June 15, 1917

Many soldiers fell, their bodies never to be recovered, during the Great Push launched on July 1, 1916, and now better known as the Battle of The Somme.

One such man was Private PV Mellor of Osmaston.

Mellor’s ‘aged father’ received the news – which cannot have been entirely unexpected after nearly 12 months – that the Army now considered his son to have died on that fateful day.

The news came in a series of brief letters, which were published on the back page in the Osmaston district news column.

First was a message from the Territorial Force Records Office in Lichfield, which stated simply: “This bright and promising young soldier has paid the ‘supreme sacrifice’ for his country.”

Mellor had only been in France for two or three weeks when his father heard that he was ‘missing’.

Attached below the records office letter was a second message from the officer in charge which read: “It is my painful duty to inform you that no further news having been received relative to (No) 4523 PV Mellor of the [redacted] North Staffords who has been missing since 1-7-16 the Army Council has been regretfully constrained to conclude that he is dead, and that his death took place on the 1-7-16 (or since).”

Finally there was a note from Lord Derby, Secretary of State for War, which said: “The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow.”

The widow of Private Albert Silvester of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who was killed in action on April 9, received news that her husband had been recommended for a military medal for his bravery. Silvester died of wounds received while helping a comrade fire a Lewis Gun, the crew of which had all just been killed.

The ‘proud record’ of Mr and Mrs Joseph Cheadle of South Street Ashbourne was marked on Page 3 of the Telegraph, with four accompanying photographs.

The couple were able to boast six sons and a son-in-law all serving in the King’s uniform.

The men’s names were listed: Corporal F Cheadle, Private George Cheadle, Gunners Joseph and John, and Privates William and Albert. The son-in-law was Private John Mitchel of the Royal Army Medical Corps, formerly of the Ashbourne Voluntary Aid Detachment. All were in France, with the exception of Albert who was stationed at Chelmsford.

Recent weeks had seen the patriotism of the Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company called into question in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph. In one exchange at a meeting of farmers it was alleged – and rebutted – that the company was ‘foreign’.

A letter was published this week from the company managing director in London, Mr G Aguet. He said that the company had been employed in making and supplying condensed milk for England and its allies.

“Although not definitely alleged in the speeches, and in the correspondence in the Press, there have been suggestions made that this company has German interests. We desire therefore to state that this company has no German interests and is not in any way under German control.”

Aguet acknowledged the firm’s Swiss roots, but stressed that it had been operating factories in England for more than 50 years.

“Not only is this company not responsible for the increased price of milk in this country, but has by its factories here, and its importation of milk into the country, contributed largely to keep up the supply and keep down the price, which otherwise would have been higher.”

In what may have been an early example of public relations ‘spin’ the top news in brief item on page 2 stated that the Ashbourne factory manager, Mr Rogers’ brother-in-law’s son, Captain GJV Shepherd had been decorated by the King of Italy into the rank of Chevalier of the Order of the Crown of Italy. The honour was in addition to the DSO granted to Capt Shepherd in the Birthday Honours List.

  • 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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