Since the outbreak of war newspapers had been subject to the censorship of the Press Bureau, set up to enforce the strictures embodied in the Defence of the Realm Act.
Over the past 12 months DORA, in contrast to its significant impact on the national press, appeared to have had little effect on the Ashbourne Telegraph, which week after week carried detailed, personal reports of the fighting in letters from the front.
But the Press Bureau was credited with instructions to readers not to send tins to prisoners of war in Germany. This followed legislation preventing the export of tin to a number of ports, thought to be at risk of being seized by the Germans. Parcels for PoWs should be wrapped in ‘strong double cardboard or strawboard boxes, strong wooden boxes or several layers of strong packing paper’, the paper dutifully advised.
‘Local Military Items’ this week included the youngest son of Canon Morris being awarded a second lieutenancy with the 3rd Notts and Derby Regiment, the Sherwood Foresters. Mr S St V Morris, formerly of the Officer Training Corps became the fourth son to serve with the colours.
Mr R A Smedley of the Woodlands, Ashbourne told the paper that his son Trooper J J Smedley, South African Light Horse, had been involved in the capture of German South West Africa. Mr Smedley had another son, serving in India with the Hampshire Territorials.
Two members of a Denstone family had been home for a few days. Lieutenant Eric Wood was on leave from France, while his brother, county cricketer Jack, was just about to leave for the front.
There was news, too of three casualties. Sergeant Tom Harrison of the 6th Sherwood Foresters, who had been injured near Ypres was said to be responding to treatment at Warrington Military Hospital, and it was hoped he might soon return to Ashbourne.
Private GW Brown of Rocester, serving with the Ist Battalion Somerset Light Infantry. Writing to his parents he says he had three bullet wounds, two just above his knee, breaking his leg and a third in his hip.
Mrs J Taylor of Wirksworth had both husband and son serving in Flanders. Her husband Pioneer J Taylor had been wounded in the left shoulder by a flying fragment of a shell. News came in a letter from her son Alfred who had been at his father’s side at the time.
It is no longer commonplace for family proceedings in court to be reported in the columns of local papers, but in 1915 ‘dirty washing’ was aired in public.
On the back page of the Ashbourne Telegraph dated July 23 were details of a case brought by Mary Anne Stubbs of Mayfield. She had summoned her husband of 22 years, John, for desertion. He told the court it was his wife who had deserted him.
The court heard that he had been bound over to keep the peace in June after she had summoned him for ill-treatment and that he had not been home, nor had she spoken to him since six days after that hearing.
“Defendant: You locked the door on me.”
Mr Stubbs said his wife had told him to ‘clear out’ on many occasions, and the court heard he had been taken to court on four previous occasions for assault.
Stubbs, who earned £1 a week as a bailiff was ordered to pay his wife 8s a week under a separation order and pay £1 4s 6d in costs. Custody of the couple’s youngest child was given to Mrs Stubbs
- 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