September 24, 1915

The pressure on menfolk to enlist was brought into sharp focus by the Ashbourne Telegraph’s Notes and Comments column. The correspondent said he had witnessed a group of small boys who had found a novel way of encouraging men to join the army.

“Their method is to ‘spot’ a likely looking recruit, fall in behind him – at a safe distance – and in chorus, to the tune of Dixie Land sing (or shout), as only boys can do, the following:

YOU ought to ‘list!
YOU ought to ‘list!
You ought to ‘list in Kitchener’s Army;
Seven bob a week – plenty to eat,
Hobnail boots and blisters on your feet –
YOU ought to ‘list!
YOU ought to ‘list!
You ought to ‘list in Kitchener’s Army!”

Later in the paper a single paragraph details the death of teenager Private Joseph Tunnicliffe who had previously been reported missing in France. His mother, of Green Lane Clifton, had been notified that he had been killed on March 12. Tunnicliffe had signed up ‘almost as soon as war was declared’ and had spent three months training in Plymouth before sailing for France with the 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters.

It is not clear from the report how old Tunnicliffe was, because the metal type appears to have been damaged and as a consequence it is difficult to see if the report reads 18 or 19. While this may have been a genuine problem, it was common practice for errors in newspapers to be ‘corrected’ by damaging the type in this way. Even after the switch from letterpress to lithographic printing errors could be disguised by making letters difficult, if not impossible, to read.

Other war news included details of operations in the Dardanelles. Private JW Hallam, of King Street, Ashbourne, serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps had described the evacuation of wounded troops.

He wrote to say he had spent five months training in England before sailing from Southampton on July 25 on board the HMHS Valdivia. After a rough passage they landed at Lemnos in the Mediterranean, where he transferred to the Simla to transport 900 wounded men from the clearing hospital at Lemnos to Malta. They sailed again to the Dardanelles to evacuate more wounded and these men were transferred to the Aquitania en route for home.

“When we were three hours sail from the island of Lemnos we received a wireless message to say that HMTS Southland had been torpedoed. Our ship immediately put on full steam arriving in time to get all hands safely transferred.”

He continues: “We witnessed some thrilling scenes – two boats capsized, but we managed with great difficulty in getting the men safely on board our ship again, giving them food and dry clothing. The only lives lost were from the explosion of the torpedo.”

He tells the paper that later, aboard the Scotian while transferring a further 700 wounded to Malta he had met three men of the Derbyshire Yeomanry, one from Derby and two from Matlock.

He paints a shocking picture of the conditions in which he was working: “We witnessed some awful shell fire on the beach at the Dardanelles, and two of our patients were again wounded as we were getting them onto the boat, shells falling all round the ship into the water all the time.”

Woodisse and Desborough's advert warns of climbing oil prices

Woodisse and Desborough’s advert warns of escalating oil prices

The war resulted in increased prices for many goods, and one of the reasons behind the Gallipoli Campaign was to protect English oil interests in the middle east. The impact, on a local scale, was evidenced by a large advertisement on the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph of September 24. Ironmongers and Oil Merchants Woodrisse and Desborough announced that the price of lamp oil was steadily increasing and likely to reach a ‘high price’. It was offering customers 40 gallon barrels or 12 gallon drums of White Rose, White May, Royal Daylight and Pure Oil.

Elsewhere Bagnall’s Cash Stores exhorted customers to buy British-made margarine rather than butter, the price of which was soaring ‘higher and higher’.

  • 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
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