The fear of spies, previously derided by the Ashbourne Telegraph’s columnist, appeared to taking hold across the country.
A letter from the Anti German Union appealed for readers of the paper to pass on details of anyone: “Disseminating disloyal or anti-war propaganda or pro-German publications; spying, unauthorized signaling, furnishing petrol to foreign submarines, trading with the enemy etc.”
The letter, from George Maskill, hon. Sec., also called for details of ‘enemy aliens still at large who have escaped the notice of the authorities by passing under British names’.
It was reported on page 4 that Ashbourne’s Private Frank Kernahan of the Grenadier Guards had married a London grocer’s daughter, Florence Aspery at Old Bow Parish Church. The paper reported that the bridegroom’s brother, Gunner Paul Kernahan, who was supposed to act as best man was unable to attend due to injuries received on active service. His place was taken by Robert Hall, who like the groom had been injured at Ypres. Among the guest was Frank Wallis, from Ashbourne who left the following day for the front with a contingent of the Guards.
Most first-hand accounts of fighting in the trenches was making its way home from France and Belgium, but Mrs Lee of Station Street, Ashbourne, shared news from her son Tom with the readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph.
Private Lee was serving with the Marine Light Infantry on the Gallipoli peninsula.
“How the Turks stick it I do not know, as the trench we have just been in was one of theirs, and it was full up to within a yard of the top with dead Turks, and from where I was I could count 170 besides, so they must be losing a great number.”
News too of Private SFN Henstock, son of Mr and Mrs TJ Henstock of Ashbourne, who had been appointed second lieutenant with the 13th battalion Sherwood Foresters. He had previously been training with the Welch Fusiliers in Llandudno having resigned his post of assistant master at Hasting Grammar School in order to enlist.
The anniversary of the declaration of war saw public meetings in villages and towns across the county. At Tideswell it was said 400 people attended ‘one of the best outdoor meeting ever held’. Other demonstrations of public support in Parwich, Shirley, Sneslton and Osmaston were detailed in the village reports in the News from The District column.
A letter from Peveril Turnbull reported: “At Ashbourne on the 6th a huge open air meeting was held on the Market Place, at which Canon Morris and Mr Bamford delivered inspiriting speeches not mincing matters as to the necessity of deeds as well as words. Captain Rippon Seymour made an excellent recruiting speech, plainly stating that this was the final effort on behalf of the voluntary system.”
The meeting was supported by a military band from Derby and Home Guard contingents from Ashbourne and Osmaston.
The paper’s own correspondent reported that the band of the Sherwood Foresters had marched via St John Street, Dig Street, Station Street, Station Road and Church Street back to the Market Place.
The report included details of Mr THB Bamford telling the crowd: “This was the opportunity for self-sacrifice and he asked all eligible men were they going to stop in England and be branded as a coward or were they going to give themselves as their fathers and forefathers did at Waterloo, Blenheim and the Armada.”
Captain Rippon Seymour promised plain-speaking and no ‘soft soap’ and was true to his word. He told the meeting that Lloyd George was ensuring the supply of munitions, but that he could see 150 men before him whom he expected to give their names at the end of the meeting.
He said he had once asked a man why he had not volunteered, to be told his mother would not let him. He told the meeting any man who sheltered behind a woman in a crisis like this was a coward. He also said that such was the Germans’ treatment of women and children that if he were not able to protect his wife he would shoot her rather than let her fall into their hands.
As the band played the allies’ national anthems ‘several recruits came forward’.
Alongside the report of the anniversary rally is a column, simply headed Military items’ which tells in excruciating detail the condition volunteers might soon face.
Brassington soldier Private H Wint wrote to his aunt:
“We blew up a German sap and have taken some trenches and a fair lot of prisoners, and of course they tried to get them back last night. It was like hell on earth, shells singing through the air for three hours. Only those out here know what it is like; it is a good job it is not in England.”
Wint, who was working as a stretcher bearer, told how when returning to a rest camp they came under fire: “The Germans dropped shells right amongst us. They killed between thirty or forty it was a sad night and there were six of us stretcher bearers and four got wounded, so that left two and we had a hot time dragging the poor men up. Some had had their legs blown off.”
His letter continues: “A sergeant told me I should be recommended for a VC. I had to have all new clothes because I was covered with blood.”
Kennedy and Co who had previously been running a weekly advertisement featuring a lawn mower had new artwork with a shotgun advertising guns and cartridges.
All householders were required to complete a National Registration form on Sunday, August 15. The Ashbourne Telegraph published ‘useful hints’ issued by the Press Bureau. Among the advice was that all job descriptions should be detailed; rather than stating ‘farm hand’ the form should be completed to say ‘cowman’ or ‘carter on farm’ or ‘ploughman’. The intention was to ensure that essential land workers were not considered for army service.
A simple paragraph of type, with no headline carried the following, potentially devastating news: “Advices from Lausanne state that a Zeppelin factory at Friedrichshafen has been greatly enlarged to accommodate a new type of dirigible, which is now being constructed, and which is intended to be used for the invasion of England.”
It is almost certain that such information, judging by the form in which it was written, had been the work of the Press Bureau. What is less certain is why it was given such little prominence. Directly above this important item is an advertorial for Budden’s SR Skin ointment, which was not only set in bold type, but with two decks of headline to attract the eye.
Further research may be required to investigate the cause of the outcry, but the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph included an advertisement for Pearson’s Magazine’s August issue which contained a “sensational article” by the Countess of Warwick entitled The Degradation of Woman’s Dress.
- 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