June 28, 1918

For many weeks following the German Offensive, readers of the Ashbourne Telegraph had read news of soldiers, killed, wounded, missing or being held prisoner by the Germans.

The ‘Local Military Items’ this week were less harrowing. First was news that Sergeant Charles Bowler of the Sherwood Foresters had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.

Bowler, who had worked for the Great Northern Railway Company at Derby, enlisted in August 1914, serving first in the Dardanelles before being drafted to France.

In a letter to his parents in Old Derby Road, Ashbourne he said:

“I think I am a the first from Ashbourne to win it. I should like to have it presented to me at home when I come to get it.”

He had three brothers also serving: Private Jack Bowler, Sherwood Foresters; Private Timothy Bowler, Artisan Company; and Private Frank Bowler, Dublin Fusiliers, who had been wounded and was being treated at Stamford, Lincolnshire.

There were many families with several sons in uniform, and it had been many months since the Telegraph had discontinued its King and Country ‘scrapbook’ feature which each week carried details of men serving – but this week brothers Lawrence and Arthur Marple were introduced to readers.

The men were sons of magistrate JT Marple of Hulland House, Church Street. Sergeant-Major Lawrence Marple had been in Canada at the outbreak of war and had joined up the following week.

He was wounded in June 1916, and again in 1917, and was now in training for a commission at Bexhill-on-Sea.

Second Airman Mechanic Arthur Marple had joined the forces in May of 1917, going out to France just five weeks later.

The Ashbourne Prisoners of War Aid Committee had released a letter received from Sergeant EW Radford, who it had previously been reported had been discharged from Germany and was now being held in Holland.

“I must apologise for not having written to you before; I cannot offer any excuse, unless it is the excitement through being free once again.

I should like you to thank all kind friends of Ashbourne for all they did for me while I was in Germany. I can never repay them for all they have done. It was the goodness of you kind people who made it possible for me to pull through the hard times we were subjected to, especially in 1916-17 when we were being punished because we would not work. I think those were the hardest times of all and many good men were broken up though it.”

Radford said he had been in Holland about 10 weeks and could not have been better treatment if he had been at home.

“The people of the Hague have shown us every consideration and made us very welcome. We are billeted in houses very close to the sea, and it is glorious now. We have plenty of sport and pastime, provided by the YMCA, who have done everything in their power to make us realise we are among civilized people again.”

In other news it was announced that the council’s roadmen were to be relieved of their responsibilities of breaking stone in order to work on the harvest. They would be replaced by German prisoners of war.

The dearth of news of soldiers overseas may have been the reason the editor was able to find space for two  ‘human interest’ stories.

First there was a report from the police court of 18-year-old Flora Marian Fife of Old Derby Road, summoned for violent conduct.

The court heard that police were alerted to an incident in Compton Street at 11pm and found the defendant lying on the footpath with her mother trying to get her to her feet.

“She screamed and kicked and behaved in a very violent manner and resisted her mother’s interventions. Witness [Superintendent Davies] spoke to her and persuaded her to get up, but she preferred going home to the lock up with witness than going home with her mother.”

She was taken to the police station and eventually persuaded to go home rather than spend a night in the cells.

“Defendant said she had been provoked to that conduct by people shouting names after her and calling her ‘Rainbow’. She could not go up the street without being interfered with she said.

Mrs Fyfe (sic), the mother, corroborated her daughter’s evidence and said the girl was constantly being annoyed by people calling after her.

In reply to Supt Davies witness said she had not been told about her daughter going about with men.”

Davies revealed to the court that he had received complaints that Fife staying out late at night and going about with soldiers and young men in the town.

She was bound over in the sum of £5 for a year and placed under the supervision of the probation officer.

Superintendent Davies also gave evidence in a case at Sudbury Petty Sessions, where 25-year-old Frank Pettit was summoned for unlawful use of petrol.

He had been stopped at Hilton at 10pm on June 2 while driving a small car towards Derby. He was said to have been “accompanied by a lady”.

When questioned he said he had been sent out by Andrew’s garage, to collect the car which had broken down the previous night at Foston. He said it belonged to a woman from Derby.

“Asked where he had been in the meantime he intimated Uttoxeter to have tea with a friend. Sergeant Moore corroborated, and added that during the conversation defendant offered him a £1 note.”

The police checked the breakdown story with the car’s owner who revealed that she had, in fact, left it at Andrew’s garage for some work to be done.

“Defendant told the bench he considered it necessary to drive the car as far as Uttoxeter to test it after repair. As it was an unusual thing for him to be pulled up by the police he was naturally very excited, and he now admitted that the statement he made to the police was untrue. He had no recollection of offering the Sergeant a £1 note.”

He was fined £3 and witness expenses.

  • 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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