November 22, 1918

A petition from a hundred farmers in the Ashbourne district calling Saddler F Lowndes of the Royal Field Artillery to be released from military duties led local MP, Captain H Fitzherbert-Wright, to ask a question in the House of Commons.

The Under Secretary of State for War heard that the appeal was being made in the interests of food production and on compassionate grounds.

Lowndes had been serving continuously at the front since early 1915, until he was granted one month’s leave in July of 1918, extended until the end of September on account of the death of his father who carried out the family saddlery business.

His brother had been killed on active service and his mother and two sisters were alone with no one to continue the business other than a German prisoner of war, “which in the circumstances of the family is undesirable”.

The government response was that Lowndes’ leave had been extended to October 20, but that because of his skilled services were required by the army no further leave or discharge could be sanctioned.

News of fatalities and casualties among troops from the Ashbourne area continued to filter home.

Private Samuel Smith, who was pictured sporting a fine ‘military moustache’ was reported to have been killed in action in France on October 23.

Smith, from Mappleton, had been serving with the 11th Sherwood Foresters as a machine gunner. His battalion went out to Italy in December 1917, and later to France where they were involved in ‘severe fighting’ up until his death. He left a widow and five children.

Before joining the Sherwoods Smith had been a member of the Ashbourne Voluntary Aid Detachment for several years before the outbreak of war, worked in the town’s Red Cross Hospital, and in September 1915 volunteered for the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in a number of hospitals in England.

The parents of Private Joseph Hudson had received news that the 19-year-old soldier had died ‘on the eve of peace’ while serving with the 10th Sherwood Foresters. He had only been drafted out to France in April after a brief period of training.  Mr and Mrs Hudson, of Mayfield, had lost Joseph’s elder brother, William, in May.

A memorial service was held in Clifton Church for Harry Chell, who had died of wounds received in France on October 8th.

The vicar told the congregation that no family in the parish had a finer record than the Chells: “Five serving, two killed and one a prisoner.”

The Ashbourne Telegraph continued to carry the Government’s Press Bureau-produced War Supplement which this week carried news of the graves of servicemen killed in Europe.

The article, headlined Our Dead Heroes, said that the military situation in France and Belgium meant that restrictions on civilian visits would not be lifted for some time.

“This may cause some anxiety to many in whose thoughts a soldier’s grave is continually present, and the following information is communicated by the War Office in the hope that it may do something to relieve the strain and suspense.”

The piece explained that in the northern part of France was a western area, which had been in Allied occupation, and an eastern area which for four years had been under the Germans, and a central area where the past two years of fighting had taken place.

“In the western area lie the graves of four years’ fighting which have never been disturbed. In the eastern area it is hoped that there may be found also some of the graves of the two corps which retreated from Mons to the Marne.

In the middle area, which includes the Somme battlefield, the tide of war has dealt unequally with the graves of the British dead; some cemeteries are left in good order, while some are partly, and a few wholly, destroyed by shellfire.”

Readers were told that there was no evidence of any graves having been deliberately desecrated the Germans, but that it would take time to repair the damage done by fighting.

Richard Burton, of Smith’s Yard, Compton, was brought before the town magistrates’ court on Friday charged with being a deserter from the Royal Field Artillery depot in Newcastle for over a year.

“Constable Brooksbank stated that about 10.15 that morning in company with Sergt Allen, he visited defendant’s residence and asked him what he was doing there. Burton replied ‘What do you mean?’ and witness asked him if he had his discharge papers. Defendant said he had not, and afterwards admitted that he had been a deserter for the past thirteen months.”

The court remanded Burton in custody to await a military escort.

The war might have been over, but the day-to-day impact on daily life continued much the same.

The National Egg Collection for the Wounded launched a fresh appeal for new-laid eggs for the men being repatriated from Germany. Many were reported to be in a state of complete exhaustion and requiring medical attention and nutritious food.

“Intending donors can have boxes sent to them free of charge and the eggs will be sent by passenger train free under our label. As a special thanksgiving offer this should appeal to everyone, and we beg for an immediate and generous response.”

The director of the appeal suggest that the following week should be Egg Denial Week to coincide with what sounds like an inventive publicity stunt which he said would see “all the dogs of the country begging for us”.

“No one should eat eggs while the needs of these repatriated prisoners remain unsatisfied.”

In anticipation of Ashbourne men being among the prisoners of war arriving back in England the Prisoners of War Committee urged the people of the town to be prepared to show their “appreciation for the sacrifices and hardships our gallant men have experienced”.

  • 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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