June 8, 1917

In what was momentous news in 1917, dairy farmers in the Ashbourne area voted unanimously to form a Co-Operative Association – and a lengthy report of the meeting dominated the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph, to the exclusion of any coverage of local soldiers.

Milk prices had been the subject of debate in recent months, with farmers objecting to the prices they were being paid, while consumers were fearful of being overcharged.

The meeting in the Town Hall was chaired by MP Captain FitzHerbert-Wright, who told the assembled farmers he thought they were up against two powerful bodies in the milk world, and as long as they remained individual farmers it would be case of the small man against the big, powerful and wealthy corporations.

“It stood to reason, and every business man knew it that when it was a case of the individual man against the big powerful corporation the man got the worst of it.”

Everyone knew that Nestle and Company had two big factories in the district and there was a milk combine. Capt. Fitzherbert-Wright told them if they wanted a fair deal it would be a “very difficult row to hoe”.

The reasons for forming the co-operative were given. These included:

  1. To place the making of cheese in the hand of skilled workmen, who having charge of milk from several hundred cows, could be paid at the rate which skilled and intelligent workmanship demands
  2. To relieve farmers’ households of the sloppy untidiness, and their wives and daughters of the anxiety, which are inseparable from cheese making.
  3. To introduce into farming the benefits of co-operation
  4. To raise the average cheese production of the land
  5. To break the power of the middlemen
  6. To obviate dependence on incompetent dairymaids
  7. To increase profits derivable from dairy farming

Nestle was represented at the meeting and challenged the chairman’s assertion that it was a foreign firm, arguing that it was based in London and was under Government control.

He said: “[The firm] had been the means of saving thousands of British soldiers by their milk and other foods, which were made under a highly scientific process.”

And milk was at the centre of the week’s most dramatic story – an accident which saw 80 churns, about four tons, lost.

“One of the heavy motor lorries belonging to Messrs Nestle and Anglo Swiss Condensed Milk Company, loaded with a large consignment of milk was being driven to the factory by E Wibberley of Ashbourne, accompanied by a youth named George Hampson.

The lorry was descending the Hill from Tissington to Fenny Bentley when its brakes failed.

“The lorry (which in itself is nearly four tons in weight) with its heavy load tore down the hill at terrific speed. The driver pluckily stuck to the steering wheel but owing to the great impetus the vehicle had gained, he was unable to negotiate the extremely sharp corner at the bottom of the hill. The lorry struck a telegraph post with terrific impact which was smashed like matchwood, and as the off-wheel of the lorry mounting the bank the ponderous vehicle crashed over on it side, the churns of milk being thrown in all direction, and the milk rushed down the road like a river.”

Wibberley was unhurt, but his colleague suffered head injuries and was treated at the scene by Dr Boswell and later at the Cottage Hospital in Ashbourne where he was said to be ‘progressing favourably,”

An extraordinary paragraph appeared in the Watchbox column, ‘Being comments on local and general topics’.

Purporting to be an eyewitness account of military brutality in Armenia the paragraph read:

“In Harpout and Mezre the people had to endure terrible tortures. They have had their eyebrows plucked out, their breasts cut off, their nails torn off, their torturers hew off their feet or else hammer nails into them just as they do in shoeing horses. When they die the soldiers cry: ‘Now let your Christ help you’. There are plenty of others worse than that.”

There is no indication of who the eyewitness was, but the extract was attributed as an extract from the ‘Blue Book’, Treatment of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire 1915-16 which had an introduction by Viscount Bryce who had previously chaired an inquiry into alleged German atrocities in occupied Belgium, later dismissed as Allied propaganda.

The use of wartime imagery to sell commercial products has featured in this column on many occasions, and once again this week the antiseptic ointment Zam-buk makes light of military injuries to promote its healing properties.

“In the Wars – Odd jobs around the house, garden or allotment, often result in a crushed finger, lacerated hand or some painful injury. Husband, wife and children are continually ‘in the wars’ but a lot of pain and trouble can be saved by keeping Zam-Buk handy.”

  • 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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June 1, 1917

Men in the trenches on the front line endured terrible conditions, but by all accounts enjoyed remarkable camaraderie amid the horrors of war.

Back home their loved ones waited in fear and trepidation. Each day the arrival of the postman could bring a letter bearing dreaded news.

And so it must have been for the young wife of 20-year-old William Legrice of Sturston Road, Ashbourne. Her husband, the father of her child, was serving with the Lancashire Fusiliers, having left his job at the Ashbourne Gas Works in September 1916, sailing from France a week after Christmas.

Mrs Legrice had received a letter on May 17 from the Company Sergeant Major HG Ward announcing that he was missing.

“I am pleased to say that although your husband has only been with us a few months he has always done his duty and I sincerely hope that you will be granted strength to bear the news bravely and well, and that you will soon have news from your husband himself to say that he is well.”

The Sgt-Major’s hopes were in vain, as the paper reported:

“A few days ago Mrs Legrice received official notice that her husband was ‘wounded and missing’, and on Saturday morning she received an official intimation that he was dead.”

Private Legrice had enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery, but was transferred first to the Shropshire Light Infantry, and again to the Lancashire Fusiliers. He had two brothers serving in France, Arthur, a Private with the Sherwood Foresters and Harold, a gunner with the Royal Field Artillery, a third brother was in the Navy.

The Ashbourne Telegraph’s roll of honour gained two more names alongside Private Legrice, those of Arthur Allen and Fred Millward.

Private Allen, 20, of Fenny Bentley had died of wounds received in France just before Easter. He had been serving with the Sherwood Foresters and had previously served in Dublin during the riots.

