August 25, 1916


The toll of the war on Derbyshire’s menfolk mounted once more with three more soldiers from the Ashbourne district reported killed in action.

George Boden, of the 10th Sherwood Foresters had been shot through the head by a German sniper on July 5. Boden, the adoptive son of Mrs Stubbs of Thorpe was said by his officer, writing from the front, to have been ‘of Britain’s sternest material, always at the point of duty’.

Private J Naylor, of the 1/7th Royal Warwicks, was killed the day after his 27th birthday, on July 25. News of his death, which came within a month of him being sent out to France, was communicated to his parents in Bradley, ‘where he was well-known and respected’.

Mr and Mrs William Slater of Mayfield Road, Ashbourne received confirmation of the death of their son Lance Corporal Herbert Slater of the 10th Sherwoods. Two weeks previously they appealed in the columns of the Telegraph for any information about their son, having been notified that he was missing in action. Fellow Ashbournian Sapper R Wilson of the Royal Engineers wrote to the Slaters to tell them that their son had made the ‘supreme sacrifice’. He wrote:

“He was exceedingly popular with the whole of the company, and was a good worker and feared nothing. He was promoted Lance Corporal the very morning he met his death, and the loss was keenly felt by both officers and men.”

Mr Henney, coachman at Mayfield Hall, and his wife had three sons, three sons-in-law, three grandsons and 14 nephews serving in the forces. The Ashbourne Telegraph was so impressed with this record that it took the unprecedented step of publishing the picture of one of the sons, James Sidney Henney for the second time in the ‘scrap book portrait gallery’. He had appeared in the column earlier in the month, but his picture was published again, alongside his brothers Richard and Charles. Richard was serving with the Canadian contingent in the Army Service Corps and awaiting being sent to France; his younger brother Charles was with the 13th Gloucesters in France, having signed up aged 17 with the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment.

The other three men featured were all sons-in-law to the Henneys: Private Frederick Wood who had worked in the gardens at Calwich Abbey but had been called up a few weeks earlier and was in Sunderland training; Private Jack Fisher, an ambulance driver who had been out in France for a year and had had some ‘narrow escapes’ and Sergeant HCV Warneford a reservist who joined his regiment, the 21st Lancers on August 5, 1914.

The tentacles of the Defence of the Realm Act, passed in the early days of the law to censor what was reported in the press, was to be used by the Minister of Munitions to ‘prohibit the holding of any fair if he deems it necessary in the national interest so to do’.

Meanwhile it was announced that the King had signed off a ban on the use of ‘motor spirit’ to be used to fuel charabancs on any excursion or trip unless it was for the transport of wounded soldiers, ambulance or hospital work; for transporting munitions workers to and from their place of work; or when certified by the chief officer of police as in the interests of the public.

A severe electric storm passed through the district a hundred years ago, and the Telegraph’s village correspondents had two very different tales to tell. In Yeaveley it was reported:

“One flash in particular was extremely vicious and struck a large tree. From the ground for a good many feet up the tree, the bark was stripped off in one piece and lay by the side of it. So perfect was it done that it would be possible to place the bark round the trunk again and nothing would appear to have happened.”

Mr Mycock of Calton had a more shocking experience:

“Shortly after midday there was a terrific crash of thunder, accompanied by a blinding flash of lightning, the electric fluid striking a large tree just against the house, exposing its roots and then, running along the ground, passed beneath the house, and forced its way up through the floor of the pantry, making a fairly large hole. Some of the branches of the tree were hurled several hundred yards.”

The report continues to describe how the ‘electric fluid’ passed down the chimney, bringing down a large quantity of soot and blowing plaster off the wall.

“An eye witness states that the ‘bolt’ was like a blue flame, and after it had gone there was a powerful smell of sulphur.”

  • 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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