December 6, 1918

One by one, Ashbourne’s prisoners of war began to return home and each was greeted with enthusiasm as they stepped off the train.

“On Friday evening Pte Pegge of Clifton was met at that station where he was met by the bugle band and a large assembly of parishioners and friends.”

There were short speeches and rousing cheers.

“On Saturday Sergt R Taylor of the ‘Pals’ Manchester Regiment arrived and was met at the station by the bugle band and the [prisoners of war] committee representatives. He was escorted in procession to the Market Place, where on the balcony of the Town Hall, Mr JP Wooyatt and Mr AA Willmott expressed the feelings of pleasure it afforded the residents to have the local prisoners of war back at their own homes.”

On Monday it had been Private Bertram Plant of the North Staffs Regiment, whose home was in Union Street, who received a welcome party. He was cheered by wounded soldiers at the Red Cross Hospital.

On Tuesday Private F Edge of Green Road and Private James Renshaw of Mappleton arrived. Renshaw had been in the reserves when war broke out and was recalled to his regiment immediately. He took part in some of the early engagements, but had been a German prisoner since October 1914.

The signing of the Armistice did not bring peace to all families. Mr George Moon had received official notification that his son Private John Moon of the Sherwood Foresters had been killed in action on October 3.

Moon, who had previously been employed with Potter’s Corn Merchants, enlisted soon after the outbreak of war and after training was sent abroad, taking part in the Suvla Bay landings on the Gallipoli peninsula, later transferring to France and being involved in several major battles.

“Pte Moon, who was 24 years of age, has two other brothers in the army, whilst his father has also served in the forces for over three years.”

The Moreton family of Mayfield had their final hopes dashed by an official notice that their younger son Albert had been killed in action.

“No news had been heard of him since March, although exhaustive enquiries had been made by his parents. None came, however, only from a prisoner of war in German who said he had been killed, but they kept hoping that this would prove untrue, and that he would safely return with the prisoners from Germany.”

The family was told that Albert had been killed on March 21, on the first day of the German Offensive which saw them push back the allied forces, if only temporarily. He had been serving with the 2/5th North Staffordshire Regiment. He was just 20 years old.

 “His death at such an early age is sad, cutting short a life so full of promise, and is deeply deplored by his large circle of friends and the only consolation is found in the gallantry of this young life, and the heroism and sense of duty with which he faced the enemy, and the glorious cause for which he died.”

He enlisted in January 1916, was sent first to Ireland and then drafted to France in February 1917. Prior to signing up he worked in the Gardens of Mayfield House.

A large congregation gathered in Shirley Parish Church for a memorial service to three village men who had recently been killed in France: Private George Gilman, Rifleman Reginald Maskery and Private Charles Green.

Bayliss Brothers of St John Street announced The Victory Christmas in a large display advertisement on the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph to promote its stock of ‘Toys, Games, Fancy Goods’ of ‘quality unsurpassed’ and at ‘prices reasonable’.

They promised a showroom displaying the largest and best ranges ever seen in Derbyshire.

And there was patriotism too:

“Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! An exquisite stock of dressed and undressed dolls. Another success for the Allies. British and French production. Lifelike and pleasing in every detail.”

For the boys there were mechanical and wooden toys, claimed to be ‘both educative and amusing’.

Continuing their theme the store proclaimed:

“The Pipe of Peace. The armistice has been signed, and with it comes the Dawn of Peace; without Bayliss Brothers’ tobaccos, cigars and cigarettes your contentment and peace cannot be complete.”

Spanish Flu was sweeping the county. It was reported that there had been four more deaths in Middleton-by-Wirksworth, all among young people. Almost every household was said to have a patient.

Elsewhere Ashbourne Rural Council heard from medical officer for health, Dr HH Hollick that 16 deaths in the district had been attibuted to the flu.

According to Colonel John Gretton, the Parliamentary Election coalition candidate in Burton-on-Trent British public houses should be reformed along the lines of the continental café.

“Men on their return from the front would look for something better than mere drinking dens.”

  • 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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