An Ashbourne gunner with the Royal Field Artillery who had survived six battles ‘without a scratch’ was reported wounded in a military hospital in London.
Paul Kernahan, just 20 years old, had been in the theatre of war since September 1914 and had seen action at Zeebrugge, Blankenburghe, Yser River, Ypres, Neuve Chappelle and St Julien.
News of his wounding came via a telephone call to the Ashbourne Red Cross Hospital from the Endell Street Military Hospital in London.
“Gunner Kernahan had sustained injuries as the result of being blown out of a dug-out by a ‘Jack Johnson’ shell, but his condition was not dangerous and he was making good progress.”
The Ashbourne Telegraph reported: “In his last letter to his parents, dated May 11 from the front he mentioned it had been his painful duty to write to the wife of his chum who fell by his side while serving the guns, and it seemed, he said, like a nightmare to him after the loss of a pal.”
Gunner Kernahan’s brother, Frank, who was wounded while serving with the Grenadier Guards near Ypres on October 31 had been home in Ashbourne on leave, but left just a few days earlier and not heard of his brother’s misfortune.
Such were the numbers of fatalities from the town of Ashbourne, the Telegraph ran, for the first time a Lest We Forget roll of honour, listing ten men who had been killed in action and a further three who died while in training.
There was news, too of ‘a narrow escape’, Private H Belfield wrote to a friend to tell him a bullet had gone clean through his hat, just grazing his head
A letter was published from an ‘Enthusiastic Ashbourne Soldier’, Bombardier C Burns attached to C Battery of the Royal Field Artillery at Bulford Camp in Salisbury.
“Just a line to let you know we are getting on all right, but I am sorry to say we have not gone out yet, but we are all waiting for the order to go out before long. The last time I wrote I was a gunner, but now I have got two stripes up, and going in for more. I only wish we could get some more Ashbourne lads up here to take our place when we go out, then we could say the lads of Ashbourne had done their bit. I must close my letter now as I am going on guard, but will write again before long.”
News of another promotion was detailed on the same page. Corporal William Hudson of The King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry had been promoted to Sergeant.
His story was a remarkable one: “It will be remembered that during the Battle of the Aisne Sergt. Hudson, whilst lying wounded was blown clean out of the trench by an explosion of a shell by which he sustained further severe injuries.”
The paper reported he had had ‘a brief furlough’ in Ashbourne over Christmas and had been instrumental in getting a number of new recruits to sign up before returning to action.
There were three new patients at the Red Cross Hospital, and their details give an indication of how rapidly men faced hostile fire after leaving England’s shores: “Pte R Liddle, Ist Line, 7th Northumberland Fusiliers, who went out to the front on April 20th and received shrapnel wounds in the left thigh between Hill 60 and St Julien. Pte G Brown, 4th Yorkshires who had only been at the front a fortnight before he received bullet wounds in the left shoulder and thigh during the historic fight for Hill 60. Trooper A. M. Stanley, Oxford Hussars (Yeomanry), who went out in early February and received shrapnel wounds in the right ankle whilst in charge of horses at Ypres.”
Not all men serving their country were seeing action overseas. Ashbourne and district men serving with the Derbyshire National Reserves included Corporal Avery, Private J Skellern, Private Foster, Private Fred Etherington, Private Frank Etherington and Private T West. The Telegraph reported that they were guarding a section of busy railway line in the south of England, and several men had been involved in accidents, while another detachment had had a man killed on duty.
Under a headline of the same typographical style and as used for every other entry on the page, reading ‘The Great Skin Cure’ is a shamelessly commercial piece promoting Budens SR Skin Ointment:
“It will cure itching after one application; destroys every form of Eczema; Heals old Wounds and Sores; acts like a charm on Bad Legs; is infallible for Piles; prevents Cuts from Festering; will cure Ringworm in a few days; removes the most obstinate Eruptions and Scurvy.”
The price of such a miracle cure-all? 71/2d from Ashbourne Chemist J Osbourne.
- 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 Warblog