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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March 30, 1917

The call to arms in 1917 resulted in another Ashbourne business announcing that it would be closing its doors. An advertisement on page three of the Telegraph from J Gallimore, family butcher, announced that the premises would be closed from the end of the month.

The notice added a formal, yet personal message:

“To my customers and friends – Dear Sir (or Madam), I beg to inform you that the business of family butcher conducted by me at the address given below (Victoria Square) will after Saturday evening, March 31st next, will be closed for the duration of the war. This action has been necessitated through receiving my call to the army.

The severance of business ties with my numerous customers and friends is keenly felt by me; but I am sorry to say that under the circumstances, this is the only course I can adopt.”

The full text of a statement issued to the Press by Neville Chamberlain, Director General of National Service was published, urging readers to ‘enrol today’ during National Service Week.

“To every patriotic citizen from 18 to 61 years of age,” the statement began.

“The object of the general appeal for volunteers is to form a register of willing workers. The request is for men to sign a voluntary offer of service, so that they may be asked to undertake work of national importance, if they are wanted and when they are wanted.”

The statement makes clear that volunteers who sign the form will continue in their present work until required.

Everyone should sign up in the same way as men who had signed up for military service came from all trades and industries.

“The signing of the enrolment form imposes on the volunteer a moral obligation to keep his promise. It does not involve him in any legal consequences.”

If the volunteer is asked to work for less pay than in his normal job he may appeal and will face no penalty if he rejects a tribunal finding, says the statement, although there is a sting in the tail:

But he will have to settle with his conscience whether he is performing his duty which he owes his country.”

The Government, Chamberlain said, would pay a minimum of 25s a week, and would pass legislation to ensure agricultural workers were paid no less than 25s to ensure parity. Volunteers required to move away from home would also receive a subsistence payment of 17s 6d a week.

In case there was any doubt the statement continued:

“The Government have introduced this system of voluntary National Service in the hope of avoiding any necessity for a compulsory scheme.

The Telegraph continued its food saving tips from EL Spriggs, MD FRC on behalf of the Food Controller. Included among the advice this week:

“There is no excuse at the present time for any food whatsoever being left on the plate.”

But further economies were required and readers were exhorted to boil bones at least twice for stock. Bacon rind and all fat from dishes should be collected and melted in a jar in the oven, passed through muslin before being returned to the oven with a little water to produce clarified fat for ‘pastry, puddings and frying’.

“Bread and cake should not, in these days, be cut up beforehand, but should be cut at the table according to the needs of each person. No pieces of bread ought to be left.”

Such sensible measures were just the start:

“Breadcrumbs must not be thrown away, but dried in the oven and passed through the mining machine or crushed with the roller. They may then be used for frying, for puddings or served in minced meat or mixed with a little milk and parsley to make a stuffing for boned joints.”

A member of the Women's Land Army milking a cow. © IWM. (Q 30680)

A member of the Women’s Land Army milking a cow. © IWM. (Q 30680)

In an effort to maintain food production “hundreds of town girls” were reported to have started training for agricultural work.

“They will be provided with uniforms – high boots, breeches, overalls, a hat and serviceable dress made to measure.”

The female workforce was to earn no less than 18s a week, plus bonuses for special work and harvesting.

“A girl’s earnings above 18s a week will depend on her energy, intelligence and skill,” the Telegraph reported.

Lights were the subject of a number of cases at Ashbourne Petty Sessions. Henry Lygo, a munitions worker from Snelston and William Prime, a joiner from Cubley were each fined 7s 6d for riding their bicycles with unscreened acetylene lamps; while Harry Blackwood a Carter was fined the same sum for driving a trap without lights.

  • 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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March 23, 1917

News reached Ashbourne of the deaths of two more Sherwood Foresters this week in 1917, as the area’s roll of honour grew yet longer.

Lance Corporal S Barker, the only son of the late Mr Isaac Barker and Mrs Fowell of Dig Street, was just 19. He had been a member of the Ashbourne Territorials and was mobilised at the outbreak of war. He went to France in February 1915.

“By his cool daring and ability he gained the esteem of his officers, while his good nature made him a true comrade to all his chums,” the paper reported.

Barker was killed instantly during a German bombing raid on the Sherwoods’ position. His mother had received a letter of tribute from her son’s officer in charge.

