October 4, 1918

In this picture reproduced from a photograph taken on the British Western Front in France the captured Germans seem to show traces of having suffered food shortages.

Flags and garlands were hung in the street to welcome home a soldier who had been on active service for three years and eight months.

Private T Fowell, sixth son of Mr and Mrs Fowell of Mayfield Road, Ashbourne, returned on leave to his home in Derby to a hero’s welcome.

Fowell enlisted with the Derbyshire Yeomanry in October 1914 and embarked to Egypt as an officer’s servant to Lord Hartington, with whom he stayed until Hartington returned to England. Fowell then served Major Worthington of the Royal Engineers’ signaling section.

“It will be remembered that Fowell is one of four brothers who have answered their country’s call. Of these, two have been discharged – Pte Jas Fowell, of the Australian Forces, who was wounded in the Dardanelles, and Pte Joseph Fowell who was gassed in France.”

Four men were reported to have received Military Medals: Private Ernest Whitehouse, 19, of Rocester had written home from hospital in France to say he had been awarded the medal; Private WH Phipps of the Suffolk Regiment, a former pupil teacher at Ashbourne Boys’ School; Sapper GF Birch, previously secretary of the Loyal Cavendish Lodge of Oddfellows at Hartington; and Private ‘Bert’ Pountain, formerly of Rocester.

Under a column and a half of public notices detailing official prices rises in gas and milk, controls on the supply of horsemeat, apples and pears, and beef, veal, mutton, pork and horse bones was a report from the Ashbourne prisoners of War Committee which announced that Private Reg Purdy of the Northumberland Fusiliers, who had been missing since May, had written to his parents to tell them he had been wounded and was a prisoner in hospital in Crossen, Germany. News that he was still alive was said to have given “much satisfaction” to his parents and many friends.

Price controls and food shortages continued to grip the population and Mr T Basset Bullock secretary of the Ashbourne branch of the National Farmers’ Union wrote to the editor of the Telegraph to defend his members against what he saw as unjustified criticism over allegations of profiteering and lack of patriotism.

“Those statements are absolutely devoid of truth. Framers have never demanded anything but a fair return for their capital and labour.”

He argued that when the government introduced price controls in 1917 the wage of labourers had been estimated at 25s but had since been ‘considerably increased’ while the price of feedstuffs and fertilisers had risen significantly. This meant farmers had been forced to seek an increase in prices.

“If only the public knew the facts they would refrain from casting unfounded aspersions on farmers who have realised the serious position of the country with regard to food production and have patriotically risen to the occasion.”

Arthur Collis, 25, of the Royal Fusiliers was given a military funeral at Ellastone Church. Private Collis who enlisted in 1914 had been part of the Gallipoli landings and the subsequent evacuation.

He was subsequently sent out to France where he was wounded in July 1916.

“On going out a second time he was gassed, from the effects of which he ultimately succumbed.”

The funeral included a firing party of 25 Northumberland Fusiliers, and a bugler sounded the Last Post.

“The matron and wounded soldiers from Ellastone Red Cross Hospital also attended and there was a large gathering of parishioners who assembled to pay their last tribute to the young soldier.”

With winter approaching and coal shortages continuing to bite the Coal Controller was taking steps to protect the population in rural areas.

“The village squire, vicar, doctor or any other responsible person may accumulate a reserve stock of coal for emergency distribution to villagers should the ordinary supply fail at any time during the winter.”

Although villages could buy an additional four or five tons of coal it could not be used to supplement normal supplies and could only be used if normal stocks failed.

The report warned: “It must be strictly accounted for to the Local Fuel Overseer.”

  • 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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