A memorial service was held in the village church. Among the congregation was his brother Harry, home on leave from the Scots Guards.

The Company Captain had written a letter of sympathy to Allen’s mother, part of which was reproduced in the paper:

“He was a very gallant soldier, devoted to duty and greatly respected by all who knew him. We shall miss him dreadfully.”

And it was a letter from the War Office which brought grief to the door of Mr and Mrs Henry Millward of Oxmead, Mayfield. Their son Fred, who had been serving with the Sherwood Foresters since August 1914, had died of wounds received in action. Private Millward was the latest man with links to the Mayfield and Clifton scout troop to have made the ultimate sacrifice for king and country.

The Watchbox – a regular column on page 3 of the paper – recorded that for the third year the populace had been forced to mark Whitsuntide under war conditions.

People took advantage of the fine weather, the column said, and headed out into the countryside.

“Had the times been normal, Ashbourne and Dovedale, with other well-known summer resorts, would have received a larger influx of visitors. But the restrictions on travel, both by rail and road were only too apparent and although there was a big crowd in Dovedale on Whit Monday, the number would possibly have been doubled or even trebled had former facilities been available.”

The writer, recalling Dovedale in Spring before the war, turned lyrical:

“When this great world cataclysm is over and a thing of the past, thousands will again tread the stony path in Dovedale and watch the bright and sparkling waters with admiration for its natural beauty which vies with some of the most famous in the world for supremacy.”

JC Lee and Son, jewellers in Market Place, Ashbourne, had been taking a small single column advertisement on the back of the paper for many months to promote its wedding rings.

“Get that Wedding ring now” it stated. The shop boasted it had all sizes and weights in stock, but warned: “Owing to the Government having stopped to supply of gold to the manufacturers we may not be able to procure any other in the near future. Therefore we say BUY NOW even if you have to put it away for a time. If you wait you may have to be content with a 9ct article, or even lower quality than that.”

Despite the difficulties faced at home poultry keepers were being urged to donate birds for a charitable cause.

“With the object of assisting the peasants of Northern France to re-establish there (sic) poultry yards in the districts now being recovered from the enemy the Agricultural Relief of Allies Committee is organising a gift of poultry which it is hoped will reach a total of 1,000 birds.”

Among the recipes reproduced in this week’s paper was one for ‘American Soup’ which was essentially shredded vegetables, boiled in three pints of water, with a tablespoon of dripping stirred in with a little finely chopped parsley before serving.

  • 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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May 25, 1917

News that 19-year-old Private Frank Henstock, “a bright and promising boy” had been killed was reported in the columns the Ashbourne Telegraph. The passing of his young life merited a single paragraph on page 2 under the News in Brief column. Henstock, of the Manchester Regiment, was the son of former Ashbourne residents Mr and Mrs Frank Henstock, of Hulme, Manchester.

In the regular King and Country column came news of two more soldiers.

Private Frank Bowler was recovering from a shrapnel wound to his foot in the Canadian Red Cross Hospital in Cliveden, Buckinghamshire. The son of Mr and Mrs Bowler of Derby Old Road, Ashbourne, he previously worked at P Birch and Sons, builders, and had signed up in April 1915.

Private C Smith, of the Canadian Regiment, had had two brothers die while in the King’s service; one in France in September 1916 and another, who had served throughout the South African War, but had been “seized by illness” and died after returning to England.

Rocester village news carried a report of another soldier killed in action. Private Thomas Bentley had been mortally wounded by shellfire on the morning of May 14.

His wife, who lived in Ashbourne Road, received news of his death from her husband’s commanding officer with the Royal Welsh (sic) Fusiliers. He had seen three months’ active service on the Western Front.

“The news of his death was received in the village with general regret, and great sympathy is felt with his widow and two young children.”

Company Sergeant-Major Harry Wright of Fenny Bentley had been presented with the Distinguished Conduct Medal in a ceremony at Derby Barracks. He was reportedly given a ‘hearty cheer’ by soldiers on parade.

The medal and the Medaille Militaire, which he previously won, went on display at Messrs Barnsdall’s in Dig Street, Ashbourne.

A severely injured Belgian soldier was reported to have made a remarkable recovery after treatment by surgeons.

“He was wounded on the Yser in November 1914, and sixteen bullets were found in his body. After life had been despaired of evidence of breathing was discovered and the unconscious man was taken to England, where it was a week before he regained consciousness. He was examined at Birmingham Hospital, and seven bullets were found in his head and nine in his legs.”

Whether the story of Jakov Weemaes is genuine or propaganda is uncertain, but there is no doubt that the wounds suffered by fighting men tested doctors and nurses to the limits, and advanced the progress of surgical technique.

The privations of war were increasingly gripping the country, and government imposed restrictions growing by the month. The Telegraph reported that the President of the Board of Trade had ordered restrictions on civilian use of petrol, in order to preserve supplies for shipping and the armed forces. In future no petrol was to be used for pleasure purposes.

On the same page rationing was being introduced for horses from May 21, although the rules were complex.

“No restriction is placed on feeding with hay, straw, or dried brewers’ grains, but subject to this, the use of any cereals or cereal products in the feeding of horses is regulated.”

As with all regulations there were exceptions and exemptions.

“Horses on national work are excluded entirely, including stallions used exclusively for stud purposes, thoroughbred brood mares, and broodmares in foal or with foal at foot. The order affects other thoroughbreds, carriage horses, hacks, hunters and polo ponies, and horses mainly used for other than business or trade purposes.”