The second casualty was Private Timothy Blood, son of Mr Blood of Mayfield, who had been killed in action in France. He had lived at Calver with his wife and family.

Two more men were featured in the For King and Country column. First was Private William Chadwick, of Stanton, who died in September 1916 while fighting with the Durham Light Infantry. He had two brothers, Gunner AC Chadwick who joined the Navy at 15 and was serving at sea, and Private Harry Chadwick of the Cavalry Brigade. Second was Private George Mellor of Bull Gap Farm Swinscoe who had worked for Mr Peach of Birdsgrove, Mayfield, before joining up in March 1916 and going to France in November with the Scottish Rifles. He was said to be ‘in good health’.

Farmers and agricultural workers were under increasing pressure to plough the fields and plant crops as the food crisis deepened.

Sir Arthur Lee, the Government’s Director General of food production appealed to ploughmen and labourers.

“In the trenches the German shells come over on Sundays as on weekdays, German submarines are just as active on Sundays as any other day. The enemy takes no holidays. He uses every hour to destroy your country and kill your brothers. Will you not work every hour from daybreak to dark, weekday and Sunday, for the next few weeks? Your work now may make just the difference between winning the war and losing it. Put in your best work.”

The Telegraph continued to report the hearings of the military tribunals. Now exemptions from service were much harder to come by than previously, and men as old as 41 were ordered to register under the National Service scheme for either the Voluntary Aid Detachment or Volunteer Training Corps.

This week the proprietor of the Ashbourne Telegraph, printer and publisher JH Henstock applied for exemption on behalf of his son, John Harold Henstock, a machine minder.

“Applicant said his son was the only man left who understood the mechanism of the machines. He had twice passed in Class B3 [suitable only for sedentary work]. Mr Turnbull [military representative] asked what had been done with regard the linotype operator for whom applicant had previously appealed at this tribunal and applicant stated that the appeals tribunal had adjourned that and other newspaper cases sine die, pending the report of a House of Commons committee which was enquiring into the question of newspaper staffs.”

The case was adjourned.

In the first such display advertisement since the start of the war, the publisher of the Ashbourne Telegraph, J H Henstock took a prime space on the front page of the paper to proclaim:

“The War and Printing: The demands on the manhood of the Nation have denuded almost every business house of its regular staffs. We have lost nearly 75 per cent of our pre-war staff, and most business houses are continuing with difficulty. We are prepared to execute orders for any class of printing, which we will deliver in as reasonable a time as possible under existing circumstances.”

Rumours of food hoarding in Wirksworth had reached the town’s Urban District Council.

“The Chairman, Mr WJ Harrison, said he had received complaints that the well-to-do people were hoarding foodstuffs. He did not think this was the case to any very great extent, but if any cases came to his notice he would endeavor to have them investigated.”

  • 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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March 16, 1917

A party of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters) near Brie, on the side of the Amiens St. Quentin (Saint-Quentin) Road, March 1917.  © IWM.  (Q 1878)

A party of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment (The Sherwood Foresters) near Brie, on the side of the Amiens St. Quentin (Saint-Quentin) Road, March 1917. © IWM. (Q 1878)

The draining of able-bodied and skilled men from agriculture to swell the ranks of the armed forces had been a topic for discussion since the early months of the war, and by 1917 it was considered by some to constitute a crisis for food production.

The Ashbourne Telegraph repeated a story from the Star newspaper, which told of a ‘scandalous’ case of wasted manpower.

“A farm hand enlisted, was severely wounded in the early days of the war, and is not fit to return to the front. But for 12 months he has been kept at an Aldershot barracks in the messroom, serving food, washing pots and scrubbing tables, all work a woman could do as well, or better. A medical board recommended he should be released back to the land, as he is a skilled horseman and worked on the land all his life, but all his applications are unavailing.”

Francis Wilson Hood, whose son Henry’s death was reported in the Ashbourne Telegraph only five weeks earlier, had a letter, to the editor of The Times reproduced in the local paper about the need for agricultural labour.

“Your advocacy of the return of all skilled ploughmen is sensible and patriotic. What is being done? Take my own case. My pre-war staff was five men, and in addition I had the help of my son. Since the war I have had to manage with two men. Since Christmas with only one – the ploughman. My son now lies in a soldier’s grave in France. I have been obliged to resign my seat on various public authorities on account of infirmity, but being a man, I hope, of a bit of courage, I am determined to carry on.”

