December 29, 1916

British soldiers having Christmas Lunch in a shell hole on the Western Front at Beaumont Hamel. Picture: Ernest Brook (© IWM (Q 1631)

British soldiers having Christmas Lunch in a shell hole on the Western Front at Beaumont Hamel. Picture: Ernest Brook (© IWM (Q 1631)

The bravery of British soldiers, including the Sherwood Foresters at Neuve Chapelle was retold in a national publication as 1916 drew to a close.

The Christmas Strand magazine in 1916 was a double issue and included the latest instalment by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle of his history of the war in France.

The author was said to have paid a striking tribute to the bravery of the Sherwood Foresters, the Leicesters and the Lincolns.

“All these regiments suffered heavily, the losses being some 25 per cent of the numbers engaged. When one remembers, says the historian, Julius Caesar described the action as a severe one upon the ground that every tenth man was wounded, it may be conjectured that he would have welcomed a legion of Scottish Rifles or Sherwood Foresters.”

And the futility of the loss of life was brought home by his description of the territorial gains made by the allies.

“At Neuve Chapelle the weapons of modern warfare were used to the full, yet the reward of the victor was a slice of ground no larger than a moderate farm. The moral effect, however was very great, for the Prussian line which was rushed had been built up by four months of labour.”

Portraits of two men were published in the now restricted For King and Country feature, numbered 217 and 218 in the paper’s scrapbook series.

Private Alfred Braddock was the second son of Mr and Mrs Alfred Braddock of Pales Farm, Calton.

“He arrived in France in March last, with the Australian contingent, having resided in the latter country during the last three years. Previous to going to France he had served six months in Egypt, having enlisted in July of last year. He received serious wounds on the 3rd of August to which he finally succumbed five days later. He was 26 years of age.”

Driver J Hurst of the Royal Field Artillery was from Mayfield and ‘gallantly serving his country. “For fifteen years he was a trusted employee of Messrs Simpson Bros of Mayfield, but responded t the country’s call on April 13th last. After training at Ripon, in Yorkshire, he was drafted out to France on October 5th, where he has been since. He has seen a good deal of heavy fighting, and the last time news was received of him he was still in the best of health.”

A tragic accident claimed the life of a 10-year-old boy on the Clifton Road. The youth, the only son of Mr and Mrs Saint, of Snelston was on an errand for his mother in Ashbourne when he fell from a horse-driven dray, loaded with churns of milk. It was reported that he had either slipped or jumped off the cart, and fallen on the icy road under the wheel of the vehicle, suffering severe injuries. He died at Ashbourne Cottage Hospital that evening.

The frosty conditions which contributed to this accident had also caused the Fish Pond to freeze over. The Telegraph reported: “Skating is in full swing, the exhilarating pastime being much enjoyed by a large company.”

  • My fellow researcher and former 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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