The Chatsworth Rifles – officially known as the 16th (Service) Battalion Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment – had been ordered south.
The men had been training at Buxton and Redmires, near Sheffield.
The Ashbourne Telegraph stated that the battalion was the quickest ever formed, had been inaugurated by the Duke of Devonshire and taken the name Chatsworth Rifles – one of the oldest volunteer corps.
As the latest band of volunteers headed towards the front line, others were taking respite at home.
Although there are few direct quotes from servicemen who returned to Ashbourne, as one might expect in a 21st century news report, it is obvious from the level of detail recorded, that someone from the newspaper had spoken directly to their sources.
John Fowler, a former rural postman, serving as a driver with the Royal Field Artillery was back in Ashbourne at his home in Union Street. It is not clear whether he went to the newspaper office in Market Place to tell his story or if the newspaper went to his home, but the result is a detailed, personal account, albeit told in the third person.
“He treasures two buttons from his tunic, which tell their own tale, for both are pierced by shrapnel and the same shell which caused this slight damage to him killed and wounded eight men and four horses.”
Fowler had been in France for 12 months and had seen action at the Battle of the Aisne before moving to Armentieres and then between Ypres and Hill 60. He had also been involved in the ‘terrible struggle’ at Hooge.
Private A Legrice, of the Ashbourne Company of the 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters was home for a few days’ rest and told how he had witnessed a German plane being shot down over the Allied lines. Anti-aircraft guns had pierced the fuel tank and it crashed in flames behind the English line.
Another Sherwood Forester, Private H Belfield sent a parcel of relics to his mother in Union Street. Among the collection, which the paper stated he treasured highly, were a German officer’s water bottle, a timepiece from a German time-fuse shell, several German and French bullets and a silver crucifix mounted on oak.
“Not the least interesting amongst the relics is Pte Belfield’s hat, with a hole through the crown, which was caused by the passage of a German bullet, and which almost cost him his life.”
The visit to Ashbourne of Captain James Grindley of the Canadian Army was recorded in glowing terms. Capt Grindley, the son of the late Isaac Grindley of Newton Grange, was described as: “Physically one of the finest specimens of British manhood.”
He was in town to visit his aunt and uncle, Mr and Mrs Coxon of the Square and to renew acquaintance with those he had not seen since emigrating to Canada in 1900. He told the newspaper’s reporter that 24,000 men had been recruited in Winnipeg and that the people of Canada were as keen to support the ‘old flag’ as were the English.
Local newspapers have always sought to identify and report facts that would interest their readers. In the final paragraph of this report it records the fact that when Capt Grindley attended a cricket match in Winnipeg he had be amazed to discover that three of the players came from the Derbyshire village of Tissington, just a few miles north of Ashbourne.
The publisher of the Ashbourne Telegraph regularly exhorted businesses to promote their wares by advertising in the pages of the newspaper. And he followed his own advice with a display advertisement on page 3 informing readers that the new ‘serial story’ The Maid of the Mill would start in the edition of Friday, September 17. The promotion promised “a powerful and absorbing story with a strong love interest” penned by Martin J McHugh, author of The Death Mask.
Other entertainment advertised within the pages of the Telegraph were the coming week’s shows at the Buxton Opera House: Faust, Carmen, Il Travatore, Maritana, Bohemian Girl and a Saturday matinee of Punch and Judy. Closer to home the Ashbourne Empire’s Thursday, Friday and Saturday night picture was Giddy, Gay and Ticklish – Syd Chaplin’s debut, which promised to be ‘full of furious fun’. Syd was the elder half-brother of silent-film sensation Charlie Chaplin.
It is common practice in 2015 for newspaper to carry ‘news in brief’ items, and so it was in the Ashbourne Telegraph 100 years ago. Such items are rarely as brief as the top entry on page 4 on September 10, 1915, which simply recorded: “A Dronfield baby has been Christened Zeppelina.” A modern day editor would surely insist on some explanation for the parents’ unusual choice of name for their daughter.
Despite attempts to block the move, the Board of Guardians resolved to replace butter with margarine in the Ashbourne workhouse. It was estimated that the move would save more than £47 over the course of the year. Butter the previous year had cost the guardians £81 9s 7d.
- 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