January 7, 1916

Ashbourne’s Red Cross Hospital, which had been closed over Christmas admitted 12 more patients on January 4, 1916, men transferred from Derby Royal Infirmary.

Not all the men had suffered injuries from enemy fire, many were incapacitated due to other ailments associated with life on the front line.

Among them was Corporal Turner of the Royal Engineers, a dispatch rider who it was reported had had three motorcycles wrecked under him while on duty. He had also seen action at Mons.

Corporal Turner had suffered no serious injury inflicted by the Germans, but was receiving treatment for a rather prosaic condition – varicose veins.

Other patients transferred to Ashbourne were Corporal Jones, Royal Engineers, (bronchitis and asthma), Private J O’Neal, Army Service Corps, (gout), Private Jones, ASC Remounts, (rheumatism), Private Mitchener, RE, (gastritis), Private Rodley ASC (synovitis, right knee), Private McDiermid, 2nd Scots Guards, (septic right foot), Private Caple, 2nd Duke of Connaught’s Light Infantry, (strained back), Private McKay, 7th Seaforth Highlanders, (shot wound right leg and left buttock), Private Kennedy 8th RW Kents, gunshot wound right foot) Private Parker 8/1st South Staffs Regiment, (shot wound neck and face).

The Notes and Comments column on page 2 recorded that the annual Ashbourne Gawbie’s (or Gay Boys’) Market, at which labourers were hired for the coming year, had been ‘as lively as could be expected in the circumstances’.

“With a good proportion of men away in khaki, labourers were none to numerous, and the predominate view that more still would be needed for their country’s service considerably affected the usual business of engaging hands.”

The column recorded a conversation, in dialect, between two ‘sons of the soil’.

“Kitchener wants thay Bill,” said one.

“Does he?” asked the other. “Well, I’m here when I’m wanted.”

“S’pose they fetch us next wick, an’ send us to Bulgaria?”

“I dunna care whether it is Bulgaria or any other bloomin’ aria. I’m ready, but by gum, I dunno who will chop th’ fodder at th’ farm if I goo.”

Page 5 reported the market saw ‘steam roundabouts, shooting galleries swing boats and other amusements’ on the Market Place.

A shortage of labourers had seen inflation in wages: “Boys from 16 to 18 and servant girls were in keen demand. Wages ruled high and farm youths were asking £25 to £30 a year; experienced dairy girls £25; cowmen and waggoners £26 (with board) and experienced labourers £26 (with cottage included).”

The paper’s Lest We Forget role of honour for fatalities now contained 34 names. At the top of the list was the most senior officer from the area so far to have lost his life, Major JH Wardle.

On page five his death was recorded in a single paragraph: “ Mrs Wardle, Mayfield Hall, has received information that her son, Major JH Wardle of the Queen’s Own Glasgow Yeomanry, was killed in action on January 2, at the Dardanelles. The deepest sympathy is extended to Mrs Wardle and family, in their bereavement.”

Alongside was news of another officer killed in action. Captain R H Gretton of Sudbury, serving with the Bedfords, and youngest son of Colonel J Gretton MP had been killed in action. He had only been at the front for three weeks when he met his death. The paper reported that the parish church rang muffled peals of bells in his memory.

In a letter to the editor Albert Ainsworth, Cycle and Motor Dealer of Church Street, announced that due to the war he had decided to shut up shop.

“I have decided to suspend business for the period of the war in order that I and all the men in my employment may serve the country in this great crisis.”

He offered his apologies to customers who might be inconvenienced, but continued:

“I feel that the time has now arrived for the men of England, who for various reasons have been unable to go sooner, to make the sacrifice in order to support the men, who up to the present have saved our country from being over-run and devastated and our women and children from unspeakable horrors.”

According to the 1911 Census Albert was married to Ethel Grace and at that time they had a new-born son Denis.

“When the war is over,” he concludes, I shall hope to return and resume business, freed from the tyranny with which we are now threatened.”

Three brothers were included in the ‘Weekly Portrait Gallery’. Private Walter Bassett, a member of the Mappleton family, who had previously told of his exploits in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph, was once more with his regiment in the battlefield. His brothers identified only as ‘J’ and ‘H’ had both signed up at the outbreak of war.

Farrier Sergeant J Bassett was stationed in Alexandria, Egypt while Driver H Bassett was serving with the Royal Field Artillery having sailed for France in February 1915.

The other men included in the feature were: Sapper W Thornley, formerly a clerk at Ashbourne Post Office and a member of Ashbourne Wednesday and Ashbourne Town football clubs, serving as a field telegrapher with the Royal Engineers; Private J Hallam, Royal Army Medical Corps, involved in evacuating wounded from the Dardanelles; and Private A Collier, one of the first employees of the Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company to enlist. He had been wounded at The Dardanelles and had been treated in Cairo and Alexandria.

Such had been the efforts of fundraisers to send parcels for Christmas to men serving overseas that an more than a column was filled with the names of the men who had written to the Soldiers and Sailors Christmas Parcel Fund to express their gratitude.

  • 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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