There was a hero’s welcome awaiting the return to Ashbourne of Gunner Paul Kernahan.
The previous week’s Ashbourne Telegraph’s most dramatic news was a detailed account of how Kernahan had been wounded in the front line after months of action with the Royal Field Artillery.
The report of edition of June 11 was understated, running to just a few lines, to mark the return of a soldier who had spent nine months at the front. The report may have been low key, but Kernahan’s welcome was anything but.
“The approach of the train was heralded by the explosion of fog signals and from every house in North Leys banners and flags were displayed. The hearty reception of the neighbours testified to the thankfulness which they felt at the safe return of their gallant and popular young friend.”
Elsewhere in the paper there are numerous separate stories of men killed and wounded in action. Each of the names would have been known to family, friends and workmates in the town.
Mrs Tunnicliffe of St John Street had been notified that her husband Thomas had died on May 22 from wounds received in action in France.
Tunnicliffe, 26, had been serving with the 18th Hussars. He left a son, aged three, and a baby born shortly after he left Ashbourne and whom he had never seen.
Canon Morris had been informed his son, Lieutenant Noel Meeson Morris of the 9th Bengal Lancers, Hodson’s Horse, Indian Army, had been wounded in action near Ypres, on June 2.
“By a strange adventure, Lieut. Morris who was moved to No 3 General Hospital, near Dieppe, found himself in the next bed to Capt. Fox Wardle of the North Staffordshire Regt. T.F. brother of Miss Wardle of Mayfield Hall who was lying wounded in the same hospital.”
A memorial service was held in Clubley for Grenadier Guard Arthur Sidney Goodall, son of Mr and Mrs John Goodall. It was stated that he had been among the first men from the village to enlist and had a younger brother and step brother also ‘with the colours’.
From Osmaston came the news that Frank Allen, who had been serving in the trenches since January, had written a Field Service postcard to his parents from ‘somewhere in France’ informing then that he had been injured in the back by a piece of shell.
Sergeant William Hudson, who was severely injured in 1914 when a shell hit the dug out where he was lying wounded, had been injured again.
News of other casualties from around the county included Private P Oxton of Derby, injured by a hand grenade, and now in convalescence in Kent, and Private Hubert Holmes Fewkes of Bakewell, one of the first men to join the Territorials, who had been killed in the trenches.
A former Sunday schoolboy Private William Ward of the Sherwood Foresters had written to J R Probert, his Sunday School Superintendent.
“We have been in the trenches several times.” He said, “but so far I have had the good fortune to come out safely. When Mr Meakin used to tell us at the Day School about the different wars that have taken place, I little thought at the time that I should ever take part in one.”
He said that they had lost comrades, but that everyone was prepared to die for king and country.
“This is a terrible war, and we have had some narrow escapes when the shells have been bursting whilst we were in the trenches. It is dreadful to see the dead bodies lying about and we wonder whose turn it will be next, but it is really wonderful how we have got through it all and believe it is The One who is giving us the strength and taking care of us.”
He continues: “We don’t think the war will last much longer, and we shall be glad to see Ashbourne and the good old Parish Church again.”
The paper reported that the terrible conditions faced in France and Belgium by British troops over the winter, caused by almost constant rain could be better appreciated when it was understood that the winter had been the wettest for 100 years.
- 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