Meanwhile the price of milk had been fixed by the government at 1s 8d a gallon, but Ashbourne War Agricultural Committee heard that farmers were unhappy with the regulation and warned about the impact in future. One member stated:

“Not a single member of his local society would think of selling his milk next winter at 1s 8d.”

And Ashbourne Rural Council considered a suggestion that the public should be given free access to rivers in order to catch fish to eat, to supplement their diet.

The council was concerned that nets might be used rather than lines.

“They would also have to consider such questions as trespass and fishing rights.”

The chairman said he did not think the increased supply of food from this source would be significant.

The move to allow the public to fish the rivers was heavily defeated in a vote.

  • 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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May 18, 1917

Tributes were paid to four men from the Ashbourne District who had lost their lives in uniform, and a fifth, feared dead, missing in action for a month.

Private Albert Hudson, a young man “who knew no fear” had been killed by a shell on April 27 – less than 10 weeks after landing in France. Hudson, who was serving with the Sherwood Foresters, was one of 12 men from WH Foster’s angling suppliers in Church Street, Ashbourne, who had enlisted. Prior to going out to France he had been sent to Ireland to deal with the 1916 Easter Rising, described here as ‘the rebellion’.

His mother, formerly of Royal Cottage, Calwich, received news of his death in a letter from the Captain of his company:

“I was quite close to him when it happened, and had been speaking to him but a moment before. My heart goes out to you in your great sorrow, the loss of a brave, sunny-tempered, generous boy, who knew no fear.”

His letter, touchingly concluded:

“I shall miss him dreadfully. He was a general favourite, both in my company and throughout the battalion… Once more I tender my heartfelt sympathy with you in your sorrow, which I pray you may be given strength to bear. You have lost a gallant little gentleman – I a friend.”

Mrs Hudson had two other sons serving King and Country, one of whom had been in France for two years.

Words of condolence also reached the home of Private Charles Sowter, of the Lincolnshire Regiment, whose death had been reported the previous week.

His regimental chaplain wrote:

“Your son took part in an attack with the battalion, and he has now entered the higher world by the glorious gateway opened for those who have laid down their lives for their country.”

In terms, less empathetic than those offered to Mrs Hudson, TB Hardy continued:

“For him we must not mourn, but I pray God to give you strength to bear your natural grief, and in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life, that you will meet again.”

Sowter had married just before going out to France, leaving just an hour after the ceremony, and had not returned home since.

Private Albert Silvester, of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, who had worked at
W Barnes, agricultural engineers, in Ashbourne, joined up in August 1914 and had died ‘in the fighting line’ on April 9.

Silvester, son of Mr W Silvester of Derby Road, had previously been wounded and spent a few days in Ashbourne before returning the front line. Mr Silvester Snr, had previously lost a grandson in the sinking of the battleship Queen Mary.

Corporal John Lowndes, 20, of the Sherwood Foresters, whose mother lived in Buxton Road, died instantly from a rifle shot while working his gun. His Captain said of Lowndes: “No one ever more gladly or responded to the call of duty.”

Bert Westhorpe, a 22-year-old Private in the Scots Guards, whose mother lived in Mayfield Road, was a likely casualty, the paper reported, in Egypt, where he had been serving with the Expeditionary Force. Before the war he had worked at Mr Whitehead’s farm in Bradbourne and enlisted in April of 1916.

Elsewhere in the paper it was recorded that two local officers had received distinctions. Brigadier RG Jelf, DSO, had ben given the command of an infantry brigade on his return to France having recovered from injuries sustained in the Battle of the Aisne in September 1914; and Brigadier-General GD Goodman, previously Captain of the Ashbourne Company of Volunteers had been mentioned in despatches.

In a rallying cry to save food waste, Mrs Alfred Praga’s column in the Weekly Dispatch was reproduced on the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph.

She had a message for the menfolk:

“We can’t afford as a nation to waste one single crumb, one single grain, even of rice or barley, if we are to win the war. Your mistress is not ‘being mean’ when she asks you to keep within the Government bread rations; not to put jam or marmalade on your bread at the same time as butter; not to indulge in your usual eleven o’clock lunch of cocoa and the rest of it. She is showing the noblest patriotism.”

And she turned scorn on those denigrated cooks:

“It is only very ignorant and underbred people who speak slightingly of cooks nowadays.”

She left readers with a final message:

“This war will be won, must be won, not in France or Flanders or upon the seas, but in the kitchens and larder and dining rooms and restaurants of England.”

In the first year of the war there had been much debate about women drinking, with allegations of debauchery made and fiercely rebutted. Such claims reared their head again at a meeting of London City Mission, which heard there had been deterioration in the character of women, especially those whose husbands were in the Army.

“Public houses were full of women, it was stated, some of whom, hitherto respectable, were now associating with others who had lost self respect. ‘Dirty, unkempt, ragged, brutal in appearance, and vile in their language’.”

Such was the shortage of labour, that the collection and disposal of rubbish was becoming a problem. An item on the back page of the Telegraph stated that local authorities were urging householders to sift out and burn cinders and leave bins where they could be emptied with the least labour.

And in an early example of household recycling the piece states:

“Kitchen waste, paper, cardboard &c; is now so valuable that its separate collection is desirable.”

  • 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 Warblog
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May 11, 1917

More casualties among Ashbourne fighting men were recorded this week in 1917, but not as one of the main news items as one might expect.

Under the unimposing headline ‘Local Casualites’ on page 3 the deaths of two men were reported.

John Gilbert Lowndes a corporal with the Sherwood Foresters was just 20 years old. He had left his apprenticeship with WR Marple and Sons in St John Street to join the army in November 1914. After training he was sent to Ireland where he took part in suppressing the Easter Rising in 1915 before being drafted to France, where he had been for about two months.

