Hundreds of thousands of men were casualties of the Battle of the Somme, each one a story of personal tragedy.
Tributes were paid to Fred Moon, whose death had been announced in the Ashbourne Telegraph the previous week. Moon, who had joined the army on August 14, 1914, just days after the war broke out, had been killed on July 26th.
He had been appointed Acting Corporal with the 10th Cheshire Regiment and at the age of 30 left a widow and three children.
Moon had been wounded at Loos, and had been treated at Belper before returning to France, where he was wounded for a second time. On this occasion he was not repatriated but recovered in time to take part in the ‘great advance’ on the Somme.
His wife was told that he had been with a party of men digging an advance trench when he was struck by shrapnel, killing him instantly. The Regiment’s chaplain said: “He can have suffered no pain. He was buried by me next day, in a little cemetery close behind the trenches. A handsome wooden cross will be placed over the grave, which will always be carefully looked after.”
She received a letter, too, from her husband’s officer, Second Lieutenant HE Dummer of the 10th battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. He wrote:
“It is with the greatest sorrow that I have to write to inform you of the death of your brave husband. He was one of our best men, and in losing your husband the company has suffered in that another of the ‘old hands’ has gone.”
He told Mrs Moon that her husband, had he lived, would likely have been further promoted.
“I think there is at least some consolation in the thought that he came out here willing of heart, and not by dread of compulsion, and also that he had lived to help in the great push, of which all Britishers are proud.”
Ashbourne Military Tribunal heard applications on behalf of workers at a number of local businesses.
“Messrs JO Jones and Sons, seed and cake merchants, applied in respect of William Braddock (32), Mayfield Road, cashier and chief clerk. Applicants stated that Braddock was absolutely indispensible to the business on account of his technical knowledge and his work could not be learned in a short space of time. Braddock had been connected with the firm for 18 years. One of his brothers had been killed in the war and another was serving with the Australian contingent.”
An application was heard, too, from grocers Howell and Marsden, who said they had tried to fill the place of 37-year-old director Lionel Harris but had failed. Woodisse and Desborough applied on behalf of Arthur Stubbs, a tinsmith’s assistant, saying he did a lot of work for farmers in the area and would not make a very good soldier. All four applications to be spared service were refused.
William Henry Marsh of the Horns Inn, Ashbourne told the tribunal that he was the sole support of the business and that he had a wife and four children dependent on him, and he had two brothers serving in the army. He was granted a temporary exemption until January.
Two 17-year-olds were granted exemption from armed service by the Ashbourne Rural Military Service Tribunal – until they reached the age of 19.
SJ Deakin and R Shemilt were both employed by M Bond and Company, weaving webbing for maxim guns as part of an army contract.
Once again the publishers of the Ashbourne Telegraph relied on national and international news to fill its columns in the absence of the locally sourced information. Among the items were a colliery explosion at Ashington, in Northumberland, in which 12 men were killed and news of a disastrous fire aboard a Greek liner carrying 1,200 passengers, mainly members of the Greek Army. The ship had a cargo of petrol and the flames spread rapidly and the engines eventually blow up, killing 40 and injuring many more.
Another news item reveals how the Press Bureau tried to minimize the impact of news on morale.
A ‘hostile air raid’ it was announced had resulted in the deaths of eight people, and the casualty list and total damage caused by the raid was ‘slightly greater than at first stated’.
“The total stands as follows: fours small houses wrecked, one shop demolished, three dwelling houses and three shops damaged by explosion or fire, a small number of small houses and cottages slightly damaged either by fragments of bombs or by concussion which shattered windows, fifty feet of colliery line torn up, one horse killed.”
The statement assured readers this was a complete list of all the damaged caused, adding:
“None of it is of any military significance whatsoever.”
- 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