May 25, 1917

News that 19-year-old Private Frank Henstock, “a bright and promising boy” had been killed was reported in the columns the Ashbourne Telegraph. The passing of his young life merited a single paragraph on page 2 under the News in Brief column. Henstock, of the Manchester Regiment, was the son of former Ashbourne residents Mr and Mrs Frank Henstock, of Hulme, Manchester.

In the regular King and Country column came news of two more soldiers.

Private Frank Bowler was recovering from a shrapnel wound to his foot in the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. The son of Mr and Mrs Bowler of Derby Old Road, Ashbourne, he previously worked at P Birch and Sons, builders, and had signed up in April 1915.

Private C Smith, of the Canadian Regiment, had had two brothers die while in the King’s service; one in France in September 1916 and another, who had served throughout the South African War, but had been “seized by illness” and died after returning to England.

Rocester village news carried a report of another soldier killed in action. Private Thomas Bentley had been mortally wounded by shellfire on the morning of May 14.

His wife, who lived in Ashbourne Road, received news of his death from her husband’s commanding officer with the Royal Welsh (sic) Fusiliers. He had seen three months’ active service on the Western Front.

“The news of his death was received in the village with general regret, and great sympathy is felt with his widow and two young children.”

Company Sergeant-Major Harry Wright of Fenny Bentley had been presented with the Distinguished Conduct Medal in a ceremony at Derby Barracks. He was reportedly given a ‘hearty cheer’ by soldiers on parade.

The medal and the Medaille Militaire, which he previously won, went on display at Messrs Barnsdall’s in Dig Street, Ashbourne.

A severely injured Belgian soldier was reported to have made a remarkable recovery after treatment by surgeons.

“He was wounded on the Yser in November 1914, and sixteen bullets were found in his body. After life had been despaired of evidence of breathing was discovered and the unconscious man was taken to England, where it was a week before he regained consciousness. He was examined at Birmingham Hospital, and seven bullets were found in his head and nine in his legs.”

Whether the story of Jakov Weemaes is genuine or propaganda is uncertain, but there is no doubt that the wounds suffered by fighting men tested doctors and nurses to the limits, and advanced the progress of surgical technique.

The privations of war were increasingly gripping the country, and government imposed restrictions growing by the month. The Telegraph reported that the President of the Board of Trade had ordered restrictions on civilian use of petrol, in order to preserve supplies for shipping and the armed forces. In future no petrol was to be used for pleasure purposes.

On the same page rationing was being introduced for horses from May 21, although the rules were complex.

“No restriction is placed on feeding with hay, straw, or dried brewers’ grains, but subject to this, the use of any cereals or cereal products in the feeding of horses is regulated.”

As with all regulations there were exceptions and exemptions.

“Horses on national work are excluded entirely, including stallions used exclusively for stud purposes, thoroughbred brood mares, and broodmares in foal or with foal at foot. The order affects other thoroughbreds, carriage horses, hacks, hunters and polo ponies, and horses mainly used for other than business or trade purposes.”

Meanwhile the price of milk had been fixed by the government at 1s 8d a gallon, but Ashbourne War Agricultural Committee heard that farmers were unhappy with the regulation and warned about the impact in future. One member stated:

“Not a single member of his local society would think of selling his milk next winter at 1s 8d.”

And Ashbourne Rural Council considered a suggestion that the public should be given free access to rivers in order to catch fish to eat, to supplement their diet.

The council was concerned that nets might be used rather than lines.

“They would also have to consider such questions as trespass and fishing rights.”

The chairman said he did not think the increased supply of food from this source would be significant.

The move to allow the public to fish the rivers was heavily defeated in a vote.

  • 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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