There was a tribute, of sorts: “His smartness soon gained promotion for him and he was placed in charge of a Lewis gun, which he was working at the time of the fatality.”

His family in Buxton Road had received news of his death from his commanding officer in a letter, which arrived the day before the paper was published.

The unimaginable numbers of men who lost their lives in the Great War risks disguising the fact that each was a son, perhaps a husband, or father, who had left a life back home to fight for King and Country on foreign soil.

One such individual was 24-year-old Private Charles Sowter, son of Mr and Mrs James Sowter of Old Hill, who joined up in July 1916 and was drafted into the Lincolnshire Regiment.

“Just before going out he was married, and an hour after the ceremony, returned to his regiment, and has not been home since.”

The paper reported that a comrade who saw him fall had returned his letters. One can only imagine how important that correspondence would have been to his family.

And, in the sort of detail which only a local paper would record, the Telegraph ended its report with the line: “He played outside right for Ashbourne Town Football Club, and showed much promise of developing into a quick and most useful forward.”

And all-but the worst news had been conveyed to Mrs Westhorpe of Mayfield Road. She had received official notification that he son, 22 year old former farm worker Bert, had been missing since April 17. He joined up in April of 1916 and had been serving with the Royal Scots Fusiliers as part of the Egyptian Expeditionary Force since February.

The paper also carried advance news of public presentation to be made to an Ashbourne soldier repatriated after being badly injured on the war.

The ceremony in the Market Place was to be for Private George Smith who had lost both legs. Smith, of the Sherwood Foresters, had worked at the Nestlé factory and been a keen footballer, playing for both Hanging Bridge and Ashbourne Town.

He had gone out to France with the Ashbourne Territorials and on April 10, 1916, had been with a party of men in a trench when a shell fell among them, killing two and wounding three.

“Private Smith had the serious misfortune to lose both his legs – a loss which has cost many a weaker man his life. But Private Smith has an unlimited reserve of optimistic spirit and it was this which enabled him to survive the dozen or more operations which have been performed on him.


The front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph carried an advertisement for ‘The Most Famous Picture of the War’ – Bernard Partridge’s Unconquerable.

The cartoon, originally printed in Punch magazine in October 1914 pictured the King of Belgium, amid the ruins of his country, with the sneering Kaiser confronting him. The caption reads: Kaiser: “So, you see – you have lost everything.” The King of the Belgians: “Not my soul.”

So popular was this original drawing that it had been commissioned by Punch to be reproduced as a colour painting, etchings of which were now being sold for one guinea.

A one-paragraph news in brief item spoke volumes about the crisis facing the country in terms of agriculture and the food supply. A Board of Agriculture leaflet, entitled Reducing the Herds, said livestock in the country needed to be ‘substantially reduced by Christmas’.

“Breeders are urged to prepare for market their older breeding animals and only allow calves of good quality to go beyond the veal stage. It is recommended that all fat stock shows be at once cancelled and no prizes offered at the Christmas auction mart.”

  •  Roy Bennett of Ashbourne recalls George Smith. He  remembers, as a young boy, seeing Mr Smith travelling about the town in his chair.  It was propelled by two levers, one on each side of where he sat, which he pulled right and left alternately. He could get up a good speed on the town’s roads.
    Mr Bennett said that on Remembrance Sunday George Smith always sat in the chair outside the town hall to see the parade march off, and later return to be dismissed.
  • 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 Warblog
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May 4, 1917

The abiding image of the First World War for many of us is of the mud and the cold of the trenches of northern Europe, but other servicemen faced very different conditions on the African continent.

A letter had been received from Scout Alec Fisher of the Legion of Frontiersmen, a former apprentice at printers Joseph Osborne of St John Street, Ashbourne, from German East Africa.

The Telegraph reproduced the contents of the letter, which omitted place names and changed the Scouts’ names to prevent identification.

After an abortive two-week foray into the mountains, Fisher and his comrades faced an arduous trek over mountains to rejoin their column which was 50 miles ahead of them, taking a less steep route. They hired some porters and got a couple of mules and set out early one morning.

“The journey was full of excitement, as all the way a sharp lookout had to be kept for any lurking enemy or snipers, and snakes and wild animals were also too abundant to be comfortable.”

And the next night one of the men had a terrifying experience.

“McClerc gave a terrible yell, and after a lantern or two had been lit his comrades discovered he had found a deadly rock snake in the folds of his blanket. He lay motionless as death whilst McGregor carefully unfolded the blanket and the snake (which was five feet in length) was exposed and promptly killed with the but of a rifle.”

The report tells how the men harvested bananas, limes, oranges and pineapples and witnessed dramatic landscapes.

“They passed through some wonderful country, the track winding down the sides of a precipice and across chasms which in some places were four hundred feet deep.

“The heat owing to the absence of all breeze was terrific and the glare of the sun on the white rocks and stones was intense.”

The report continues in a graphic description of the journey, punctuated by biting insects, huge snakes hanging from branches of trees.

“The whole place resounded with the screams and cries of gorgeously coloured birds and the chatter of monkeys and baboons.”

At one stage a baboon stole a hat from the head of one of the men, and it could not be recovered until the animal had been shot.

The adventure continued with two of the scouts going down with fever and having to rest up in a house abandoned by a German mine manager, who had obviously left in a hurry because his meal was half eaten on the table.

When the pair were fit to move on both mules died from Tse Tse fly and the porters were forced to carry the party’s water slung between poles.

