Wednesday, May 24, 1916 was Empire Day and this was marked in Ashbourne and was observed in the ‘customary manner’.
“From almost all the public buildings the Union Jack was flown and the schoolchildren were granted a half-holiday which enabled them to enjoy the brilliant sunshine which prevailed. In the morning they were given a short address on the Empire, and after singing patriotic songs the children then saluted the flag.”
The will of Captain Frederick G Allyne Arkwright who had been killed in an aeroplane accident was published. Capt Arkwright, who lived at Willersley Castle, Cromford, had been wounded at the front while serving with the 11th Hussars, but subsequently joined the Royal Fly Corps. The ‘descendent of the inventor of the Spinning Jenny’ left £13,035.
The YMCA Hut Fund benefited to the sum of £23 from a flag day in Ashbourne and district on May 16th.
The huts were a base for serving men, offering a place to sit and read, write letters as well as being used for social events.
“One only has to ask any soldier who has been in any of the spheres of activity to ascertain the value of these huts, and the high appreciation in which they are held. No voluntary scheme has done more for the comfort of the men who are fighting our battles and roughing it than YMCA huts which have been established along the line in France, in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and at every base and training ground at home.
Derbyshire men and ‘not a few Ashbournians’ had been among the ranks of the Sherwood Foresters in action in Ireland in the Easter Rising.
“The engagement was mostly street fighting, which is much worse than fighting in the open, and the attacking party generally suffer more heavily. The tactics require a great amount of coolness and courage, and all Derbyshire men will be glad to know our boys displayed both these qualities in a remarkable degree.”
Elsewhere the paper reproduced an account of the action from the Watford Newsletter, published in the town where the Sherwoods had been training before being sent to Ireland.
“Landing at Kingstown at 11 o’clock at night they had the earth as their cradle and slept beneath the stars in a field.”
This poetic description is brought back to earth in the next sentence:
“One lad says it was like hell for three days. The rebels were al over the place, and from their vantage point, ‘potted’ at these raw recruits, who fought like seasoned campaigners. These ambushed rebels mowed man after man down as they marched from Kingstown to Dublin but the brave boys marched on and never once wavered.”
The report continues:
“Nearing Dublin, these young soldiers came along Lansdowne-road and were under a close and well-directed fire from a doctor’s house which commanded the position. They were absolutely without cover. Two officers and a dozen men fell, but their comrades fought magnificently.”
Ashbourne Petty Sessions heard the case of James T Poyser, a farm labourer, who faced a charge of being an absentee under the Military Service Act.
Poyser had been spotted on Compton Bridge by Constable Billyard, who recognised him as a wanted man. Sergeant Advent Hunston of the Buxton Recruiting Office said Poyser had been due to report on March 25. The defendant pleaded guilty but claimed he had not received his papers. The court heard he frequently changed address. He was fined 7s 6d and handed over to the military authorities.
The new Daylight Saving Act (Summer Time Act 1916) had come into force on May 21 and the move was welcomed by the Telegraph’s Notes and Comments column.
“Apparently there was little disturbance or confusion from the change… It was when the evening came that the change was perhaps most noticeable and many were agreeably surprised to find that daylight had not entirely disappeared by 10 o’clock. The extra hour’s daylight will doubtless by used profitably by many on weekdays in their gardens and in other outdoor occupations.”
Among other items in the column are a piece decrying the inflated price of milk in London where it was quoted at sixpence a quart – 35 per cent higher than normal. The result was that much milk was now going to waste.
It was also noted that the Duffield Bank Railway, near Derby was for sale. The railway constructed by Sir Arthur Percival Heywood included workshops, machine tools, foundry, two locomotives and rolling stock, was due to go under the hammer at the end of the month.
On the same page was a short, report of a German air raid on the Kent coast, issued by the War Office the previous Saturday.
“The raiders made the English coast at a few minutes past two o’clock this morning. One seaplane then turned north and dropped a dozen explosive bombs over the Isle of Thanet.” The report noted there had been ‘no casualties or damage’.
But two other seaplanes turned south and dropped their bombs over southern Kent: “In one town a few bombs took effect. One soldier was killed; one woman and one seaman were injured. One public house was wrecked and several houses were damaged.”
The report concluded with news that one of the planes had been shot down off the Belgian coast.
Other items of official news included sanitised reports of action at Vimy Ridge and Verdun, concentrating on military strategy rather than human courage.
The paper also reported on an Ashbourne man who had been injured on his first day in the trenches. Sergeant FW Blank, had written to his brother Karl Blank of Market Place to inform him that he had been wounded in action and was now in hospital in France. He clearly had thoughts of home: “I should imagine dear old Dovedale is looking ‘in the pink’ just now; I would give a lot to be there.”
The Ashbourne Union was looking for a foster mother for their Cottage Homes to look after 12 children. The salary offered was £25 a year. Candidates should be single or widowed and aged between 28 and 45, the advert stated.
- 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