It is said that an army marches on its stomach, but to do any marching at all requires boots, and in 1916 the demand for boots was huge.
The Ashbourne Telegraph reported that the Government required 2,500,000 pairs of British Army boots, 1,000,000 Russian Cossack boots and 1,000,000 pairs of boots for Italy.
The numbers of men enlisting in the armed forces placed pressure on the labour market, and there was much interest in the role that women might play.
The paper reported that a Buckinghamshire farmer told a Military Tribunal that his daughters, aged 19 and 16 helped with the ploughing and milking, the younger girl ploughing with two horses and the elder daughter milking nine cows night and morning.
Elsewhere the Bishop of Birmingham said there was little work women were not able to do, and he had seen women at work in more than 40 hospitals in England, France and Belgium.
The report continued: “It had not been so much the skill he had learned to admire as the true womanliness they exhibited.”
The Board of Agriculture announced that it had no great fear about the harvest being made, as women were working alongside soldiers to assist farmers with the task.
But Lady Mabel Smith, who had been working on a Yorkshire farm and had applied to do road labouring in order that Sheffield Rural Council could release a man for the army, was rebuffed.
“The Council have expressed their appreciation of the offer to help the country at this exceptional time but consider the work demanded from a road labourer unsuited to a woman.”
Two weeks previously a former Ashbourne Telegraph apprentice had been featured in the paper’s Portrait Gallery. This week it was the turn of his elder and younger brother to be introduced to readers.
Ellastone’s Private William Udale, of the Royal Fusiliers, had enlisted in August 1914 and was drafted out to The Dardanelles. He was severely injured by an exploding mine and was hit in the knee by a bullet while being carried from the battlefield. He had been repatriated and was said to be ‘recuperating’.
Private FG Udale of the 2nd Lincolns who had worked in gentleman’s service and at Okeover Hall was serving in Ireland.
Also featured was Sapper Arnold Roberts, of the Royal Engineers, who had previously worked as a painter decorator. He was in France, having enlisted in September 1915. His mother and step-father were aboard the Lusitania when it was torpedoed by the Germans. He went down with the ship, but she escaped a ‘most perilous experience’.
The number of photographs published since the column was first introduced was nearing the 200 mark. Numbers 194, 195 and 196 were: Gunner FW Brown of the Royal Field Artillery, son of Mr and Mrs M Brown of Osmaston, serving in Ireland; Private W Frost of the 12th Sherwoods, a former employee of the Green Man Hotel, serving with his battalion in France; and Private J Pearson of the Royal Fusiliers who worked at Rocester Cotton Mill and signed up at the outbreak of war.
Fenny Bentley schoolchildren witnessed the unveiling of a framed photograph of Colour Sergeant Major Harry Wright, whose Bravery at Hooge had resulted in him being awarded the Medaille Militaire by the French Government and the Distinguished Conduct Medal. A second photograph of Wright with his three soldier brothers, all former pupils at the school was also displayed.
- 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