After 26 days, during which time they were also charged by rhinoceros and fired on by German snipers, they reached the comparative safety of their column.

“A few days later they were sent scouting through one of the vilest swamps in the continent where they were all so badly bitten my mosquitos and other insects, and food was so scanty and they were forced to drink water which was the colour and consistency of thick coffee, that they were all seized with a severe attack of dengue and malarial fever.”

At the time of posting the letter the men were in a military hospital in Cape Colony.

Second Lieutenant Francis St. Vincent Morris 3rd Battalion, Sherwood Foresters, attached to 3rd Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. Death: 29 April 1917 Western Front Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205386105

News reached Ashbourne this week in 1917 that Francis St Vincent Morris, the vicar’s youngest son, who had been seriously injured in an aeroplane crash in France, had died.

Morris, who was just 21, and serving with the Royal Flying Corps had been caught in a blizzard which brought down the plane.

A bright scholar, he had been due to study at Oxford University, but at the outbreak of war he won a commission to the Sherwood Foresters before transferring to the RFC.

Canon Morris and his wife had been at their son’s bedside at a hospital in France when he died. They had three other sons on active service, while their daughter Ruth was nursing at a hospital in France.

In a letter to his parents in Union Street, Ashbourne, Private T Robinson revealed that he was in hospital, having been wounded in the right arm by shrapnel during the Great Advance.

“Private Robinson has a very praiseworthy record, having enlisted, in the early days of the war, in the Royal Warwicks, and was subsequently transferred to the Worcesters and has been on active service for no less than 26 months and was present at the great engagements, Hill 60, Ypres, the Ancre the Somme and several others of minor character.”

Ashbourne Urban Tribunal heard applications from a number of men seeking exemption from military service. A 26-year-old hairdresser, F Greenwood, told the hearing he was appealing because if compelled to go he would have to close his business.

“Applicant stated he did not want to avoid service at all, as he had joined the Australian Light Horse in 1914, but after a month’s training was medically rejected. He came to England and then joined the Royal Sussex Regiment, but he was again medically rejected.”

He had since been examined again and passed ‘B1’ (able to stand service on lines of communication in France, or in garrisons in the tropics). Greenwood’s appeal was rejected as was that of another hairdresser Percy Fielding, 31, who also worked as an umbrella maker and repairer.

The village paragraphs of snippets from the outlying villages brought news of two men from Brassington. Petty Officer F Morrall, who had been serving in Egypt was back home on furlough for five weeks, while Private S Johnson had been wounded and was being treated at hospital in Northampton.

Ashbourne had welcomed Belgian refugees in October 1914 and a committee was established to marshal charitable donations. The Rev Frederick Brown of All Saints’ Presbytery announced in the newspaper’s columns that the last of the refugees had now found a temporary home elsewhere. He thanked all those who had given ‘shelter or comfort’ to the displaced Belgians but said there was no longer a need for the committee and that the balance of funds – £18 14s 6d was being transferred to the Chesterfield committee.

The Ministry of Food, which recently introduced the Pastry Order, to restrict the use of flour in what were considered unnecessary or frivolous baked products had clearly been clarifying its scope.

“Pork Pies do not come under the Pastry Order. They can be made any size, but if cut up and sold as portions of a meal, no portion for one person may contain more than 2½oz of meat and 1oz of flour, as prescribed by the Public Meals Order. The making of sausage rolls for sale is prohibited. Mince Pies, Eccles Cakes, Banbury cakes, Coventries, cheesecakes and custard tarts come under the classification of ‘fancy pastries’ – which may not be sold.”

These distinctions will chime with people who recall the controversy over George Osborne ‘Pasty Tax’ and the debate over whether a Jaffa Cake was a cake or a biscuit.

It is difficult to imagine that a tea-time treat might have been considered unpatriotic, but such was the national drive to save flour that the following item was printed: “There would be much saving of bread if the public would discontinue during war-time the habit of eating ‘poached eggs on toast’. This dish involves a considerable waster of bread, and frequently the toast is regarded primarily as an absorbent to collect the water from the eggs and much of the bread is thrown away.”

It has been commented on in these columns before how the boundaries of editorial and advertising have been blurred, particularly in the case of promoting the dubious claims of what might be today described as ‘quack-cures’.

On the back page of the Telegraph this week a headline, of similar size to that topping a report of a military tribunal deciding whether or not men should be exempt from national service, caught the eye: Once a cripple now a soldier.

“Trooper E Jones tells an interesting story. For eight long months he hobbled about on two sticks racked with pain from rheumatic gout. He was induced to try Baker’s Backache Pellets. The result was almost miraculous. In a few days the pain entirely ceased and his recovery was so rapid and complete that he has now passed the army doctor and is serving king and country at 45 years of age.”

Not content with such remarkable curative powers Baker’s Backache pellets were also credited with being: “A positive cure for Backache, Lumbago, Sciatica, Rheumatism, Gravel, Dizziness and Kidney Troubles.”

The labour force, stripped of its menfolk to bolster the ranks of the army and navy, was supplemented with women, with many taking on roles never previously open to them. They worked on the land and in munitions factories among other tasks.

The makers of Ven-Yusa ‘oxygen face cream’ advertised their product as a ‘real necessity for women war workers’.

“The grit and grime of the munitions factories, exacting hospital work and exposure to sudden weather changes are injurious to the skin.”

Ven-Yusa boasted that it would ‘revive the lustre of faded complexions and bring back the bloom of health and youth to pallid cheeks’.

In a claim, which would surely fall foul of modern advertising standards, the promotion claims: “The regular use of Ven-Yusa will save you hours of discomfort and banish for ever that tired irritable feeling after a hard day’s work.”

