March 23, 1917

News reached Ashbourne of the deaths of two more Sherwood Foresters this week in 1917, as the area’s roll of honour grew yet longer.

Lance Corporal S Barker, the only son of the late Mr Isaac Barker and Mrs Fowell of Dig Street, was just 19. He had been a member of the Ashbourne Territorials and was mobilised at the outbreak of war. He went to France in February 1915.

“By his cool daring and ability he gained the esteem of his officers, while his good nature made him a true comrade to all his chums,” the paper reported.

Barker was killed instantly during a German bombing raid on the Sherwoods’ position. His mother had received a letter of tribute from her son’s officer in charge.

The second casualty was Private Timothy Blood, son of Mr Blood of Mayfield, who had been killed in action in France. He had lived at Calver with his wife and family.

Two more men were featured in the For King and Country column. First was Private William Chadwick, of Stanton, who died in September 1916 while fighting with the Durham Light Infantry. He had two brothers, Gunner AC Chadwick who joined the Navy at 15 and was serving at sea, and Private Harry Chadwick of the Cavalry Brigade. Second was Private George Mellor of Bull Gap Farm Swinscoe who had worked for Mr Peach of Birdsgrove, Mayfield, before joining up in March 1916 and going to France in November with the Scottish Rifles. He was said to be ‘in good health’.

Farmers and agricultural workers were under increasing pressure to plough the fields and plant crops as the food crisis deepened.

Sir Arthur Lee, the Government’s Director General of food production appealed to ploughmen and labourers.

“In the trenches the German shells come over on Sundays as on weekdays, German submarines are just as active on Sundays as any other day. The enemy takes no holidays. He uses every hour to destroy your country and kill your brothers. Will you not work every hour from daybreak to dark, weekday and Sunday, for the next few weeks? Your work now may make just the difference between winning the war and losing it. Put in your best work.”

The Telegraph continued to report the hearings of the military tribunals. Now exemptions from service were much harder to come by than previously, and men as old as 41 were ordered to register under the National Service scheme for either the Voluntary Aid Detachment or Volunteer Training Corps.

This week the proprietor of the Ashbourne Telegraph, printer and publisher JH Henstock applied for exemption on behalf of his son, John Harold Henstock, a machine minder.

“Applicant said his son was the only man left who understood the mechanism of the machines. He had twice passed in Class B3 [suitable only for sedentary work]. Mr Turnbull [military representative] asked what had been done with regard the linotype operator for whom applicant had previously appealed at this tribunal and applicant stated that the appeals tribunal had adjourned that and other newspaper cases sine die, pending the report of a House of Commons committee which was enquiring into the question of newspaper staffs.”

The case was adjourned.

In the first such display advertisement since the start of the war, the publisher of the Ashbourne Telegraph, J H Henstock took a prime space on the front page of the paper to proclaim:

“The War and Printing: The demands on the manhood of the Nation have denuded almost every business house of its regular staffs. We have lost nearly 75 per cent of our pre-war staff, and most business houses are continuing with difficulty. We are prepared to execute orders for any class of printing, which we will deliver in as reasonable a time as possible under existing circumstances.”

Rumours of food hoarding in Wirksworth had reached the town’s Urban District Council.

“The Chairman, Mr WJ Harrison, said he had received complaints that the well-to-do people were hoarding foodstuffs. He did not think this was the case to any very great extent, but if any cases came to his notice he would endeavor to have them investigated.”

  • 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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