Yet another Ashbourne soldier’s death was recorded in the columns of the Telegraph this week in 1917 but, unlike so many before him, Bombardier Wilfred Jones was the victim not of enemy fire, but ‘spotted fever’.
Jones, who was serving with the Royal Field Artillery at the time of his death in France, was just 23, but had seen action in some of the fiercest battles during his 17 months on the Western Front, including Neuve Chapelle , the Somme, Guillemont, Loos and Ypres.
He had been home to Derbyshire for leave in January and had only been returned to duty five weeks before his death from cerebal spinal meningitis.
Before the war Jones, son of Mr George Jones of Upper Mayfield, had spent three years with the Ashbourne Territorials, only resigning when he left home for a job in Ripley. He rejoined in August 1914 and had been drafted to France a year later.
The estate of farmer Thomas Orme was to be auctioned at the Green Man Hotel, Ashbourne, by Cumberland Brown and Page in conjunction with WS Bagshaw and Sons.
No date had yet been set for the sale, but an early announcement featured prominently on the front page of the Telegraph, in anticipation of much interest from potential buyers.
The principal lot was to be ‘the valuable residence and grounds’ known as The Firs, Derby Road. Also going under the hammer were two villa residences and building land in Green Road, a shop in St John Street, cottages in Derby Road, Compton and Low Top, together with a house and schoolrooms standing to the east of St John’s Church.
The late Mr Orme also owned ‘five enclosures of accommodation or building land’ in Windmill Lane, ‘four enclosures of garden allotments’ in Old Hill, Windmill Lane and Green Road and ‘six conveniently situated smallholdings’ in the parishes of Ashbourne, Sturston, Clifton, Hartington and Stanton.
The auction notice concluded with details of other possessions, including ‘several parcels of land in and around Ashbourne’, and shares in tithes and rents from land in the parishes of Bradbourne and others.
Ashbourne Volunteer Company orders were regularly printed in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph. In recent months these had largely been to report for drill practice, but this week Platoons nine and ten were to attend a ‘bombing lecture and throwing practice’ on March 12, ‘bayonet fighting’ three days later followed by ‘musketry and drill’.
The paper reported, without headline or preamble a new weapon to protect the British public from air attacks by German aircraft.
“An invention has been designed for the destruction of Zeppelin balloons by aeroplanes. It consists of a steel dart fitted at its rear with a fish-hook style projection. The dart is hollow, and contains an explosive which burns with a fierce, sharp flame.
When such a dart is dropped from an aeroplane upon a Zeppelin or other gas balloon the hooks catch in the fabric after the point of the dart has pierced it, and the explosive charge is ignited by the pulling backward of a friction detonator. As the explosion takes place inside the gasbag, its effects are expected to be disastrous.”
Ashbourne War Work Party, a group of women in the town was reported to have made 400 garments for the British Army in the past year. In addition to donating the labour they had covered the cost of all materials as well.
“Seventy-six garments were given to the Ashbourne Christmas Parcels, the rest were sent to the county depot of the Red Cross Society.”