Society was changing in many other ways due to the consequences of the war. The Telegraph reproduced part of a column in the Daily Sketch, which observed that women widowed by the war were breaking with convention. You can almost hear the disapproval in the writer’s voice.

“War widows, no longer in their first youth seem to be finding second husbands very much their junior. In several cases lately the bride has been years older than the bridegroom, and in two recent engagements, which attracted a great deal of notice, there is a marked disparity in ages. In one case a youth of twenty has chosen a handsome widow of about thirty, with children, while in another the prospective bride is thirty-five, and her fiancé twenty-three. This future bride is very attractive; still, she has three children.”

  • 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 Warblog


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April 27, 1917

An Ashbourne veteran of the South African War who joined the 18th Hussars in the early days of The Great War was reported to have been killed in action in France.

Trooper Fred Courtman, of Mayfield Road, left a wife and six children. He was a shoeing smith by trade and had been granted the rank of farrier sergeant.

And the arrival of bad news also darkened the doors of Atlow Moat, Ashbourne, and Steeple Grange, Wirksworth where Mr and Mrs JC Twigge received word that their son had been killed in action.

Lieutenant Francis (Frank) Twigge of the Northumberland Fusiliers, was 30 years old. He joined the Public School Battalion in 1914, and in August 1916, after a period in the trenches was granted a commission with the Fusiliers.

Twigge had been educated at the Elizabethan Grammar School in Ashbourne.

Another soldier, Lieutenant George Desborough of the East Yorkshire Regiment had been wounded in the arm by shrapnel. His parents in Green Road had been told he was ‘progressing favourably’.

Happier tidings were published from the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The Marquis of Hartington had married Lady Mary Cecil, daughter of the Marquis and Marchioness of Salisbury ‘quietly’ at Hatfield.

The couple were to spend their honeymoon at Hardwick Hall.

The guests included a long list of Lords, Ladies, Earls and Countesses. The Telegraph observed:

“The two great houses which are thus united rose to the peerage at very nearly the same time. Indeed when the doors of the House of Lords opened on May 4, 1605, to admit the first Lord of Salisbury they also admitted the first Baron Cavendish, who became Earl of Devonshire 12 years later. The first Lord Salisbury, for his part had been Baron Cecil since 1603.”

The death of a giant of the Ashbourne community, John Burton, was marked with a lengthy tribute. He was said to have been of ‘fine physique’, standing over 6ft tall and ‘and proportionately broad and with a constitution of iron’.

A native of the town, the paper said he knew his birthplace like the back of his hand.

“Few men knew the topography of Ashbourne as well as he, for all his life he had been connected with its constructional work and there were few alterations or improvement in the town in which he had not assisted.”

Burton was the owner of the swing boats and was always a prominent figure at gala days. According to the Telegraph he was one of the area’s most familiar figures and well-known in every village within ten miles of Ashbourne.

For many years he had been the caretaker of the Weslyan Chapel and schools in Church Street, and was one of the first to join the Home Guard.

“He leaves a large family to mourn his loss, many of his sons, grandsons and nephews being on service for their country.”

The funeral cortege, which proceeded from the parish church to the cemetery was led by a company of brethren from the Court Prince of Wales of Foresters, of which he had been a member for more than 50 years.

Food shortages continued to trouble the population the length and breath of the country. The Ashbourne Telegraph reported that the ration for wounded soldiers was to be cut: “The bread ration for military hospital patients on chicken and ordinary beef-tea diets has been reduced from 16oz to 14 oz.

Efforts to reduce the consumption of bread had lead to the establishment of communal kitchens in The Potteries.

“The scheme emanates from the War Savings Committee whose great object is to prevent entirely the consumption of bread at the midday meal by providing at cost price a dinner of meat and vegetables.”

In order to avert the suggestion of charity, the committee emphasised this was not ‘dole’ but everyone’s patriotic duty to order their dinners from communal kitchens.

Meanwhile Lord Devonport’s Cake and Pastry Order stated that there should be no sweet pastries at Regimental Institutes and Canteens, and no more than 2oz of food served at meals between 2pm and 6pm.

Breaking the rules could have severe consequences. A London grocer was fined £20 for offering a customer (a police officer in plain clothes) 1lb of sugar if he spent two shillings on other goods.

In the latest implementation of the wide-ranging a draconian Defence of the Realm Act, an order in council – a procedural device by which the government can introduce legislation without further recourse to parliament – gave the Westminster extraordinary powers over food production.

“The Food Controller is empowered to apply the provisions or Regulation 2G of the Defence of the Realm Act to factories, workshops, and other premises in which any specified article of food is manufactured or produced or adapted for sale and any such premises to which the regulations apply shall pass into the possession of the Food Controller.”

In Derbyshire, it was reported, seven local authorities had made applications for compulsory acquisition of land to form allotments.

  • 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 Warblog



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April 20, 1917

Under the headline Vicar’s Son Dangerously Wounded, came news that Lieutenant Francis St. Vincent Morris of the Royal Flying Corps had been seriously injured when his plane crashed in a blizzard.

The accident on April 10 had resulted in a broken right leg, a compound fracture of the left thigh and injuries to his head and face.

Further information had since arrived in Ashbourne informing Canon and Mrs Morris that their son had had his left leg amputated, but was ‘progressing as well as can be expected in the circumstances’.

Two photographs of men in uniform adorned the regular feature on page 3, one of whose death had been announced in the previous edition. Private T Blood of the Sherwood Foresters paid the ‘supreme sacrifice’ on March 4, while defending his position.

