapheap anyhow.
Apart form the loss of brave men – inseparable after all from warfare – it is questionable whether the Germans didn’t do the Empire a good turn by relieving it of these encumbrances.
All these news items have been handed to us with the imprimatur of the Censor. If they are true, why worry?
The Censor, aided and abetted by the Press is telling the people to go on sleeping. Suppose they go on sleeping and something terrible happens to us in consequence, whom shall we crucify?”

This powerful indictment demonstrates that not everyone believed the outpourings of the official sources and the censorship under the Defence of the Realm Act

A white marble memorial tablet was installed at Ashbourne Parish Church to the bravery of Private Owen Slater of the Grenadier Guards who had been killed in action.
“Pte., Owen Edward Slater, of the Grenadier Guards, who died of wounds at Ypres, October 30th, 1914, aged 24 years. Erected by T.E.R. Symon. Lieut., Grenadier Guards. In memory of a faithful servant.”
Slater, the son of Mr and Mrs Slater of Mayfield Road, had been mortally wounded after rescuing his stricken officer under heavy fire. The tablet was intended as a permanent testimony to his bravery and self-sacrifice, and his officer’s earnest appreciation

The Notts and Derbyshire regiment, The Sherwood Foresters, received praise from General Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, commanding officer of the 2nd Army in France . He wrote to the Mayor of Derby and extracts from the letter were reproduced in the Telegraph:
“Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions have fought magnificently in this campaign, and although they have had very heavy losses, they have always, by their gallant behaviour, brought credit to their regiment and to the counties to which they belong.”
General Smith-Dorrien also had words about the Notts and Derbyshire Territorials. “They have already earned great credit from the regular troops, with whom they are associated and especially from the infantry, for the accuracy of their shooting; for in wartime the one thing that endears a gunner to the heart of an infantryman is when the former is able to drop shells so accurately as to upset the calculations of the enemy who is annoying the trench he is holding.”
The general acknowledges there are other Derbyshire men serving outside the Sherwood Foresters but adds: “Even if there were no more, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire may be proud of the number of their fellow countymen who are already in the fighting line.”

The near-miraculous efficacy of Zam-Buk embrocation has been noted in this column previously. But in the edition of April 9 it is once more celebrated under the heading VICTORIA CROSS HERO SAYS YOU CANNOT PUT TOO MUCH FAITH IN ZAM-BUK
Presented n the form of editorial the text reads: “Having just won the V.C. for conspicuous bravery at Rouge Bancs, France, Pte 10684 Abraham Acton of ‘B’ Company 2nd Border Regt., tells of the share the well-known Zam-Buk had in achieving his proud honour.
Twice undaunted by the enemy’s heavy fire, did Acton leave our trenches to fetch in wounded comrades, one of whom had been lying in agony some 75 weary hours. Acton knew there is no useful bravery without physical fitness; and it is because Zam-Buk has so often contributed to the physical well-being of himself and his comrades that he has written a letter of gratitude to the proprietors of the celebrated ‘first aid’.”
It is claimed he wrote: “I have used Zam-Buk for my feet, especially to keep frostbite out and to cure sprains, also for cleanly and quickly healing cuts from barbed wires and other things.”

  • 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


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