July 27, 1917
In the 21st century, news of bereavement is often shared via social media, but before the advent of such digital technology the local paper was the first port of call for those intent on broadcasting their loss.
When news of the death in action of J Hellaby reached the family home his brother ensured the Ashbourne Telegraph was informed in time for it to be included in that day’s edition.
“We regret to record the death in action of Signaller J Hellaby, of the Sherwood Foresters, intimation of which has been received by his brother, Mr R Hellaby this morning.
Signaller Hellaby was, before the war, employed by Mr T Edge, Dig Street, for several years, and he joined up in October 1914. He took part in the suppression of the Irish Rebellion, and was subsequently drafted out to France in September last, where he was killed on the 7th inst. He leaves a wife, but no family, and to her and other bereaved relatives the deepest sympathy is extended.”
Elsewhere on the page was a paragraph of news of Sergeant H Wibberley, who had been featured in the previous week’s edition. He had been promoted from Platoon Sergeant to Company Sergeant-Major. Wibberley, of Old Derby Road, Ashbourne, went out to France with the town’s Territorials.
Another convoy of wounded soldiers had arrived in Derby aboard a special train, arriving at the Midland Railway station at 10.30pm on the Monday night. There were 156 casualties, 100 of whom were taken to the Royal Infirmary and the others to Eggington Hall Hospital.
There was a detailed report of the Pedigree Stock sale held at Yeldersley Home Farm on behalf of Captain H FitzHerbert Wright MP. It was estimated there were a thousand people present, including the great and the good.
The star lot was Darlington Cranford 80th, a dairy cow, which fetched 450 guineas and was sold to Sir Gilbert Greenall. The article stated that the Yeldersley herd had one of the best milk records in the country.
Ashbourne was marking National Baby Week with a variety of events organised by the Ladies Committee, the first having taken place two weeks previously when a procession of Ashbourne children was held, followed by a an open air meeting in the grounds of Ashbourne Hall.
This week a ‘large and appreciative audience’ watched the film Motherhood, shown on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Ashbourne Empire.
A public meeting on Tuesday heard the chairman of the Urban Council, Mr H Coates say that infant mortality was a ‘serious menace to the nation’ and he had a message for parents.
“This great war had made it more and more incumbent upon them to nourish and safeguard their children and give them every chance to grow up to healthy manhood and womanhood.”
Miss Walmsley, the headmistress of the kindergarten school said that of every million children born in the country, 150,000 died before reaching their first birthday.
She added to the grim statistics by pointing out a further 150,000 died before the age of five and a further 130,000 were still born – a shocking three out of every seven babies never reaching adulthood.
She called for better education, better housing, and maternity and infant welfare centres; quite a progressive list of demands.
And she gained some support from an influential source, Dr Boswell, GP.
“He warmly endorsed Miss Walmsley’s remarks, adding that although the war was a terrible thing, they should remember that life itself was a fight from the very beginning.”
He called on fathers to take responsibility, with the mother, for training their children.
“He said it had always been his ambition to have attached to the hospital a Maternity Centre, and he hoped, in time, a Creche.”
And in an early example of healthy eating advice continued:
“The first and greatest enemy to life was dirt, and the second was wrong diet. From the cradle to the grave wrong diet killed more people than anything else.”
There was a poem printed on the front page of the paper, written by Edwin Hudson of Mayfield. It may not be of the quality of the celebrated war poets such as Wilfred Owen, but would likely have conveyed the sentiments of many of the paper’s readers.
Camp Time Recollections.
Three years have passed since when, with joy and laughter,
Our Terriers went to camp.
With no stray thought that war would follow after,
Their joyousness to damp.
Each greeted each on that fair Sunday morning,
The full-grown man and boy.
With ne’er a care beyond the fortnight’s training,
Their pleasure to alloy.
With contempt they treat the scornful wailing,
“These men will never fight.”
“England’s last hope” and “Saturday Soldier” hailing.
They met with gesture bright
For in their hearts they knew the pledge they’d taken,
Would some day be revealed.
That in the future slander would be shaken,
And truth be unconcealed.
Three weary years against the Kaiser’s boldest,
Have they endured the strain;
And none did yield from youngest to the oldest,
Nor shrink at death or pain.
Three years of active warfare long and dreary,
Exposed to rain and sun,
Yet though the fight is long and limbs are weary,
They rally and fight on.
Month after month on fields of France and Flanders,
Their ranks have thinner grown;
That homes on banks ‘tween which the Dove meanders,
May not be overthrown.
Now to the remnant left we send this greeting;
May heaven protect each one,
Wives, Children, Mothers, soon may you be meeting,
And lasting peace be won.
(Edwin Hudson, Mayfield 23.7.1917)
- 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