In a major departure from its normal policy the Ashbourne Telegraph this week devoted page three to war coverage.
An eye-catching graphic took up the centre of the page, including unfurled flags set amid classical columns as a back drop for the pictures of six local servicemen, with the line-drawn headlines ‘For King and Country’ and ‘Local men who have answered the call’.
It was not made clear why these six men had been selected for this treatment. Trooper Bert Samuel, serving with Hartigan’s Horse had been featured before for his involvement in the taking of German West Africa as part of General Botha’s force.
Private A Wilson a former employee in Simpson’s cotton mill at Mayfield, had suffered ‘troublesome injuries’ at Hooge, but was now back in action with the Sherwood Foresters.
Sergeant George Bunting, who had 29 years service in the old Volunteers and Territorials, and was precluded from serving abroad with the 6th Sherwoods because of his age, was involved in musketry training.
Corporal George Wain, also of the 6th Sherwoods, who had also completed nearly 30 years service had been posted to France with the Royal Army Medical Corps and was working in a clearing hospital.
Private Massey, who lived with his aunt and uncle in Station Street, Ashbourne, was said to be missing in action in the Dardanelles where he had been serving with the Highland Light Infantry. His aunt had received notice on October 3 that he was missing and no word had been received since. The editor added: “It is hoped, however, that he is still safe.”
A similar sentiment was expressed for Trooper J Barnes, son of Mr and Mrs Barnes of Church Street who was also officially ‘missing’ on the Gallipoli peninsular while taking part in the assault with the Derbyshire Imperial Yeomanry. “Hopes are entertained that he is still alive – probably as a prisoner of war,” said the paper.
Below the monumental graphic was a coupon urging readers to send in photographs of soldiers, together with details of their full name, regiment, number and rank, when they enlisted, when they were sent abroad and to which country.
The coupon further asks which engagements the men had been involved in, with space to include details of any wounds.
“Please send Photo of your Soldier or Sailor-boy for publication in this Journal,” the paper said. At the foot of the coupon the editor added: “Interesting incidents in active service may be included which we will use when possible.”
The rest of the page was busy with ‘War Time Happenings’; snippets of world news connected with the war, including a paragraph, sent from Rome suggesting that two German U boats which had left the Dardanelles a month previously were missing, presumed lost and that the state of Philadelphia in the USA was investigating fires at three munitions plants, believed to have been started deliberately.
That this roll of honour was to be a regular marketing tool for the Ashbourne Telegraph is made clear by a promotional panel on page five: “Is your boy serving with the colours? If so send us his photo, together with the particulars detailed on page 3 of this issue. Cut out each group of photos week by week and save them. It will be the best local scrap book of the war you can have.”
It is possible that this initiative was part of a rethink of the paper, or perhaps there was a new editor at the helm, for other columns had been moved from their traditional slots. For instance the regular Hints for the Household and Poultry Notes had found a new home on the inside back page, displaced by coverage of the war. Additionally the columns on Page 5, which all fell short by three lines of type were filled with the same advert for Linseed Compound, said to be of ‘proven efficacy’ for coughs and colds; a compositor-technique not previously employed.
It was not only menfolk who volunteered for service overseas, on page 4 it was recorded that Miss Molly Wright, niece of Mr and Mrs Marple of Hulland House, Ashbourne had been given a ‘very hearty send-off’ from Ashbourne station by members of the Red Cross with whom she had served in the town. She was heading for a military hospital in Rouen, France.
There was further indication of the numbers of men who were volunteering to serve the nation. The individual strength of the eight local battalions of the Home Guard were listed on the back page – 6,413 men in total.
Throughout the course of the war The Kaiser had been characterised in the national media as the devil incarnate. The demonisation of the enemy nation was continued in a small, unadorned advertisement at the foot of the front page for Pearson’s Magazine November Edition – price 6d – promoting a piece on ‘The German Murder Instinct’.
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