April 27, 1917

An Ashbourne veteran of the South African War who joined the 18th Hussars in the early days of The Great War was reported to have been killed in action in France.

Trooper Fred Courtman, of Mayfield Road, left a wife and six children. He was a shoeing smith by trade and had been granted the rank of farrier sergeant.

And the arrival of bad news also darkened the doors of Atlow Moat, Ashbourne, and Steeple Grange, Wirksworth where Mr and Mrs JC Twigge received word that their son had been killed in action.

Lieutenant Francis (Frank) Twigge of the Northumberland Fusiliers, was 30 years old. He joined the Public School Battalion in 1914, and in August 1916, after a period in the trenches was granted a commission with the Fusiliers.

Twigge had been educated at the Elizabethan Grammar School in Ashbourne.

Another soldier, Lieutenant George Desborough of the East Yorkshire Regiment had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel. His parents in Green Road had been told he was ‘progressing favourably’.

Happier tidings were published from the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The Marquis of Hartington had married Lady Mary Cecil, daughter of the Marquis and Marchioness of Salisbury ‘quietly’ at Hatfield.

The couple were to spend their honeymoon at Hardwick Hall.

The guests included a long list of Lords, Ladies, Earls and Countesses. The Telegraph observed:

“The two great houses which are thus united rose to the peerage at very nearly the same time. Indeed when the doors of the House of Lords opened on May 4, 1605, to admit the first Lord of Salisbury they also admitted the first Baron Cavendish, who became Earl of Devonshire 12 years later. The first Lord Salisbury, for his part had been Baron Cecil since 1603.”

The death of a giant of the Ashbourne community, John Burton, was marked with a lengthy tribute. He was said to have been of ‘fine physique’, standing over 6ft tall and ‘and proportionately broad and with a constitution of iron’.

A native of the town, the paper said he knew his birthplace like the back of his hand.

“Few men knew the topography of Ashbourne as well as he, for all his life he had been connected with its constructional work and there were few alterations or improvement in the town in which he had not assisted.”

Burton was the owner of the swing boats and was always a prominent figure at gala days. According to the Telegraph he was one of the area’s most familiar figures and well-known in every village within ten miles of Ashbourne.

For many years he had been the caretaker of the Weslyan Chapel and schools in Church Street, and was one of the first to join the Home Guard.

“He leaves a large family to mourn his loss, many of his sons, grandsons and nephews being on service for their country.”

The funeral cortege, which proceeded from the parish church to the cemetery was led by a company of brethren from the Court Prince of Wales of Foresters, of which he had been a member for more than 50 years.

Food shortages continued to trouble the population the length and breath of the country. The Ashbourne Telegraph reported that the ration for wounded soldiers was to be cut: “The bread ration for military hospital patients on chicken and ordinary beef-tea diets has been reduced from 16oz to 14 oz.

Efforts to reduce the consumption of bread had lead to the establishment of communal kitchens in The Potteries.

“The scheme emanates from the War Savings Committee whose great object is to prevent entirely the consumption of bread at the midday meal by providing at cost price a dinner of meat and vegetables.”

In order to avert the suggestion of charity, the committee emphasised this was not ‘dole’ but everyone’s patriotic duty to order their dinners from communal kitchens.

Meanwhile Lord Devonport’s Cake and Pastry Order stated that there should be no sweet pastries at Regimental Institutes and Canteens, and no more than 2oz of food served at meals between 2pm and 6pm.

Breaking the rules could have severe consequences. A London grocer was fined £20 for offering a customer (a police officer in plain clothes) 1lb of sugar if he spent two shillings on other goods.

In the latest implementation of the wide-ranging a draconian Defence of the Realm Act, an order in council – a procedural device by which the government can introduce legislation without further recourse to parliament – gave the Westminster extraordinary powers over food production.

“The Food Controller is empowered to apply the provisions or Regulation 2G of the Defence of the Realm Act to factories, workshops, and other premises in which any specified article of food is manufactured or produced or adapted for sale and any such premises to which the regulations apply shall pass into the possession of the Food Controller.”

In Derbyshire, it was reported, seven local authorities had made applications for compulsory acquisition of land to form allotments.

  • 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 Warblog



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