December 24, 1915

The Christmas Eve edition of the Ashbourne Telegraph offered numerous ideas for last minute gifts with advertisers keen to make a sale. Albert Ainsworth of Church Street exhorted readers to: “Give a useful present this Christmas. Nothing is more useful and acceptable than a Pocket Flash Lamp” of which he promised a large variety were in stock

There was little else to distinguish the paper from recent editions, although a small advertisement on page four announced that banks would close earlier, at 3pm each afternoon from January, 1916, except on Wednesdays when they would continue to close at noon.

A simple message on the same page read: “To all our readers, at peace or at the war, we extend our wishes for (as far as circumstances will permit) a comfortable and enjoyable Christmas and a happier and more peaceful new year.”

Other items include details of auctioneers Baghaws’ Christmas Fat Stock Sale and the obligatory round up of news from the preceding 12 months.

Page three’s For King and Country column carried photographs and brief details of Gunner Legrice of the Royal Field Artillery, formerly a baker with Henstocks of Church Street; Sergeant F Courtman, a blacksmith and carter who signed up as a farrier with the ‘crack’ 10th Hussars; Gunner George Taylor, a plasterer, serving with the Royal Field Artillery; his brother Gunner Syd Taylor, formerly of grocers Howell and Marsden; Private G Renshaw, previously of the Ashbourne Co-operative Society, serving with the Sherwoods and seeing action at Neuve Chappelle, Ypres and Loos; and Private F Melbourne, an apprentice with brass founder H Haycock, serving with the Sherwood Foresters in France.

The Ashbourne Telegraph reproduced a letter from Lady Randolph Churchill which had appeared in the December edition of Pearson’s magazine, which observed that the art of letter writing been revived by the war.

“But the soldiers letters which have been published in the Press are a revelation to us, written as they are in the vivid graphic style which can only be reached when a story is told in those words which naturally offer themselves to the teller.”

She quotes from a patient of the American Women’s War Hospital in Paignton:

“I wondered when my turn would come. I had not long to wait. I had gone about 50 yards, when bang! crack! Got it in the leg. Just throwing my arms up in the air – bang! Got it again in the upper arm! Down I go! .. You should have seen me digging a hole with my chin in the soft ground. I couldn’t get low enough, the bullets were flying over my head, within an inch at times. Believe me it was just as if the very earth had gone mad and Hell turned loose.”

Each week the paper carried household hints. One this week had particular poignancy. Headed ‘First Aid ‘don’ts’ it listed tips for anyone encountering a casualty including:

“Don’t be afraid of the sight of blood. There is more where it came from; Don’t forget a little help is worth a lot of pity; Don’t grumble because you have not got a chemist’s shop in your pocket. No one has as a rule; Don’t breathe over a wound, turn your head sideways; Don’t look anxious – your patient may notice it; Don’t wish you were a doctor. Even he can not always save a case.”

Ellastone soldiers serving at the front could look forward to receiving two parcels from the village, containing: “A fleecy vest, pair of fleecy pants, tin of Nigroids, tin of Oxo, radium stove, pipe, pair of socks, woollen scarf, packet of safety matches, toilet soap, packet of sweets, tin of sardines, fruit cake, box of chocolates, quarter pound tobacco, cigarettes and a letter signed by committee secretaries J Hodkinson and J Palmby.

Elsewhere there were numerous letters from grateful servicemen who had received the generosity of fundraisers who had sent out parcels in time for Christmas.

  • 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 War blog
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