July 6, 1917


A military medical examination which decided if men were fit for service with ‘The Colours’












An extraordinary confrontation took place at Ashbourne Rural Military Tribunal, where Sir Hugo FitzHerbert, of Tissington Hall, was applying for an exemption for 26-year-old JW Wright, whom he described as ‘odd man about the place’.

The tribunal heard that Wright had joined the army, but in the course of training had been injured and discharged with poor eyesight, but new regulations meant he had been called up for re-examination and passed for restricted duties.

“The man should never have been called up again,” said Sir Hugo, “it’s absurd. He is not fit for any kind of service.”

Chairman: “But he has been passed in class B2, how do you account for that?”

Sir Hugo FitzHerbert: “Oh, I expect the doctors have been got at. Perhaps the military representative gave the doctor half-a-crown to pass him in the class.”

Mr Peveril Turnbull [military representative]: “Are you suggesting that I gave the doctor half-a-crown to pass this man in this class?”

Sir Hugo: “Yes, I have told you before in private that you are quite incapable of carrying out the duties of military representative.”

The report continued with the Chairman telling Sir Hugo that the tribunal could only deal with the decision of the medical board. Sir Hugo made a further, unreported, comment which he was asked, and agreed, to withdraw. He was told the application was being refused and he retorted that he would appeal against the decision.

Lieutenant S Cursley of the Recruiting Staff at Normanton Barracks intervened to address Sir Hugo:

“I hope you will conduct yourself in a more gentlemanly manner when you appeal again. I think your conduct here this morning has been most ungentlemanly and if you had made such remarks to me I should not have let you off so lightly as Mr Turnbull has done. Here is a man coming to do his duty to his country, while you are skunking behind doing nothing.”

News had reached Ashbourne of the death of Private George Roe who was serving in the Cyclists Section of the Sherwood Foresters. The son of Mrs Roe, of Green Lane, Clifton, he had joined up in the early days of the war and died from wounds received on June 28.

A Tissington soldier, who had been severely wounded in France, resulting in having a leg amputated was said to be ‘progressing favourably’ in hospital in Blackpool. Signaller A Charlton joined up in February 1916 and went out to France with the 2/7 Sherwood Foresters in March 1917.

A paragraph called on readers to inform the paper of news of their loved ones.

“Will relatives of Ashbourne and district men on leave from the front or who become injured or killed, kindly send us details as soon as possible ? There is no charge for the insertion of such news.”

The confident predictions of 1914 that the war would ‘be over by Christmas’ would have been a long-distant memory by July 1917, but predicting the end of the conflict was still a topic of interest. According to the British Weekly the views of American and French experts was “that two year is the shortest period named by the most optimistic for the end of the war”.

A sportsman of some repute was reported to have succumbed to ‘failing health’ after being injured in France. Charles Dexter, of Derby, who had played football for Ripley, Ilkeston, Sheffield Wednesday, Portsmouth and Brighton and Hove had joined the Sportsman’s Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment, but was invalided home after about six months in France with ‘septic poisoning’. Dexter, who was also described as being “a cricketer of no mean order” had been discharged from the army and died aged 27.

Bizarre attacks on three stallions in two separate incidents in Rocester and Clubley were reported.

“There have been dastardly outrages in the neighbourhood, recalling the Great Wyrley cattle maiming incidents of a few years ago, valuable entire horses being attacked in their stables and being seriously mutilated.”

In the first incident Conqueror XXII had been stabbed overnight at Blakeley Farm, Rocester. The wounds were so severe that the animal’s intestines protruded and it subsequently died.

In the second attack, on the same night, two horses in loose boxes at a farm in Clubley were badly injured. Both were said to have suffered ‘deep ugly cuts’ inflicted with a sharp knife. Clubley Forest King had sired offspring which had broken sale records at Ashbourne Foal Sales, while Roycroft Forester was brother to Roycroft Forest Queen, considered one of the best mares in the shire horse world. Both animals in the Clubley incident were expected to recover.

It was thought the culprit must have known how to handle horses, but also been prepared to risk being injured himself.

  • 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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