In the five weeks since the Armistice, 25 of Ashbourne’s prisoners of war had returned home. The remaining 20 men were expected ‘almost any time’ the Telegraph reported.
“Several of the 1914 men who have been at Soltau and Hanover camps appear to have been released during the past week, and their friends are looking forward to their arrival in time for Christmas.”
The Prisoners of War Aid Committee announced that there were to be two fundraising events over the festive period: a Grand Football Match on Christmas Day, between ‘the old local clubs Town and Bridge’, and a Boxing Day dance.
The committee arranged a welcome for men as they arrived back in Ashbourne. Privates Tranter, Renshaw, Woodward, Handley and Plant were led in procession by the Boy Scouts Bugle Band from the station to the Market Place where the men were official welcomed on the balcony of the Town Hall by councillor JP Woodyatt.
A similar event was organised a few days later for Private W Taylor, Gunner WH Dixon, and Privates C Henney, T Shepherd and L Webster.
A ceremony in Chesterfield saw the colours of the 1/6th Sherwood Foresters handed back to the regimental escort by the Marquis of Hartington, having been placed in the parish church in February 1915. The flags were to be taken to France because the battalion had been chosen as one of the units to march into the German towns on the Rhine.
“At the conclusion of the ceremony a procession was formed, and marched to the Market Place, where the colours were saluted. The Mayor, in a stirring speech, recalled, amid applause, the brilliant achievements of the Sherwoods.”
Among those selected to represent the Ashbourne company at Chesterfield was Corporal JH Robinson. He estimated there were 12,000 people in the crowd, and reported that the colours were to be taken to France to be decorated by Marshal Foch in commemoration of the gallantry of the 46th Division in swimming the canal at Ypres.
“I am told that after the presentation the colours will be carried through Paris, followed by the remnants of the division. From there they will be brought back to London to be inspected by the King.”
Private H Smith of the Trench Mortar Section of the Notts and Derbyshire Regiment, who had been held prisoner by the Germans since March returned home to Osmaston unannounced. An item in the District News column recorded his friends’ regret that they had not been able to offer him the ‘hearty welcome’ they would have done, had they known the date and time of his arrival.
There was cheering news for Mr and Mrs M Brown of Osmaston who had not heard from their son for six weeks, and must have been fearing the worst. Private H Brown had written to say that he was fit and well and marching towards the German border.
The village of Wetton’s correspondent reported that a number of soldiers had been home for leave: Privates Sam Bould, Jabez Baker, W Mart, Driver E Higton and Lance-Corporal FS Thompson.
A report of demand for boys to join farms in Australia not attracting sufficient numbers had prompted the following comments from Colonial Secretary HF Colebatch: “Some parents may think their boys too clever or too well-educated for farm work. This is a mistake There are many boys too dull or too ignorant to make a success of farming – none too bright or two well educated.”
- 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