February 2, 1917


Ashbourne men among the Derbyshire contingent of the Sherwood Foresters

Ashbourne men among the Derbyshire contingent of the Sherwood Foresters

The gallantry of the Sherwood Foresters’ territorials was saluted in the front page editorial column – with praise from a British Army General.

The cruel jibes of ‘playing soldiers’ which some used to taunt the ‘Terriers’ in the early months of the war were acknowledged by the writer, but now dismissed.

“History has proved that the organisation has more than justified its existence, and the country – nay the whole world – has seen the colossal work they have done in this war.”

The author quotes from an interview with a General ‘holding an important command on the Western Front’ given to the Derby Express.

“I have found it necessary to test the worth of the men of this glorious old regiment as men have been seldom tested and never once have the ‘Fearless Foresters’ failed me.

“Never once have they recoiled from their allotted task, however dangerous or seemingly impossible it might be. Never once have the men of this splendid regiment given ground when there was the slightest hope of holding out against whatever odds might be met.”

The General gave a vivid description of how the ‘Fearless Foresters’ captured and defended a position previously regarded impregnable.

“The enemy hurled all their forces onto the position, with poison gas, liquid fire and shells by the thousand, all were tried in the desperate aim of the Huns to break our line and undo the damage that had been done to their cause by the fine onslaught of the Foresters. All was in vain.”

He continued:

“Our advance was made possible in other directions, and that was entirely due to the splendid valour of this glorious regiment. I think it right that the people at home should know what we think of the men of Derby and Notts.”

The Telegraph points out that the Fearless Foresters included territorials and entirely new troops.

Officers of C Company Standing: Lieutenant HW Higham, 2nd lieutenant VH Armitage, Translator Seated: Captain CVHC Blackwell, Lieutenant CA Brown

Officers of C Company
Standing: Lieutenant HW Higham, 2nd Lieutenant VH Armitage, Translator
Seated: Captain CVHC Blackwell, Lieutenant CA Brown

And this week the Ashbourne Telegraph was able to publish two photographs of officers and men of C Company of the 6th Battalion Sherwood Foresters in France.

Readers were advised that copies of the pictures, ‘printed on large plate paper, suitable for framing’ were available from the Telegraph office, priced 6d each. Readers were advised: “Get one early before they are sold out.”

The tragic death of a young man just minutes after an army medical examination was reported.

“After being medically examined at Normanton Barracks, Derby, on Monday, Jas. Herbert Brassington (21), a brickmaker of Moore Lane, Youlgrave, Bakewell, hurried back to the station, ran down the steps from the bridge to one of the platforms, on reaching which he suddenly reeled, fell down unconscious and expired almost immediately.”

The Borough Coroner, Mr J Close, heard evidence from the dead man’s brother that he had suffered from heart trouble. Dr Cassidi said the cause of death was heart failure and the jury returned their verdict.

The Government had announced a system of War Loans in order to help pay for the ever-growing cost of the conflict with Germany – paying an attractive interest rate of 5%.

Ashbourne Rural Council discussed ways of encouraging the populace to take out War Loan Stock and heard from Mr H Coates, chairman of the Urban Council who had attended of the National War Savings County Committee at Derby. The newspaper captured his rousing address:

“The man who had money and did not contribute to the national loan at a time like this ceased to be an Englishman (hear, hear). There was now offered the highest rate of interest ever offered to the public, and if people did not subscribe to the loan now they were traitors to their country and were helping Germany to win the war.”

It is common practice for local authorities to have ‘balances’ – money in the bank or invested in order to cover unexpected costs. And so it was in 1917, when Ashbourne Rural Council was sitting on £3,650, attracting 212% interest.

Having heard that it could be withdrawn at short notice, the council agreed to invest £1,500 of this sum in the Government stock.

The wide-ranging powers enacted by the Defence of The Realm Act continued to spread restrictions on the population. Two such new regulations were reported in the Wartime Happenings column on the back page of the paper this week.

“Railway loiterers will, in future, become suspect under the Defence of The Realm Act. An Order in Council gives ‘competent naval or military authority’ the power to deal with such loiterers near any tunnel, bridge, viaduct or culvert and quay, wharf dock, ships or dock premises.”

While under the headline Ban on Coursing it was stated that under the terms of the same Act the Ministry of Munitions had the power to ‘prohibit any meeting for the purpose of hare or rabbit coursing, whippet racing, or any other similar recreation’.

Shortages of food had led to price increases and, according to a statement made in Sheffield by a Labour politician, reported on the back page of the Telegraph, the growing likelihood that the Government would introduce rationing.

And it was not only foodstuffs which had seen inflationary rises, the Ashbourne Telegraph published claims that a man been charged 1s 8d for a pair of bootlaces. The correspondent calculated that, weighing barely three quarters of an ounce they cost 35s 6d a pound – the price of a bar of silver.

One of Ashbourne’s oldest traditions, Shrovetide Football was to be played in 1917, the organising committee decided. But there would only be one ball ‘turned up’ each day, Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday, rather than the normal two.

  • 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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3 Responses to February 2, 1917

  1. Andy Wood says:

    I would dearly love to get hold of a better copy of the photo – my grandfather is in it I believe.


    • Hi Andy,
      Sorry about the delay in replying to your message. I am afraid I am unable to help as I do not have access to copies of the photograph.
      These pictures look as if they were posed for an official photographer and may well have been on sale in Ashbourne at the time. It might be worth contacting a local history group or collector. I’m afraid I don’t have any contacts, but the library might.
      Good luck,
      David Penman


    • Hi Andy,
      I recall you had a great uncle, William Blood, featured in my weekly blog. I do not know if Pte Frederick Blood was any relation, but here is an advanced extract from my May 31 post:

      Private Frederick Blood, of the Sherwood Foresters had died of gas poisoning in a military hospital on May 20. The 38-year-old joined the forces in April, 2017, and had been in France since June. He had been admitted to hospital on May 14 in a ‘very critical condition’, although it had been hoped he would recover.
      The nursing sister at the hospital wrote to his family on May 20 to tell them he had died.
      “We did our best for him and he was so brave and good and patient to the end. It will comfort you to know that he did not suffer but fell asleep and died quite quietly.”

      David Penman


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