Many Ashbourne soldiers had been killed in action, but there was a fatality closer to home this week in 1916. Sapper James Owen Jones of the Royal Engineers, a patient at the Red Cross Hospital in the town, died.
The former railway worker had joined the Royal Engineers in France, but three months of exposure had seen him invalided home with chronic asthma.
Progress had been slow, said the Telegraph, but he was on the road to recovery.
“On Sunday he had just partaken and enjoyed his tea when he suddenly burst a blood vessel internally and expired in a few minutes.”
His wife had come to Ashbourne to accompany his body back to their hometown of Rhyll. The coffin, draped in the Union Jack was borne to the station by members of the Voluntary Aid Detachment, followed by other patients from the hospital attended by matron, medical officers and several nurses. On the coffin were floral tributes from staff at the hospital and the children at the Wesleyan School.
Conscription, under the Military Service Act meant that men of military age were liable to be called up for active service. Appeals against conscription were heard by Military Tribunals, convened on council areas. The tribunals could grant an absolute, conditional or temporary exemption, or refuse altogether. The tribunals were made up of JPs and other local worthies.
Three appeals heard by Ashbourne Urban Council Military Tribunal were reported in the Ashbourne Telegraph.
The first applicant was an employer who was appealing on behalf of his shop assistant. He told the tribunal four of his staff had already enlisted and no more could be spared by the business.
“Mr Turnbull (chairman): You have to show he is serving the national interest better by staying than going
Applicant: I can’t go so far as to say that. He is worth three other men
Mr Turnbull: Is he getting three men’s money? Is he a highly paid man?
Applicant: He is getting 32s a week.
After a few further questions the tribunal refused the application.”
The Notes and comments Column on page 2 wryly observed:
“Many a young fellow has been quite surprised to find what a pillar of the firm he has suddenly become, and many an employer has blushed as he declared the amount of wages he has been in the habit of giving these highly important men.”
Elsewhere on the page it was reported that the Military Tribunals were open to the public and that anyone who wished could go along to listen to the hearings.
The writer concludes: “The pity of it all is that tribunals are necessary at all, and that there is still a large number of young men who are either unwilling to offer their services or are being held back for the private convenience of others.”
The risk of German bombing raids had led to lighting restrictions across the country, but the headmaster of Denstone College was reported to have found a solution: “The authorities have simply adopted the Daylight Saving Scheme and all the clocks of the college have been put on two hours forward. The result is that work starts two hours earlier, and all the events of the day are two hours earlier, and as a natural consequence bed time arrives two hours earlier and the college is in darkness by the time artificial lights are needed.”
Another consequence was that a number of traders announced that they would shut up shop earlier each evening. Smedley Bros & Mellor, of Market Place announced that they would now close at 7pm on Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays and 8pm on Saturdays. Wednesday was early closing day at 1pm.
The weekly Portrait Gallery this week featured six more men on active service:
- Driver AW Samuel of the Army Service Corps who had signed up in March 1915. His parents, of Sandybrook, Ashbourne, had three other sons serving.
- Bombardier D Hepworth of the Royal Field Artillery, well known in the town as a former employee of draper JW Lister.
- Driver James Allen Waring of the Royal Field Artillery, “hailing from The Cross, Wootton”, had signed up in July 1915 and was serving in France.
- Shoeing-Smith Hooson, son of Mr J Hooson of Bradley was said to have enlisted in the early days of the war and was serving with the Royal Field Artillery ‘close to the firing line’.
- Private A Smith, son of Mr and Mrs Smith of the Rose and Crown Inn, Mayfield, and formerly an employee of the Calwich estate was serving with the Royal Fusiliers and had been in France with his regiment since April 1915.
- Lance Corporal Ernest Hawksworth of the King’s Royal Rifles, son of Mr and Mrs William Hawksworth of Kniveton. His brother was a Private in the Royal Army Medical Corps.
The Ashbourne area had been hit by a snowstorm, the worst for 20 years. Snow started falling on the Wednesday of the previous week and continued ‘almost continuously’ until the Saturday evening, causing widespread disruption.
“The London and North Western line to Buxton was soon blocked, the drifts up the Hindlow and Hurdlow neighbourhood being 12 and 14 feet deep.”
More than 100 Royal Engineers stationed at Buxton were detailed to clear the line, which they succeeded in doing by Sunday, only for more snow to fall on Monday and Tuesday, making it impossible for Ashbourne trains to travel north, crossing as they did ‘some of the bleakest spots in Derbyshire’.
“Several villages and isolated farms were completely cut off from the outside world from Friday to Monday, and bands of villagers turned out with spades and shovels to cut an approach to their little hamlets.”
The Ashbourne Telegraph had an eye for the unusual news story from around the country and reported this week on the trend for naming children after notable battles, possibly where the father had been a casualty.
“The war name fever shows no sign of abatement. At Liverpool three infant girls were given the name Dardanella on the same day; in the Potteries an unhappy baby boy was burdened with the name of Sulva Gallipoli and a Glasgow boy will go through life as Charleroi McVittie.”
- 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