Whether due to unexpected space or a lack of local news this week in 1915, The Ashbourne Telegraph carried, for the first time in months, a series of official ‘communiques’ about the progress of the war. (page 7)
In the autumn of 1914 the paper had regularly carried ‘Telegrams’ – Press Bureau missives which generally told of German reverses and Allied successes. These were soon dropped in favour of first hand accounts reproduced from the letters of soldiers at the front.
Unlike the colourful, sometimes harrowing, accounts from Ashbourne men facing death at the hands of a well-armed enemy, these official reports were almost antiseptic.
Artillery Actions in France – German Losses Before the Labyrinth: “In Artois the artillery duel continued, but there was no fresh infantry engagement. In consequence of yesterday’s actions at ‘The Labyrinth’ we counted before our trenches 219 enemy corpses.
“We bombarded trains at the station at Roye. In the region of Soissons, in the vicinity of Berry-en-Bac, as well as in the Argonne, the artillery actions assumed a more sustained character today.”
Another report, headlined ‘Grenade Fighting’ read: “Rifle fire and grenade fighting continued uninterruptedly during the night. It is confirmed that the losses of the enemy during the action yesterday were very high.”
Yet another, no doubt bloody engagement was reported thus: “In Champagne the Germans attacked with grenades the barriers erected in front of our listening posts on the Butte of Tahure. They were repulsed.”
More relevant to the readers perhaps were the ‘Local Military Items’ – just single paragraphs containing personal details of Ashbourne men.
Private H Courtman was receiving treatment at a hospital in Manchester after a piece of shrapnel penetrated his right ear, rendering him unconscious and affecting his sight and hearing. “Both knees were also injured”
Private H Belfield of the 6th Sherwood Foresters, son of Mr and Mrs Belfield of Union Street was in hospital in London where a piece of shrapnel in his leg was ‘eluding the skills of the doctors although the ‘X’ Rays has been applied.’
Alec Kernahan of North Leys, who had two brothers injured in action, was reported to have enlisted and was in training with the Royal Fusiliers, with ambitions to join the Royal Medical Corps.
Under the intriguing headline ‘Germans’ Invisible Aeroplane’ is an explanation of several reports made of an ‘invisible’ aircraft. The article explains that the wings were made of artificial resin strengthened by wire netting, making them virtually transparent and difficult to spot at height. The added benefit, states the report is that they are not flammable like the celluloid and canvas of traditional aircraft.
Wartime had not prevented the aristocracy’s shooting parties. Under the headline ‘A Record Bag’ it was recorded that the Duke of Rutland’s five guns had bagged 145 hares and 217 pheasants in one day.
Hunting continued too, with Meynell Hounds meets on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.
- 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