April 13, 1917


Austerity has become a term much in vogue in recent years, but tough as life may be, it is doubtful that the current day Ashbourne News Telegraph would suggest money saving tips like those of 1917.

“Save Soap: The old pieces from toilet and ordinary soap should be kept by and used up. The New Zealand way, a correspondent says, is to put them in a tin which is bought for the purpose and which is perforated at the bottom. When soapy water for washing up or other purpose is required, the tin is partly immersed in hot water and whisked about so the water runs over the soap and a lather is made without there being any danger of particles of soap passing into the water.”

Helpfully the piece suggests a good substitute for buying a perforated tin was to taking an ‘ordinary treacle tin’ and make holes in the bottom with a large nail.

The Ashbourne area had endured some harsh weather conditions over the winter of 1916-17, but spring was bringing cold comfort. The Watchbox, a new column – “Being comments on local and general topics” – said Easter would be long remembered for its “extraordinary unpropitious weather”.

Following two days of piercing cold winds, Good Friday morning brought a covering of snow.

“Easter was characterised by brief but frequent and sweeping snow and hailstorms, followed by a very heavy fall in the night. It is doubtful if within living memory such wintry conditions have been known at Easter.”

The paper reproduced an old Staffordshire weather proverb referring to the last three days of March, which the author suggested must have been inspired by similar conditions.

March borrowed of April,
April borrowed of May,
Three days they say,
One rained, the second snew,
And the other was the worst day that ever blew.

It was also reported that Easter had brought extreme winter conditions to Brassington, too, where roads were covered with snow drifts several feet deep.

And rhyme continued with a patriotic military-inspired ditty entitled The Push, reprinted from the Daily Express, which ended:

“We’ve pushed ‘em orf the ‘Anker’,
We’ve pushed ‘em orf the Somme
We’ll push ‘em out o’ Belgium
Wiv bay’nit an’ wiv bomb.
We’ve pushed ‘em out o’ Bagdad
An’ into Palestine
An’ glory to the gen’ral
Who can push ‘em past the Rhine!”

Two more soldiers were pictured in this week’s photo gallery, Sergeant JH Baker and Trooper H Chadwick.

Baker, who used to live at Calwich, and worked at Ashbourne had enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters in 1910 and soon qualified for veterinary work. Among the first to be sent out to France in 1914 he saw action at Mons and the subsequent retreat, during which his squadron was told by Lord French to shoot their disabled horses and save themselves.

“In doing this they lost their convoy for some days with the result they were without food for two or three days. Sickness followed as a result and after treatment in hospital for five or six weeks he was sent to Borden Camp to instruct recruits, subsequently being sent back to France where he still is.”

Trooper Harry Chadwick, son of a Mr and Mrs Chadwick of Stanton, enlisted in the Dragoon Guards in August 1914 and was drafted out to France in May 1915, where he was still serving with a gun squadron.

There is no indication if Harry was any relation to the three Chadwick brothers, also from Stanton, who had featured in the previous week’s Ashbourne Telegraph. The paper had reported one identified only by the initials AC was serving on a battleship with the Royal Navy, another, William, had been killed in action with the Durham Light Infantry in September 18916 and a third, unidentified brother reported to be with the cavalry brigade in France.

And there was news of a promotion for LG Marple, son of magistrate JT Marple of Hulland House. Marple, who had been out in France ‘for some time’ had been promoted to 1st Lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was undergoing training at Bexhill, in Sussex.

Closer to home the work of the Ashbourne Military Tribunal continued, with a further 21 applications for exemption form national service being heard.

Those from HB Greatorex, an 18-year-old wheelwright; W Webster, 23, a lorry driver from Parwich; JW Radford, 18, a waggoner; and Joseph Finnegan, 18, a milk carter were refused.

  • 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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