January 28, 1916

Although most attention was cast on the fighting on the Western Front and at Gallipoli, British forces were also engaged in other theatres of war.

News this week in 1916 reached Ashbourne of the death of Captain Frank J Rigby, mortally wounded fighting on the Tigris river in Mesopotamia.

Rigby, the son of the late JR Rigby, a partner in Ashbourne solicitors Holland Rigby and Williams, had been a member of the Inns of Court Officer Training Corps and had signed up at the outbreak of war and accepted a commission with the Seaforth Highlanders sailing for France in December 1914.

In December 1915 his regiment transferred to Mesopotamia, landing near Basra in modern-day Iraq. He was slightly injured on January 7, in the Battle of Sheikhj Sa’ad in an attempt to relieve the city of Kut, which was being besieged by Ottoman forces.

But he was soon back in action, only to suffer fatal wounds on January 21 in the Battle of Hanna which saw 2,700 British men killed or wounded.

News of his death was received by telegram to his sister of St John Street, Ashbourne, just two days before the Telegraph was published.

Bad news arrived in Kniveton, too, this week in 1916. Mrs Roome received notice that her son Arthur, serving with the Grenadier Guards had been admitted to the ‘London’ clearing hospital in France with severe head injuries, sustained on January 15. The sister in charge said that he was unconscious and that everything possible was being done for him and she hoped there would be a chance for recovery. However a second letter was delivered the following day, stating that he had died and been buried in a cemetery near the hospital, with a small white cross marking the spot.

Arthur Roome, who stood 6ft 3inches tall, had enlisted in October 1914 and had previously worked for nine years at Church Farm, Kniveton.

The Telegraph recorded that his brother George, ‘a well-known redoubtable Shrovetide football player’, was serving in the Royal Garrison Artillery in Ireland.

The village of Norbury, lying just five miles south west of Ashbourne had been rocked by the death of Private Charles Samways, the first man from the village to volunteer, and the first fatality from the community.

Samways had been born in the village, attended the Sunday School, had been a member of the church choir, took communion at the church and had been married there too.

The Rev AG Metcalfe said no man had been better respected than the one they were paying their last respects to.

“By the love and self sacrifice for his home and country, he was the first to lay down his life. Knowing the noble life he had lived we should have never expected him to have done any other. A gloom has been cast over the parish by the sudden news of his death, but his name would never be forgotten.”

Another tragic death was reported on page 5 – not this time of a soldier in battle, but a two-year-old child from Burton. Marjorie Poxon, the daughter of a labourer had been taken suddenly ill after eating bread and jam, an apple and a piece of raw carrot. The inquest heard from Dr JR Hill that she had died of ptomaine poisoning, although it was a mystery how she had come to fall victim.

“Several ptomaine cases had occurred in Burton lately”, he added, “some proving fatal.” (Ptomaine, a bacteria compound caused by rotting foodstuff, was then thought to be the cause of food poisoning).

On a happier note, the Telegraph reported the marriage of Sergeant Will Hudson, son of Mr and Mrs Hudson, of Union Street, Ashbourne to Nana Bryan of Sculcoates.

Sgt Hudson of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry had twice been wounded and was now serving at Hull. The bride wore a grey dress with military buttons and a ‘picture hat to match’.

The paper’s weekly For King and Country feature on page 3, which the publishers claimed would build into a scrapbook of the war, this week in 1916 featured members of the Bradshaw family from Stanton.

Sergeant J Bradshaw was a decorated veteran of the South African War and had rejoined the army with the 1st London Royal Welsh Fusiliers in March 1915 and was currently serving in France. Trooper Sam Bradshaw, of the 20th Hussars had served in Egypt but had been in France since June 1915, seeing action at Loos and other ‘severe engagements’ with the Ist Suffolks.

Private John Bradshaw, son of Thomas Bradshaw, was with the Sherwoods transport section in France, while his brother Roger was in training in Grantham with the 3rd/6th Sherwoods.

Two other men, both serving with the 6th Sherwoods were also included this week: Private W Buxton, formerly an employee of Ashbourne grocers Howell and Marsden, son of Mr and Mrs Buxton, formerly of Clifton and Signaller H Moreton a former King’s Scout from Mayfield, who had worked at Simpson Bros. Cotton Mill in the village.

Such was the pressure to enlist all men not in reserved occupations that details of the process to be followed if men were called-up under the Lord Derby scheme were detailed this week, in the form of a letter from the Ashbourne Divisional War Agricultural Committee.

It urged anyone who had been ‘starred’ or working in a ‘starred occupation’ and who received Army Form W.3195 should at once inform their employer in order that the call up could be challenged.

  • 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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