October 25, 1918

A young soldier, who had recently received the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery in the field, was reported to have been fatally wounded in France.

Private WH Phipps, 24, of the Suffolk Regiment, had experienced the full horrors of the war, having twice previously been invalided from the front line.

“His first experience of active warfare was when he landed at the Dardanelles on his 21st birthday, and he there contracted dysentery and enteric, being subsequently invalided home to England. After his recovery he was sent to France where he was buried alive by a shell, his injuries resulting in tetanus, from the effects of which he lay in hospital for nearly 12 months.

On rejoining his regiment he was present at some of the heaviest engagements until his death.”

Phipps was the son of Mr and Mrs Phipps of the New Grammar School in Green Road. He had been a pupil teacher at Mayfield Road Boys’ School before taking up the post of assistant master at Witham School in Essex.

News of his death arrived in a letter to his parents from his chaplain. He told them that their son had arrived in hospital suffering from dangerous wounds and despite all efforts had died the following day.

The Ashbourne Telegraph reproduced a letter from West Derbyshire MP Lord Kerry in which he set out his views on peace terms with the Germans.

He explained that his role at the War Office meant it was almost impossible for him to speak at meetings in his constituency.

“In my opinion no cessation of hostilities should take place, nor any breathing space be allowed to the enemy, until he has evacuated every inch of the Allied territory of which he is now in occupation.

Then, and not until then, terms should be granted to him and these terms must be based on unconditional surrender on his part. These should include reparation, financial and otherwise for all the outrage he has committed and the material damage he has done to the various Allies, whether by land or sea. The list of acts for which reparation is required is a very long one and the process of settlement must consequently take time.

I want to see real (not paper) guarantees in the hands of the Allies, both for the satisfaction of our immediate claims and as security that we shall not in the future be plunged again into a war such as that from which we are now emerging.”

Lord Kerry said these were, and had been, his views and that they coincided with those of the Prime Minister, who had summed them up as ‘Restitution, Reparation and Security’.

We now know there was an ‘unconditional surrender’, of sorts, on November 11, but the ineffective Treaty of Versailles which followed and the toothless League of Nations meant that in less than 20 years later Europe was to be plunged into another bloody conflict with Germany.

A similar cautionary tone was taken by the writer of the Ashbourne Telegraph’s Watch Box column.

“The official German reply to [American] President Wilson’s note has not met with the approval of the Allies that the German people hoped.
President Wilson, and indeed all the Allies, know only too well from past experience that German promises are only kept as long as it suits Germany, and there must be some mores substantial agreement than a ‘scrap of paper’.

Although the Germans are by no means beaten yet, their offer bears one very evident fact – that she is tottering and her great dream of world power has become transformed into a grim struggle for self-salvation.”

  • 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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