October 11, 1918

The second of two brothers became the latest Ashbourne soldier reported to have been killed as British troops continued to push back the German line in Flanders.

Lance-Corporal Clifford Kitchen, whose younger brother Harry had been killed in September 1915 in the Dardanelles, was the son of Mr and Mrs T Kitchen formerly of Belle Vue Timber Yard.

Lance-Corporal Kitchen, who was serving with the 15th Sherwood Foresters enlisted in August 1916 and had been in France since Christmas of that year. He had taken part in many engagements and survived the German offensive in March. He died on October 1.

Captain Graham Callow wrote to inform Kitchen’s wife of her loss.

“I cannot say how sorry I am to have to write to tell you that your husband was killed by shell fire yesterday. He was a fine fellow and always on the spot when there was any trouble. We shall all miss him very much, none more than myself, as I knew him so well.”

His widow, mother of his two young children, was told her husband was considered among the best NCOs in the battalion, whose place could never be filled.

It would have taken some time for news of the death of Private Leonard Thorpe to reach the offices of the Ashbourne Telegraph. Although Thorpe had worked for Birch’s of Station Street for more than 15 years and had been a prominent member of Ashbourne Air Rifle Club he was a single man and his mother, who lived in Rhyll, was contacted as next-of-kin by a nurse at the hospital in France where he had died from wounds.

Thorpe, said to be 35, had had a dramatic military career before being mortally wounded.

“He joined the forces about two and a half years ago and after being in France some months was wounded, being invalided to Ireland. On his way from Ireland his boat was torpedoed, but he succeeded in getting safely away. He had been out in France about 18 months and had taken part in some of the heaviest fighting.”

Sergeant William Ward of the Sherwood Foresters had written to his mother in typically stiff-upper-lip tones from hospital where he was being treated for a bullet wound to his arm, the bullet having gone right through the limb.

Apart from this, he said, he was “in the best of health and never felt better”.

Perhaps the tone of the letter was out of consideration for his mother, who lived in Sturston Road; she had already lost one son in the war, with two others in hospital.

Second Lieutenant JP Davies of the Royal Field Artillery had been awarded the Military Cross for conspicuous service in France, where he had been serving since February 1915, having gone out as a sergeant in the  North Midland Howitzer Brigade. He had later been transferred to the RFA and promoted before being granted a commission. His brother, who held the same rank with the London Regiment was serving in Palestine. They were the sons of Ashbourne’s Superintendant D Davies.

There was an honour too for Mrs TMH Bamford, the quartermaster of the Ashbourne Red Cross Hospital. During the three and a half years since the hospital opened Mrs Bamford had been at her post every day without a break. The first day she had not been on duty was when she travelled to Buckingham Palace to be invested into the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by His Majesty the King.

Increasingly positive reports were coming back from France and the UK’s ‘courageous decision’ to move a large body of British troops from the British front to support General Foch’s assault on the German line.

“Since July 18th the British forces alone have recovered for France a thousand square miles of territory, have recaptured 250 French villages and have taken more than 120,000 German prisoners.”

A dispute over the price of milk caused extraordinary scenes at Wirksworth where the local Food Control Committee commandeered a dairyman’s milk supply and supplied it direct to the public.

“A depot was opened at the Town Hall and female clerks from the Food Control office, assisted by special constables, distributed the milk. The townspeople were acquainted with the latest development in the situation by the sending round of the town crier with his bell, and the milk was quickly disposed of at 5d a quart.”

The dispute arose after farmers demanded 7d a quart for their milk up until Christmas and 8d from Christmas to May, but the Food Control Committee fixed the maximum price at 5d, which farmers refused to accept.

In the latest of intriguing notices to be posted in the Ashbourne Telegraph was a warning from Mrs G Haywood.

“Someone has falsely started a rumour that Mrs G Haywood’s former husband has reappeared as a prisoner of war in Germany. The rumour is absolutely untrue. Anyone repeating this scandal will be prosecuted.”

The circumstances behind thisnotice, and why the rumour was considered scandalous have been lost in the passing years.

  • 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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