The Defence of the Realm Act, rushed into law within days of the declaration of war gave wide ranging powers to the Government, not only restricting what newspapers could report, but making it illegal to whistle for a taxi, buy binoculars or fly kites. It was also employed to introduce shorter pub opening hours and British Summer Time, among a raft of other restrictions.
Among the Government departments to make use of the Act’s provisions was the Ministry of Food which introduced a dizzying series of measures to control the supply of food.
This week in 1918 a public notice in the Ashbourne Telegraph listed a number of new regulations, including: the Jam Prices Order (No 2); the Rats Order; the Beans, Peas and Pulse Requisites (Amendment) Order; the Poultry and Game (Prices) Order’ the Grain (Prices) Order; the Grocery Syrup (Distribution to Manufacturers) Order and the Canned Salmon (Requisition) Order.
Breaching such orders could be an expensive business. The paper reported that a Yorkshire famer had been fined £112 for selling milk at 6d a quart, when the price had been fixed at half a penny less.
But there was a stout defence of the food regulations later in the paper. Under the headline Coupons or Chaos, the writer argued that it was better to live in a land where there were coupons and regulations, and food, than be exempt from regulation and suffer the consequences – famine and extreme high prices for necessities.
“Coupons and regulations, despite what a few grumblers may say against them and how would-be profiteers hate them, mean equal distribution, fair play in food for rich and poor, and a deterrent to those who are out to victimise the public by overcharging and giving small measure, or quality below the standard required by the Ministry of Food.”
News from the front was scant. Driver Isaac Swindell of the Royal Field Artillery had written to his mother at Station Cottages, Tissington, informing her that he was in hospital in Cambridge, suffering from wounds received in action on August 24.
“He received two pieces of shrapnel, one in the leg and the other behind the shoulder blade, while his head and ear were both grazed by two other pieces, and a fifth piece was stopped by a bundle of letters he had in his pocket.”
The only other Local Military Item was news that Second Lieutenant E Lee of the Derbyshire Yeomanry had been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant and Adjutant. He was the son of the late Mr JC Lee of Market Place, Ashbourne.
All sections of the community were striving to do their bit to support the war effort. Donations were regularly made to the Red Cross Hospital in Ashbourne and to the Ashbourne Prisoners of War Committee to fill regular parcels for the men being held in Germany. Poultry keepers donated eggs to the national appeal, while all sorts of dances, talks and entertainments raised funds for war-related causes.
One organisation – The Ashbourne Girls’ Knitting League – was formed on September 12, 1914, and over four years had sent out to soldiers and sailors no fewer than “800 woolen articles, 1,153 gifts including handkerchiefs, writing pads, soap, bootlaces, cakes, chocolate, biscuits and 10,065 cigarettes”.
- 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