May 12, 1916

A hundred years ago this week Parliament was discussing the introduction of the Daylight Saving Bill which, if passed, would see clocks put forward one hour on Sunday, May 21, 1916, to save on the cost of artificial lighting.

The Ashbourne Telegraph’s columnist said the scheme would cause some confusion at first, but that the pubic would soon become accustomed to the change of hour.

“We shall start business an hour earlier and the freshness of the air will probably feel strange to many who have not been in the habit of experiencing it… But the advantage of the scheme will be felt at the close of the day for we shall finish our work an hour earlier, which will ensure an extra hour’s leisure in daylight.”

He observed however, that there might be a different impact among the farming community:

“A farmer cannot change the natural habits and customs of his stock. One can’t take the Act of Parliament and read it to a cow and explain that it will be milked an hour earlier each day, nor is it much use trying to instill into the minds of a Buff Orpington that its eggs will be expected an hour earlier. No, we shall have to wait their good will and pleasure.”

Not all men enlisted were hurried to the front line. Sergeant Joseph Hughes, son of Mrs Hughes of Town Hall Yard signed up with the 2/6th Sherwood Foresters in October 1914 and had trained at Buxton, Luton, Dunstable and Watford where he was still stationed. Prior to joining the army he had been employed by brass founder S Barton of North Leys.

His three brothers also featured alongside him in the weekly Portrait Gallery feature. Corporal John Hughes was also with the 2/6th Sherwoods and was now employed at aircraft works ‘at a certain place in England’. Before the war he had worked at Wooddisse and Desborough’s in Ashbourne. Sapper H Hughes enlisted in November 1915 in the Royal Engineers, having previously worked in the carriage department at the Midland Railway in Derby. The final brother to join the forces was Private W Hughes of the 9th East Yorkshire Regiment, leaving his job with W Adams of Ashbourne in January 1916.

All four Hughes sons had been members of the Old Volunteer Band, like their father before them.

Also pictured in the gallery this week were Private J Fogg, son the Mr and Mrs H Fogg of St John Street. A regular soldier, he was said to be in East Africa with General Smuts’ forces.

“He has camped within the sound of the roaring of the king of beasts and seen a variety of wild animals such as can only be seen in the dark continent.”

The last of the six men listed was Private William Lee of Buildings Farm, Osmaston, who was serving with the 3/6th Sherwood Foresters.

Tribute was paid to a Sherwood Forester who had been killed at Hooge in August 1915. The Telegraph’s eulogy to Lieutenant JW Colin Taylor’s was prompted by an article in The Life of Faith. Taylor, the nephew of Mr W Harrison of the Hermitage, Mayfield, was said to have been a talented rugger player – having honed his skills at Rugby School – a gymnast and a man of religious conviction.

He had been a consummate soldier and leader of men.

“On Friday, August 6th, 1915, The General Officer in Command told them they had a tough job in hand in recapturing a trench from which the British had been driven by means of liquid fire.

All Friday, Saturday and Sunday they waited to advance, and during that anxious interval we hear from others that this young officer was among his men ‘heartening and encouraging’ them. On Monday at 2-2am (sic) the signal for the rush was given and he, leading his own platoon, got through all right, with nothing worse than a severe wound in the head, but nine subalterns had been killed in addition to four wounded in that battalion. The trench was captured and though he was wounded he refused to leave his men. Indeed he was in the act of bandaging one of them when at about 4pm that afternoon a shell came and blew in the side of the trench killing and burying all who were there.”

Cases continued to go before Military Tribunals to decide whether men should be exempt from military service. Few applications met with success. Albert Edward Brown, a 20-year-old baker said he was the only one of five brothers left at home and his mother depended on him to keep the home together. His plea was refused, as was an application from Stockport timber merchants Samuel Lees on behalf of 29-year-old Clifford Kitchen, their Ashbourne manager, said to have been ‘indispensible’.

An absolute exemption was granted, however, to George Edward Hill, 22, who was employed by Cooper’s, corset manufacturers. The company said 600 women worked at the factory and they were largely dependent on Hill’s Corset Busk and Steel Manufacturing department. The tribunal accepted that to send Hill would ‘dislocate one of the principal industries in the town’.

Also granted an absolute exemption was Frank Thomas Prince, one of only two veterinary surgeons in the district. Many farmers had lobbied for him to be spared service and The Board of Agriculture had emphasised the need to have sufficient veterinary cover.

Ashbourne Urban Council had received a letter from the Board of Trade urging economy in the use of coal. The chairman remarked that the supply of coal was going to be very serious. He observed that having visited several other towns, that without street lighting, Ashbourne was the ‘darkest place on earth’.

The council had had an enquiry from the local Government Board asking if they wanted any conscientious objectors to work in the district. Mr Mellor retorted: “We don’t want them here.”

  • 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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