September 29, 1916

The deaths of three more local soldiers were reported in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph dated September 29, 1916, each one with a poignant personal story attached.

Private Robert Spencer, 18, was serving with the 3rd/6th Sherwoods.

“He was engaged in the great advance when he received a bullet wound in his stomach, from the effect of which he succumbed, after treatment in hospital.”

The paper revealed that at the time of his death his parents had been negotiating with the military authorities to have him released from the fighting line until he was 19 years old.

Spencer had been previously worked at an ironmongery firm in Loughborough and his father was a partner in the firm Kennedy and Co, Market Place, Ashbourne. His parents lived in Green Road, Ashbourne.

Also killed in the Battle of the Somme was Second Lieutenant Samuel Walker Moult of the 4th Notts and Derbyshire Regiment, son of Mr T Moult of St John Street, Ashbourne. Moult had been a member of Ashbourne Cecilia Choir and had been rehearsing for the Calwich Revels at the outbreak of war.

“He was 28 years of age, and by his bright and cheery disposition gained the esteem of all who knew him, and many in Ashbourne will regret his loss,” read the report.

Also lost was another teenage soldier – just three weeks after being drafted to France. Lance Corporal John Gilman, 19, sailed on August 9 and was sent up to the front almost immediately. He was fatally wounded on August 30.

News of his death reached his mother in Shirley Common two weeks later in an official War Office communication. It was a second bereavement for his mother who had lost her husband a few months earlier. John Gilman was the eldest of seven children.

The Births Marriages and Deaths announcements also recorded the death of a fourth soldier, Donald Callow of the 5th Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, although there was no editorial report. The notice stated: “Officially reported ‘missing’ July 2nd, 1916, now believed killed on that day in the Great Advance. Aged 19.

In other war news the paper carried a number of reports of a Zeppelin raid on the south east, east and east midlands. Thirteen airships were involved, two of which were shot down. Casualties were listed as 28 killed and 99 injured, including 20 children.

There was a detailed description of one of the craft being shot down ‘somewhere over Essex’.

“She was caught by searchlights which would not let her go, and during the progress of a heavy bombardment by anti aircraft guns a flame was seen amidships. This quickly spread and the burning wreck came down in a mangold field. Most of the crew were burned out of all recognition and all were dead.”

The incident was said to have been watch by tens of thousands of people.

“It was greeted by a roar of fierce and exultant cheering which sprang forth spontaneously.”

There was also a report of a German seaplane attack near Dover. It dropped three bombs. But caused no casualties, according to the report, which said the enemy aircraft had been met by anti-aircraft fire and British aircraft, and had made off ‘in the direction of Belgium’.

Medicinal advertisements were commonplace in the pages to the Ashbourne Telegraph in 1916, and one regular advertiser was Thomas Plant, chemist , of Church Street. Among his wares promoted this week was Extract of Liquorice, ‘The Derbyshire Cure’ for coughs, colds, asthma and bronchitis, and ‘all chest complaints and lung complaints’.

  • 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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