June 14, 1918

A soldier who enlisted in January 1915 had been seriously wounded – the fourth time he had been invalided from the trenches.

Private WJ Tully of the Gordon Highlanders, who went out to France in March 1915 was reported to be suffering from shell wounds and the effects of poisonous gas. He had been initially treated in a Canadian Hospital in France, but had been transferred on May 3 to Oxford, where he was said to be seriously ill with burns to his body, unable to read or write, with his speech affected.

He had been wounded the first time in June 1915, when he suffered a “fractured scalp” and repatriated.

“Soon after his recovery and return to France he was buried by a French Mortar and dug out, invalided suffering from a perforated eardrum and shell shock. The third time he was invalided home he was suffering from muscular rheumatism and trench feet.”

His parents of Osmaston Manor Gardens had another son who had also been seriously wounded by a bullet.

The War Supplement carried each week in the Telegraph continued to portray the war in a much more positive light, with stories of bravery and service beyond the call of duty, illustrated with positive and cheery illustrations intended to put a positive spin on the ongoing conflict.

This week a photograph headlined Ma’mselle and the Farrier showed a uniformed soldier reclining on the ground with a young woman smiling down on him while a cow grazed nearby. The caption to this peaceful, bucolic scene read:

“A charming picture of a French girl (doing war work as a cow-minder) enjoying a parley-voo (sic) with a Sergeant Farrier.”

It was back to reality for readers who turned to the back page, where it was reported Bombardier Arthur Hammersley of the Royal Field Artillery had died of his wounds.

The 22-year-old from Yeldersley was recalled in two letters which had reached the Telegraph via his sisters who lived in Derby, his parents having died.

The first was from his captain, Raymond Godwin who said Hammersley had been wounded by shell splinters and had not appeared in pain when he was carried away, calling out ‘good bye’ as he was taken to the dressing station.

“He was a wonderfully brave man, very quiet and steady under the most trying conditions. I remember when he was with me in action at [redacted] before the first German offensive. Some ammunition caught fire in his gun pit and set the camouflage on fire too. He with wonderful coolness and gallantry put the flames out even using his bare hands to prevent the flame spreading. His quickness and great courage undoubtedly saved his gun from being blown up.”

There was a sympathetic letter, too, from a ‘pal in the battalion’.

“What a shock it has given me to hear of Arthur dying of his wounds, as we did not think he was so seriously hurt.”

The letter goes on to explain the circumstances in which Hammersley had been wounded.

“He had just returned to his battery from 24 hours’ duty and went over to the cookhouse to get his tea. Instead of bringing his tea away with him as usual he stopped chatting with the cook and others. I had only left the place two minutes before the shell came over and did the damage. Four fellows were wounded: 1 died before reaching the dressing station; 1 is in England; 1 is at the base and poor Arthur is gone.”

Reported as missing, believed drowned was Lieutenant J Hunter of the Derbyshire Yeomanry. The 30-year-old, whose mother lived in Ashbourne, had been a member of the Yeomanry before war was declared and had been mobilised with his regiment.

Further news too, of Lance Corporal Fitzroy Beresford of Mill Dale, Alstonefield , whose capture by the Germans was reported the previous week.

Although his parents had not received word from their son, they had been told by the Prisoners of War Committee that he had been about to come home on leave when he was caught up in the ‘great German rush’ on March 21 and reported missing. He had been captured at Bullecourt and was now being held at Rennbahn.

The army and navy’s demand for men was greater than ever, and the work of the Military Tribunals continued apace. Both the Ashbourne urban and rural tribunals had received letters from the recruiting Officer in Derby and the National Service Representative urging a review of men previously granted exemptions.

Dozens of cases were heard and in many cases certificates were withdrawn or applications refused. Among the more unusual applications was from Frank Maurice Jones, assistant managing director and secretary of R Cooper and Co, corset factory. It was argued that the corset trade was formerly essentially a German industry, but during the 15 years prior to the war the business of the firm had trebled, the bulk of which had been taken from German traders.

The firm had already sent 51 men into the army, with three more joining up the following week.

The evidence must have swayed the tribunal as they granted Jones a further six months’ exemption.

Rupert Marsden, grocer, found himself in front of the Police Court charged with a breach of the Meat Rationing Order 1918.

The court heard that a food inspector had visited Marsden’s shop on May 18 and asked for half a pound of bacon, with which he was served, he paid and left the shop without being asked to produce a coupon.

Marsden admitted the offence and told the court that it had been a very hot day and there was a risk of the bacon going bad. It was market day and he was busy and had ‘neglected to ask’ for a coupon.

The chairman told Marsden that such cases risked rendering the rationing scheme a farce and fined him £10 with 12s 9d costs.

The Clerk to the Ashbourne Justices, RA Holland had written to the magistrates to request leave of absence to allow him to serve with the army.

“It was proposed by the chairman, seconded by Mr P Turnbull and unanimously carried ‘That this Bench of Justices, whilst regretting deeply the temporary loss of their clerk’s valuable services, feel that it can no longer resist his earnest and persistent desire to serve his King and country in a military capacity and agrees to grant the leave of absence desired.’ ”

Captain RE Gibson of the Army Medical Service, son of Mr and Mrs Gibson of Ashley, had been honoured by the King with the appointment as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire [MBE] for services with the British Expeditionary Force in France.

  • 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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