October 27, 1916

Soldiering was a serious business, even for the Home Guard, or the Ashbourne Volunteer Company as they were known in 1916.

Orders for the following week were printed in each edition of the Ashbourne Telegraph, and this week there were instructions for an inspection in Derby by the Field Marshall in charge of Home Forces.

The Ashbourne Company was instructed to parade at 10am sharp at the Town Hall to proceed by train to Derby for the inspection.

“Overcoats must be taken, and unless the weather is very bad. Will be worn rolled over the right shoulder and under the left arm.”

There followed specific instruction about how to roll the coats:

“(1) Place coat on ground, inside upwards, sleeves straight out (2) Fold sleeves over to lie on inside of coat, but without compressing sides of coat; (3) Turn insides of coat from nothing at neck to about six inches at bottom; (4) Start rolling at collar and roll tightly to bottom; (5) Place the two ends together and secure firmly with small strap or thick string; (6) heavy overcoats should be avoided owing to their bulk when rolled; (7) If the skirt of the coat is not wide enough to make a sufficiently long roll, the coat may be rolled lengthways.”

The men were instructed to carry sandwiches or other food for the day.

“Men not in uniform should wear cape, if possible; failing them, slouch hats but bowlers are permissible.”

It is difficult to imagine the details of how to roll an overcoat for parade was uppermost in the minds of men serving at the front, from where ever-increasing numbers of casualties were being reported.

Snelston was mourning the loss of the village’s first soldier. Corporal Edwin Forman, 24, had joined the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment in 1914 and was sent to France shortly after the outbreak of war. He died in France in mid September 2016, although news of his death only reached his father Edward on October 19.

Forman who had only been home for two short visits since embarkation for the front line, took part in battles at Ypres, the Marne, Aisne, and La Basse. He fell at the Somme. He also had a brother, William, serving with the Sherwood Foresters.

Another fatality was Private Arthur Wilson, of the 2nd battalion of the Sherwood Foresters, killed in battle on September 13.

“Private Wilson was well known and respected in both Mayfield and Clifton, and his death will be lamented by a wide circle of friends.”

Wilson joined up when Lord Kitchener made his call for volunteers soon after the declaration of war.

The Births Marriages and Deaths column on page 2 announced that Private William Finney Chadwick, son of Thomas and Mary Chadwick of Stanton had also been killed in action in France, aged 25.

A letter from a comrade alerted Mr and Mrs Ellis of Brassington to the fact that their nephew, Private H Jackson was missing.

The publisher of the Ashbourne Telegraph was not one to miss a sales opportunity. JH Henstock, stationers, who had previously promoted fountain pens as suitable for writing to sons at the front, and regularly urged readers to send a copy of the newspaper to soldiers, this week advertised “Dark Blinds for Zepp Raids” playing on the fears of an attack by German airships.

Despite all the news of the war, the editor of the Telegraph had not lost the news sense that until August of 1914 had seen a range of sensational and unusual stories from around the around the UK and beyond.

This week under the headline Kentish Murder Mystery’ appeared the following tale: “Charles B Hicks, a gunner in the Royal Garrison Artillery, arrested at Winchester, was brought before the Chatham Justices on Friday charged on suspicion of being concerned in the murder of Emily Maria Trigg, the young servant whose body was found in a wood. He was remanded on the application of the police.”

On the same page was a report of an ‘Ancient Giant’. Workmen at Ardee, near Drogheda, in Ireland were reported to have discovered ‘large slabs of stone shaped like coffins’. When they opened one they found ‘a skeleton of great size as well as some small stones of peculiar formation.’

  • 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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