February 11, 1916

After 18 months of war people were feeling the pinch due to shortages of food and other commodities, prompting this rather unsettling cartoon, reproduced from Pearsons Magazine. “We’ve got a new baby at our house and it’s so fat. Wasn’t it good of mother to buy such a big one when meat is so dear?”

After 18 months of war people were feeling the pinch due to shortages of food and other commodities, prompting this rather unsettling cartoon, reproduced from Pearson’s Magazine the caption reads:
“We’ve got a new baby at our house and it’s so fat. Wasn’t it good of mother to buy such a big one when meat is so dear?”

Not since the early weeks of the war when the pagination of the Ashbourne Telegraph was reduced from its traditional eight broadsheet pages was the question of a shortage of paper the subject of reports in the columns of the paper.

But amid suggestions that ‘neutral’ shippers were overcharging for freight was a piece headlined Probable Shortage of Paper. The article stated that the Government had banned the import of wood pulp, the raw material for newsprint, the paper on which newspapers were produced.

The editor described this as a ‘heavy blow’ and warned: “Readers and subscribers may possibly find themselves with smaller newspapers until the present conditions are changed for the better.

He urged readers to help economise by ordering their Telegraph to be delivered regularly, thereby reducing the number of unsold papers in the newsagents.

In 1914 the paper had been accused of profiteering by reducing the size of the paper yet maintaining the cover price at 1d.

In a move, perhaps aimed at averting a repetition the paper published details of the cost of woodpulp in January 1916 compared to the same month in 1914. Despite a small decline in imports from just under 35,000 tons to just over 34,500 tons the cost had risen from £113,015 to £159.916.

The editor concluded that increased prices and Government restrictions would ‘tax the ingenuity of newspaper men to its utmost’, but for this week at least he maintained the paper at eight pages.

Ingenuity was something which JH Henstock, proprietor of the Ashbourne Telegraph had exhibited in plenty throughout the course of the war so far, including his most recent feature, the Weekly Portrait Gallery, building into a ‘scrapbook of the war’ to encourage readers to stay loyal.

Each entry told its own person tale of the six men featured.

First listed this week in 1916 was Private WH Phipps, son of Mr C Phipps of Green Road, Ashbourne, who had been invalided home to Addington Park War Hospital in Croydon having spent several weeks in hospital in Cairo and port Said with ‘dysentery and enteric’.

The Telegraph reported: “In July 1915 he was sent abroad and subsequently took part in the fierce fighting at Suvla Bay during August. Later he was in the trenches at Anzac. (sic)”

Private George Jennings, the father of nine sons and a daughter, was serving with the Somerset Light Infantry, a regiment with which he had been connected for many years. He had been wounded in 1900 in South Africa and had been decorated for his role in operations which resulted in the relief of Ladysmith. He rejoined his old regiment on November 1914.

Private Frank Allen was a butcher turned medic. Having worked with is father in the butchers’ shop in Ashbourne he was mobilized as part of the 21st North Midland Division, before being transferred to the Royal Army Medical Corps at Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Lance Corporal BC Brown, of Osmaston, enlisted shortly after the start of the war and was drafted with his battalion to France in July 1915, seeing action at Loos and ‘other heavy engagements’. L/Cpl Brown was closely followed by Private W Artless of Mayfield who signed up in October 1914 and sailed to France in August 1915 with the 6th Sherwoods. His former colleagues at Simpsons Mill wished him a safe return ‘after the victory’.

Lance Corporal Frank Naylor, the half-brother of Charles Stevenson who had been featured the previous week was said to have recently enjoyed a well-earned furlough at home in Ashbourne. A member of the Ashbourne Company of Territorial at the outbreak of war he had been mobilized to France and had been present when nine of his comrades were killed by a German mine.

The war provided shortages of many commodities, to the extent that Yorkshire Agricultural Society was reported to have asked publicans to help the harvest through an unusual method.

“Mr Thomas Fairley, the society’s analyst, said that tobacco ash was especially rich in potash and the society would be doing a national service by sending a circular to every hotel and restaurant keeper in the country asking them to collect and save the ash from their smoke rooms.”

The Rev Canon Morris was on the Magistrates’ bench alongside CW Lyon and H Coates to hear two cases reported in the Ashbourne Telegraph of February 11. William Sheldon a labourer was sentenced to 14 days’ hard labour for stealing a fork, worth two shillings. Sheldon had been held in custody having been arrested for taking the fork from Frank Wright’s farm at Parwich. He told the court he had been working at the farm for 8s a week, with food. He had no intention of stealing the fork, but had thrown it away after tiring of wandering around the farm.

Another man was before the court, but his time he was granted his freedom. George Sims had been arrested on January 27 and charged with being a ‘wandering lunatic’. He had been remanded to the workhouse for observation having been arrested for strange behaviour including claiming to be the “King of the British Isles”.

He had not been certified and the court agreed to release him on the promise that he would leave town.

The recruitment of men to the service of the country was causing concern among rural communities. Chapel-en-le-Frith Rural District Council heard there was ‘much dissatisfaction’ in the Hope Valley over the operation of the recruitment tribunals.

Mr O Bridge was reported to have said; “If their present procedure was continued and wintry weather came there would be hundreds of sheep lying dead in the fields.”

  • 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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