The other was Private Hugh Ratcliffe, a former gardener at Calwich Abbey, and son of Mr and Mrs John Ratcliffe of Stanton, who signed up with the South Staffordshire Regiment in in February 1916 and was serving in Ireland.

Whether a true report, exaggeration or pure propaganda, it is not clear, but the Ashbourne Telegraph repeated this report from the Daily Sketch:

“The booby traps which the Hun leaves behind as he retreats ‘according to plan’ are extraordinary. In a very comfortable underground dwelling one of our men noticed a wire from one of the beds. Further investigation revealed several other wires leading to bombs which would have wrecked the place if one of these beds had been sat upon.”

And the Germans’ underhand behaviour was related elsewhere, too:

“Each village that the English and French win back from German grasp tells the same story of deliberate devastation of farms carried out to a revolting degree.”

The report alleges that farming machinery was collected together and deliberated destroyed by explosives, scattering fragments over several acres.

“In every one of these farming parishes, the story is the same – fruit trees cut down, crops destroyed and livestock stolen.”

A report from France of a more uplifting kind came on the form of a report from ‘a town in France’ through which it was stated thousand of our troops passed.

“Funerals are frequent and the authorities noticed that a woman of eighty years attended every burial of a British soldier and placed a wreath upon the grave.”

Investigations revealed that the woman had been widowed by the Franco Prussian War and had her sons and grandsons in the present campaign.

“So, having lost her own men, she decided to represent the mothers of the valiant British lads who had given their lives.”

Local government has for generations witnessed political and personal posturing amid the selfless public service, and Ashbourne Urban Council witnessed some remarkable bickering from the ‘good and the great’ of the town.

The annual meeting of the council was due to re-elect for a fourth year the chairman, H Coates, JP, a move said by the proposer James Osbourne to be ‘sure to meet with the entire approval of the council, and also the entire population of the town’.

THB Bamford interrupted proceedings to suggest, instead, the appointment of JP Woodyatt, the vice chairman to the top job. He said Mr Woodyatt had been overlooked ‘for some reason or other’ during his 15 years on the council. He said Mr Woodyatt was an example to them all of ‘true patriotism’.

Mr Bamford said: “He had given all he could; one of his sons had paid the supreme sacrifice and one was now serving; Mrs Woodyatt and daughter devoted a good deal of time to war work and Mr Woodyatt himself was registered under National Service.”

He found no support for his suggestion, and Mr Coates was elected.

The paper’s reporter takes up the story:

“Responding to Mr Bamford’s remarks about the patriotism of the council he thought such comments came rather badly from him, as there were few, if any of the members doing less than he was in the national interest. He would like to ask if he had registered for National Service?

Mr Bamford: Yes. My name is first on the list.

The chairman: I apologise. Did you join the Home Guard?

Mr Bamford: No. I offered to join the Royal Fusiliers in 1914, but I was not accepted on account of my age. I decline to join the Home Guard, which I regard as a refuge for slackers.”

Mr Coates then insisted it was his privilege to nominate the vice chairman, and put Mr Bamford’s name forward. Mr Bamford countered with Mr Woodyatt’s name. “This was at once carried.”

A Hartington farmer was in court accused of watering down milk he was selling to Nuttalls cheese factory in the village.

The court heard how a food inspector had been at the factory when he saw Yates arrive with two cans of milk on a yoke. Yates saw the inspector, turned around, looking up the road to the village and was heard to say: “ I wonder what there is up yonder.” When challenged if the milk was for the factory he responded: “I’m taking it back.”

Edward Yates faced two summonses, one of adulterating his milk with 22 per cent water and a second with 12 per cent water. He denied the charges, insisting the milk was ‘just as it came from the cow’.

Analysis showed the milk was ‘exceptionally poor quality’.

The court heard that Yates had previously been fined £5 for each of four similar offences. This time he was fined £10 in each case and ordered to pay a further £4 11s in costs.

This week’s tips on saving food from the Food Controller had some handy hints for household economy. The focus of the column was meat, with suggestions on how to make the most of lean meat, skin and offal.

“Pieces which contain gristle as well as bone and give stock on boiling are economical”, the column advises.

“A sheep’s head, costing a shilling, and giving with the tongue and brain, over a pound of meat gives also stock which with the meat will make two pounds of potted meat. A whole ox head at 6s or 7s is a good purchase for large families or institutions.”

The controller, in a contemporary acknowledgment of 1917’s ‘just about managing’ families suggested: “Those who can afford it should always buy the ordinary joints and not the cheaper pieces.”

  •  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 Warblog


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April 13, 1917


Austerity has become a term much in vogue in recent years, but tough as life may be, it is doubtful that the current day Ashbourne News Telegraph would suggest money saving tips like those of 1917.

“Save Soap: The old pieces from toilet and ordinary soap should be kept by and used up. The New Zealand way, a correspondent says, is to put them in a tin which is bought for the purpose and which is perforated at the bottom. When soapy water for washing up or other purpose is required, the tin is partly immersed in hot water and whisked about so the water runs over the soap and a lather is made without there being any danger of particles of soap passing into the water.”

Helpfully the piece suggests a good substitute for buying a perforated tin was to taking an ‘ordinary treacle tin’ and make holes in the bottom with a large nail.

The Ashbourne area had endured some harsh weather conditions over the winter of 1916-17, but spring was bringing cold comfort. The Watchbox, a new column – “Being comments on local and general topics” – said Easter would be long remembered for its “extraordinary unpropitious weather”.

Following two days of piercing cold winds, Good Friday morning brought a covering of snow.

