News of the death of another Ashbourne soldier on the front line reached the town in a letter to clergyman Canon Morris this week in 1916.
Private Albert Housely had been shot by a sniper on April 3, while serving with the 2/6th Sherwoods. Detail was scant but the letter to Canon Morris from Colonel Goodman said Housely had lived two hours after being wounded and eight Ashbourne men had attended his funeral, which was said to have been ‘very impressive’.
The paper added biographical details: He was the son of Mrs Housely of the Ashbourne Coffee House and before enlisting he had been apprenticed to Hunter’s Ltd of Dig Street. He had joined the 1/6th Sherwoods in June 1915 before being drafted to France with the 2/6th.
Lance Corporal Arthur Chell, of the 2nd Sherwoods had written to his aunt, Mrs Bailey of Compton Street to tell her that he was well and looking on the bright side as he was confident of an Allied victory.
Chell, readers were told, son of Mr A Chell of Green Lane, Clifton, was one of five soldier brothers: “It will be remembered that his brother Pte C Chellwas killed in action in 1914 and the other three brothers serving are Tom, Albert and Harry. This is a record of which any family has a right to be proud.”
There were lengthy reports of Military Tribunal hearings, which ruled on whether or not men were exempt from military service. There were strict rules and little mercy.
“Alfred Thomas Carter, groom Yeaveley, made a personal application on the grounds that serious hardship would ensue. His father was seriously ill, he said, and applicant had to look after the small farm. Applicant’s mother also appealed on his behalf, stating that he was absolutely indispensible to keep the home together. The application was refused.”
William Henry Pegge, 36, of Yeldersley, appealed that he was a resident of Canada and was employed as a linesman on the Canadian Railway in Winnipeg.
“He came to England, he stated, in February 1915 to visit some friends. The Chairman: It’s rather a long visit.”
His application, too, was refused.
This week’s entries in the Ashbourne Telegraph collectable series of local servicemen were numbered 127 to 132:
- Corporal Samuel Clews Webster, son of cattle dealer James Webster of Parwich, a former Sheffield mounted police officer was serving with Military Mounted Police and had been drafted to France since October 1915. He had two brothers in the Derbyshire Yeomanry.
- Private Oswald Mills, formerly of Ashbourne had been in Australia at the outbreak of war and offered his services with the Australian forces, serving in Egypt. Prior to emigrating in 1907 he had worked for Gilbert Harvey’s of Foston. He too had two brothers in the army.
- Private Albert Edward Hudson, whose parents had previously lived in Calwich, was serving as an officer’s orderly in Hertfordshire with the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters. He had previously worked in the WH Foster Brothers’ Fishing Tackle factory.
- Private George Startin of the 1st Grenadier Guards was a reservist at the outbreak of war and immediately called up. He was reported to be a prisoner of war at Fredrichsfield in Germany.
- Trooper Noel Edward Samuel of the 1st Life Guards was the third son of Mrs Samuel of Ashbourne to feature in the Telegraph’s ‘scrapbook series’, the others being Arthur and Bert.
- Trooper Arthur Webster, of Parwich, serving with the Derbyshire Yeomanry had been drafted out to Egypt, and from there to Gallipoli where he saw action before being invalided home with jaundice. Having recovered he rejoined his regiment.
Despite the paper’s record of reporting eye witness accounts of bravery and the terrible truth of serving in the trenches, the Ashbourne Telegraph was occasionally seduced by the sensational stories, some perhaps no more than rumour, doing the rounds. This week it retold the story of a Corporal Drinkwater of Willesden, who had become ‘deaf and dumb’ due to a shell blast in Gallipoli in August 1915, but had cured himself by falling out of bed in a military hospital.
“He told this friends that before his injury he shot a Turkish woman who was known to have been an unusually skillful sniper, and accounted for many of our men. When killed she was wearing a necklace of 128 discs, each of which it was believed denoted a British soldier killed by her.”
In other news snippets it was recorded that Ashbourne Urban Council had been told by the Postmaster that due to the number of postmen called up, the latest time for posting letters to catch the evening mail would now be 7.15pm.
A labourer was before the town’s magistrates for being ‘drunk and incapable’.
Thomas Coxon of Kniveton, was said to have been found ‘helplessly drunk’ lying in the road at Offcote and Underwood on April 7. Constable Barnett had had to get assistance to get Coxon to the lockup.
“Defendant said he had been working till dark and he had a drop of beer and it had got into his legs.”
He was fined 10 shillings.
“The flying of kites has been prohibited in the parks and open spaces controlled by the London County Council;” The Telegraph reported. “Except when authorized by competent military authority.” It is difficult to imagine such circumstances. Kite flying was one of the unexpected restrictions imposed by the Defence of the Realm Act
The regular Hints for the Household column this week included tips on cleaning piano keys: “When piano keys assume a yellow hue they may be cleaned by being carefully rubbed with fine sandpaper. Another method is to dilute nitric acid in soft water, in the proportion of half an ounce of acid to five ounces of water.”
- 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