January 12, 1917

The editor of the Ashbourne Telegraph – The West Derbyshire and North Staffordshire Newspaper – once again took space on the front page of the paper to tackle the major issue of the day.

In the first week of the new year it was to urge renewed effort and sacrifice to win the war, which, he said, was being won. January 12 saw the editorial tackle ‘The Food Question’. The Germans were losing, he previously stated, because they could no longer feed their civilian population. England faced the prospect of ‘ploughing up parks and pleasure grounds’ to ensure our food supply.

The most serious threat to the having sufficient food was shortage of labour and here it was proposed that German prisoners of war should be put to work.

“Our prisoners of war in Germany and the Belgian prisoners of war are being utilised by the Germans and there is no reason why we shouldn’t utilise the able bodied men who are our unwilling guests.”

It was observed that currently levels of farm labour could only maintain the supply of milk, and if more land was to be brought into production more hands would be needed.

Grocer Rupert Marsden, who in the summer of 1916 had been forced to sell of his delivery horse and cart decided to relaunch is business as St John Street Cash Stores

Grocer Rupert Marsden, who in the summer of 1916 had been forced to sell off his delivery horse and cart decided to relaunch is business as St John Street Cash Stores

Yet more men were needed at the front and the work of the military tribunals continued unabated. This week five publicans were listed to appear in front of the Ashbourne Urban Tribunal, licensees of the White Hart, the White Swan, the Wellington Inn, The Horns and the Wheel Inn, Compton. Mr W Mellor, of the Wheel Inn, the tribunal heard had been in Turkey, about 70 miles from Bagdad at the outbreak of war and had been interned there for six months. The tribunal decided that in light of this Mellor was exempt from the Military Service Act and postponed his hearing indefinitely. With the exception of Mr W Marsh of the Horns, who was certified too ill to attend, the other men were granted exemptions on the condition that they spent 18 hours each week on ‘work of national importance’.

Three more soldiers who had been honoured were featured in the Telegraph this week. Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig named Lieutenant Colonel CH Lyon of Clifton, and Sapper W Thornley of the Royal Engineers for ‘distinguished and gallant services and devotion to duty’. Thornley had been a clerk at Ashbourne Post Office and was a member of both Ashbourne Town and Ashbourne Wednesday football clubs.

Brigade major Malcolm Henderson of the Royal Scots had been awarded the DSO. Henderson, son of Mr and Mrs Henderson of Clifton House had been educated at Repton and Sandhurst and gained a commission to the oldest regiment in the British Army. He had served in India and his regiment was one of the first in the field when the Great War broke out. He had been wounded twice, the first time in October 1914 and then more seriously later. Mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Legion of Honour by the French, Henderson also had a younger brother in the same regiment.

Elsewhere it was noted that Field Marshall Haig’s dispatch included a large number of women.

“The work of the women in the nursing detachments has been every bit as glorious, says the Daily Mirror, as that of the men in the trenches and on the battlefield, and when the full story of the war comes to be told the part played in it by the women of Britain will be gratefully acknowledged,”

The row over the proposed isolation hospital ‘opposed by nine out of ten people in Ashbourne’ continued to rumble on. Opponents of the scheme were blocking council business, which meant that cheques were not being written to pay for works – including a new water supply in Clifton Road.

In a lengthy and detailed report, the paper recorded that councillor James Osborne had insisted that the town faced a great shortage of water and there could be an equipment failure ‘any day’. He argued that the responsibility would lie with the protesters who were blocking approval of payment. He said the opponents, being led by councillor Kennedy, were behaving like children.

Kennedy retorted: “Anything that is a great nuisance one has the right to object to, and I should feel I was not doing my duty if I did not support the council in doing what in can be done to prevent this hospital being put in our midst. I should be quite content to abide by the decision of the town.”

Eventually the chairman was forced to close the meeting with ‘no business done and no cheques signed’.

As the reporter noted: “The meeting broke up amidst some excitement.”

  • 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 War blog


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