“Easter was characterised by brief but frequent and sweeping snow and hailstorms, followed by a very heavy fall in the night. It is doubtful if within living memory such wintry conditions have been known at Easter.”

The paper reproduced an old Staffordshire weather proverb referring to the last three days of March, which the author suggested must have been inspired by similar conditions.

March borrowed of April,
April borrowed of May,
Three days they say,
One rained, the second snew,
And the other was the worst day that ever blew.

It was also reported that Easter had brought extreme winter conditions to Brassington, too, where roads were covered with snow drifts several feet deep.

And rhyme continued with a patriotic military-inspired ditty entitled The Push, reprinted from the Daily Express, which ended:

“We’ve pushed ‘em orf the ‘Anker’,
We’ve pushed ‘em orf the Somme
We’ll push ‘em out o’ Belgium
Wiv bay’nit an’ wiv bomb.
We’ve pushed ‘em out o’ Bagdad
An’ into Palestine
An’ glory to the gen’ral
Who can push ‘em past the Rhine!”

Two more soldiers were pictured in this week’s photo gallery, Sergeant JH Baker and Trooper H Chadwick.

Baker, who used to live at Calwich, and worked at Ashbourne had enlisted in the Sherwood Foresters in 1910 and soon qualified for veterinary work. Among the first to be sent out to France in 1914 he saw action at Mons and the subsequent retreat, during which his squadron was told by Lord French to shoot their disabled horses and save themselves.

“In doing this they lost their convoy for some days with the result they were without food for two or three days. Sickness followed as a result and after treatment in hospital for five or six weeks he was sent to Borden Camp to instruct recruits, subsequently being sent back to France where he still is.”

Trooper Harry Chadwick, son of a Mr and Mrs Chadwick of Stanton, enlisted in the Dragoon Guards in August 1914 and was drafted out to France in May 1915, where he was still serving with a gun squadron.

There is no indication if Harry was any relation to the three Chadwick brothers, also from Stanton, who had featured in the previous week’s Ashbourne Telegraph. The paper had reported one identified only by the initials AC was serving on a battleship with the Royal Navy, another, William, had been killed in action with the Durham Light Infantry in September 18916 and a third, unidentified brother reported to be with the cavalry brigade in France.

And there was news of a promotion for LG Marple, son of magistrate JT Marple of Hulland House. Marple, who had been out in France ‘for some time’ had been promoted to 1st Lieutenant in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, and was undergoing training at Bexhill, in Sussex.

Closer to home the work of the Ashbourne Military Tribunal continued, with a further 21 applications for exemption form national service being heard.

Those from HB Greatorex, an 18-year-old wheelwright; W Webster, 23, a lorry driver from Parwich; JW Radford, 18, a waggoner; and Joseph Finnegan, 18, a milk carter were refused.

  • 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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April 6, 1917

It is not clear what prompted such optimism at the drapers CH Coates, in The Square, but the shop’s advert on Page 2 of the Ashbourne Telegraph this week in 1917 screamed:

“Prepare to celebrate the coming victory!”

Apparently they were looking forward to the Spring, which would herald victory and peace.

“When Spring comes every face will wear a smile because we shall know that the lads will soon be home”

It becomes clear that in Coates’ opinion the victory will herald a pressing need to go shopping.

“And how will we greet them? In dowdy clothes? No! It is your duty to look your best – to make all seem bright and happy – Therefore we invite you to come and inspect our new Spring stock. We have the brightest and finest Spring hats in the town and also the daintiest voiles for dresses.

Come and buy then you will at least be prepared.”

Less positive news arrived at the home of Mr and Mrs JR Mellor in Mayfield Road, Ashbourne – that their son Sergeant G Mellor had been wounded in action. A field post card from their son, announcing that he was in hospital, arrived on the day of publication. No further details were carried.

Two soldiers whose deaths had previously been reported were again featured in the columns of the newspaper, as further details were ‘to hand’.

The wife of Private Timothy Blood of the Sherwood Foresters had received, at her home in Calver, a letter from her husband’s Captain, WS West.

“The Company went into action on the morning of the 4th March, and after doing some splendid work your husband was killed outright by a piece of shell.”

He went on to describe Blood as a first rate soldier who had been very popular with everyone.

Further testimony to Blood’s qualities were contained in a second letter, this time from Private G Fogg, of Ashbourne who described Blood as his closest friend there. He tried to offer what little comfort he could to the widow.

“When he was hit, another pal, who was stretcher bearer went out to his aid, and did all he could for him, but in vain. His death was almost painless and instantaneous.”

Blood, who answered Kitchener’s call to arms with the Sherwood Foresters, was the son of Mr and Mrs Blood of Mayfield. They had two other sons serving, one of whom was in hospital with frostbite to his feet.

Another Sherwood Forester, Lance Corporal S Barker, was featured in the For King and Country column, which detailed how he had been mobilised with the Ashbourne Territorials at the outbreak of war, aged just 19.

“He was dispatched to France in February 1915, and although so young was soon recommended for promotion, and his admirable qualities would doubtless have brought him further promotion had not he met his death while gallantly defending his post against German attack,” stated the paper.

Prior to the war Barker, the only son of the late Mr Isaac Barker and Mrs Folwell of Dig Street, had been employed at James Osborne’s Chemist in St John Street.

Alongside Barker was Gunner AC Chadwick, the second son of Mr and Mrs Thomas Chadwick of Stanton. He had joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 and had served on a number of ships. One of his brothers, William had been killed in France in September 1916 while serving with the Durham Light Infantry. Another brother was reported to be in France with the Cavalry Brigade.

  • 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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