Not for the first time, the reporting of war-related items at home took precedence over news from the front this week in 1917.
Although there was news of a soldier being killed in action, far greater space was devoted to the workings of the Ashbourne Agricultural War Committee’s deliberations over land to be brought into food production.
Rifleman Arthur Leason may not have dominated the pages, but the report of his death was accompanied by a service photograph.
Leason, of the King’s Royal Rifles was said to have been one of his battalion’s best shots. News of his death reached his mother in Green Lane, Clifton, from his captain who told her her son had been killed by a shell burst which also killed and wounded several of his comrades. Arthur, who previously worked in the Ashbourne Nestle factory, was the second son Mrs Leason had lost in the war.
On the following page a five-line brief at the foot of the page appealed for information about a missing soldier:
“Private Gervase Wood Brindley, 329269, 2nd South Staffordshire. Regiment. Any information concerning this soldier will be gratefully received by Miss Brindley (c/o Mrs G Gather, St John Street Ashbourne.”
Meanwhile the parents of Private L Brown of Osmaston had received news from their son, serving with the 11th King’s Liverpool Regiment.
“I know you will be pleased to hear that I have been awarded the Military Medal for devotion to duty and bravery in the field.”
Private Brown had been on the Western Front for more than two years and was reported to have taken part in some of the severest battles and been in many “tight corners”.
Amid all the wealth of detailed local news the editor found room for the latest school cricket results; which saw Ashbourne Grammar School beat Lady Manners at Bakewell 98 – 72, despite an undefeated knock of 55 by their batsman Duckmanton, and Ashbourne Grammar edge-out Wirksworth Grammar by 44-40.
There were numerous national snippets too, culled from the columns of other papers, including one which may have been the forerunner of the popular ‘gone mad’ headlines of recent years.
Under the headline Red Tape Gone Mad, is a story pointing out the absurdities of military life. It was an Army regulation that soldiers returning from France had to travel with full kit; but this meant a soldier with the Lewis Gun Section was compelled to swap his revolver for a rifle to carry to his home in Manchester, although he never used one in the field and had never had one issued to him.
- 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