March 15, 1918

A dearth of news of Ashbourne district servicemen in recent weeks came to a tragic end with the announcement that two more soldiers had lost their lives as a result of injuries received in fighting.

Private James Lee, son of Mrs Lee of Station Street, was reported to have died after being invalided by damage to his eyesight.

But it  was not his sight that led to his death, but rather a result of the terrible trauma he and so many other men suffered during the course of the conflict. What was once commonly known as Shell Shock, or today referred to as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, was somewhat glossed over in the report in the Ashbourne Telegraph:

“Subsequently his mind became affected, for which he was under treatment at the time of his death.”

Lee, who was 35, was formerly a member of the Derbyshire Militia and had been called up at the outbreak of war.

He served for several months in France, taking part in ‘one or two of the severest struggles on the Aisne’.

He had two brothers also serving; Tom of the Royal Marine Light Infantry and Joe who had been severely wounded while serving with the Grenadier Guards. A third brother had previously been killed in the South African War.

The second soldier to succumb to his injuries was Private Harry Leach of the North Staffordshire Regiment, who was well known in Mayfield, and had been a prominent member of the Boy Scouts. He was a keen shot, having won the Daily Mail Rifle Club certificate.

Leach, just 20, had joined the Staffords at 18 and been in France for about a year when he was seriously wounded, shortly before Christmas 1917.

A former member of the Ashbourne Red Cross, he had previously been employed by Simpson Bros.

There was better news for the family and friends of Sergeant EW Radford of Hognaston who had spent ‘some time’ as a prisoner of war in Germany. He was reported to be in Holland on his way to England, after a prisoner exchange deal. Radford had been serving with the Durham Light Infantry when he was captured.

Pressure continued across the county to plough up pasture to boost food production, and among those working the land were German prisoners of war.

A report to the Derbyshire War Agricultural Committee said the 35 prisoners in Ashbourne were doing ‘satisfactory work’, hedging and ditching in the neighbourhood.

More prisoners were expected to arrive soon, with 60 more requested for Ashbourne.

“These men are proving a useful source of skilled and semi-skilled labour with which to deal with the extra work involved in the cultivation of additional arable land.”

Rationing of food, including meat, was due to come into force in the Ashbourne area on March 25 and a joint meeting of the three local Food Control Committees heard that the requirement to register with one trader was resulting in some changes in long-established practices.

“Some considerable difficulties had been caused… by the fact that there were so many tradesmen who were solely pork butchers and so many other butchers who sold no pork at all. This was being obviated in many cases by the pork butcher starting to sell beef and mutton and the other butchers starting to sell pork, so that any person could get beef, mutton or pork from the butcher with whom they were registered.”

  • 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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