The death of Lord Kitchener, the War Minister, the face behind the iconic ‘Your Country Needs You’ recruitment posters was recorded in the Ashbourne Telegraph 100 years ago this week.
Kitchener had been en route to Russia on a diplomatic mission aboard HMS Hampshire when the ship struck a German mine off the Orkney Coast on June 5 and sank with the loss of more than 600 lives.
The Telegraph’s Notes and Comments column said the news came as an ‘unexpected shock at this untimely hour in hour history’.
“His brilliant career is well known to all the world, he lived for the British Army and nothing else, and now he has died for it. He died as befits a great and untiring warrior – in the exercise of his perilous duties.”
The writer said the nation and the world were the poorer for his loss, and the greater for having experienced his exemplary life.
“His great personality was perhaps one of the main influences in the extraordinary response to his call to arms – a record which has been unsurpassed in the world’s history.”
It was another major loss at sea which dominated the news this week in 1915, the Battle of Jutland, the major naval encounter of the war. Just a week after the event readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph had detailed accounts of losses in terms of both men and vessels.
In acknowledgement of the restricted flow of news from official sources the paper stated:
“The story of the great naval battle of Jutland, told in barest outline in the official statements issued on Saturday, is more fully related in further official communiqué and in graphic accounts of those who took part in the fight.
The first statement issued by the British Admiralty on Friday night gave an estimate of British losses, but threw little light on what losses the enemy suffered.”
Alongside the official British statements was a report from Reuter’s Amsterdam correspondent’s relay of the official German report.
“According to trustworthy evidence a great number of British Battleships suffered heavy damage from the artillery of our vessels and the attacks of our torpedo-boat flotillas during the day battle and during the night.”
The British losses recorded were the Queen Mary, completed in 1913 at the cost of more than £2m and with a crew of over 1,000 men. Other ships lost included the Indefatigable, the Invincible, Defence and Black Prince. Over 5,000 British lives were lost, including two admirals and 329 officers.
Among those who went down with the Indefatigable was Midshipman Denzil Tudball, 17, who when not on service had been living with his aunt in Ashbourne.
Another Ashbourne sailor had avoided nearcertain death. Petty Office Stevenson who had served aboard HMS Hampshire – the ship sunk killing Lord Kitchener and 600 men – but had transferred from the ill fated ship to HMS Excellent just a week before. The Telegraph reported that Stevenson had been among the crew on no fewer than five craft, which had been sunk.
The Rev Philip Boswell, also from Ashbourne, who had been chaplain aboard HMS Tiger, in the thick of the action. He was said to have arrived home earlier in the week to recover from his ordeal.
Each week throughout the spring of 1916, the Ashbourne Telegraph had reported the decisions of the Military Service Tribunals, which heard applications from employers and men themselves for exemption from being called up to the join the army. One such Tribunal at Bonsall was the scene of much excitement, according to the Telegraph.
“Two old men, each considerably over the age of 70, kept up a running comment during the business, and other people interfered as well. The chairman repeated applied for order, but the interruptions continued, one man calling out excitedly: ‘You should send them all – you sent my son.’
The chairman called him to order, but the man replied: ‘I have as much right to be here as you, you are a lot of [expletive deleted] frauds.’
Another man exclaimed: ‘My son was killed doing his duty.’
Eventually the proceedings became so disturbed that the chairman stopped the meeting and sent for the parish constable, but before he arrived, Mr JW Young, a special constable who was in the room, was called upon to eject the two interrupters, in which task he was assisted by the local rate collector. One man struggled violently, and as he was pushed towards the door he managed to drag the chairman’s seat from beneath him. After a short time this man returned and, opening the door, called out: ‘The council are a lot of [expletive deleted] frauds.”
Elsewhere the Ashbourne Rural Tribunal went off without such inflammatory remarks, but the Telegraph report nevertheless included tales of human tragedy.
“A personal application was made by Mr F Spencer (24) Middleton by Wirksworth, employed by the Wirksworth Cooperative Society. Applicant said he was married and had the care of his brother’s child (who was motherless). He had one brother killed at the war, and another (the father of the child referred to) was serving at the front. Applicant had offered himself but had been rejected, and he asked for two months’ exemption to enable him to settle up his dead brother’s affairs. The application was granted.”
A letter ended a long wait for the family of Private CT Braddock of Upper Moor, Parwich.
In 1911 Braddock had emigrated to Australia and in April 1915 he joined the 16th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force, drafted to the Dardanelles where he served at Suvla Bay. Nothing had been heard of him since August 4 of that year, when he had written to his brother.
A letter arrived this week in 1916 informing them that a Court of Inquiry had ruled him killed in action on August 8 the previous year.
It is not known if the same writer was responsible for Notes and Comments each week, but in apparent contradiction to the welcome given to the Daylight Saving Act, which moved clocks an hour forward from May 21, 1916, this week there was a word of caution.
“The cold winds which have prevailed this last few weeks have been responsible for many colds and coughs, but it is more than probable that the extra hour in the morning has had a greater influence in this area than many people would have thought.”
The reason was that ‘the atmosphere at 5am is thinner than at 6am’. This fact the writer contended had been ‘apparently overlooked’.
It is uncertain what the scientific basis for this is, but he blamed the call-up of doctors’ chauffeurs for the death of a patient. Doctors, he claimed, left the steering wheel with their hands in a ‘condition of tremor’ rendering them unfit for surgery.
“The Government was warned of this danger, but at least one life has been lost through the hand of a [illegible] surgeon shaking at the critical moment, the result of driving his own car.”
The correspondent also recorded the fact that Clifton church had installed a roll of honour a forerunner of the memorials which would eventually be seen in virtually every parish around the country.
“This oaken panel contains a lengthy list of local men who are voluntarily serving their country, several of whom, unfortunately, have fought their last fight, but although gone are not to be forgotten.”
“Much excitement was caused on Monday evening when about 8 o’clock military aeroplane appeared over the Ashbourne district, flying very low, travelling from West to East and eventually shaping course for Derby, finally landing in the Osmaston Park.”
Apparently the airmen had lost their bearings and been forced to descend to consult maps. The plane was guarded overnight by the Derby Volunteers and flew off the next morning.
- 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