Mr Hood, whose son Rifleman Henry Galdstone Hood was just 18 when he died of his injuries, said work on the farm had been delayed by the severe weather, yet he had received four letters from the Prime Minister urging him to grow more and cultivate every possible acre.

“Why he should send four copies – in view of his own proposals to restrict the imports of paper – is incomprehensible.”

The reader can almost hear the exasperation in the farmer’s voice as he continues:

“By the same post my only remaining man, who has been devoted to horse and ploughing since he was 16 year of age and one who is thoroughly expert, and takes control of the arable land on the farm, gets notice to appear next Tuesday for medical examination, although he was exempted nearly a year ago by the local tribunal. Two more precious days will be lost – medical examination and the appeal again. All at a very busy time! My forecast is that, due to official confusion, there will be less than ever grown.”

And Mr Hood’s letter was not he only issue of Ashbourne interest to make its way into The Thunderer and then the Ashbourne Telegraph.

A spirited defence of criticism of the decisions of Ashbourne military tribunals was made by Peverill Turnbull, the military representative, of Sandybrook Hall. In a letter to the Times, rebutting, in detail, criticism voiced by TH Bamford in the national title ten days earlier, which said a skilled agricultural worker had been ‘substituted’ by an artist and journalist. Mr Turnbull concluded:

“One is always sorry to spoil a good story, and the picture of a gentleman with flowing locks, sauntering about the farm in a velvet coat is delightful, but truth compels me to state that the substitute is a farmer’s son who has lived and worked all his life on a farm and is so engaged now. His claim to be ‘an artist and journalist’ rests on the fact that he has a certain untaught-natural ability for sketching and that he [has] occasionally written to a local paper describing what migratory birds have lately appeared. I fail to see that this incapacitates him for mowing or milking.”

It was not without irony that a ‘son of the land’ was the latest casualty to be remembered at a memorial service. Private George Wright of the Durham Light Infantry had been working in agriculture, when he volunteered in March 1915 to serve King and Country. News of his death on February 11 reached his family on March 6. The paper’s Osmaston correspondent wrote:

“He was a native of this village and after leaving the village school took up farm work, on which he was engaged when he voluntarily, with some of his village chums, joined the Derbyshire Yeomanry cavalry in March 1915, being then under 18 years of age.

“He was trained at Chatsworth, Durham, and being transferred to the Durham Light Infantry he went away to France in September last.”

Apparently young Private Wright had been taken ill and was for a time sick in hospital before recovering sufficiently to be sent back to the fighting line. He died six weeks short of his 20th birthday on April 27th.

After the service at Osmaston Parish Church, attended by family and friends, the Last Post was sounded by Mr W Wibberley.

Pressure was mounting for able-bodied men to volunteer for national service.

“At the Ashbourne Urban Tribunal last Monday the chairman pointed out that exemptions had been granted to men subject to their joining the Volunteer Training Corps or the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross. It had come to their knowledge, he said, that some men were not attending these duties as they should do, and it must be clearly understood that unless they put in their drills regularly they rendered themselves liable to be summoned before the tribunal when their certificate might be withdrawn. ‘We are not granting exemptions to make men richer’, he said.”

The question of food allowances continued to feature in the paper’s columns. This week there was a brief report of a women workers’ conference in Westminster being told that the weekly meat allowance was more than the poor could afford, yet the bread allowance was too small. They called on the Government to take over the supply of milk and to set up municipal kitchens and improve the distribution of sugar.

The Raleigh Cycle Company of Nottingham was a regular advertiser in the Telegraph, and this week their promotion was in conjunction with stockists Kennedy and Co, of Ashbourne. The Raleigh ‘All-Steel’ bicycle boasted “Dunlop tyres and Sturmey-Archer three-speed gears” which, the advert claimed made it “better than other bicycles”.

Prices for this king of the road started at £7 10s, rising to £14 14s, although it was not stated what features the more expensive machine boasted. But the company was convinced of its build-quality:

“Every Raleigh carries a unique Guarantee for Ever. Not, as in other bicycles, for a limited period, but For Ever. Moreover the Raleigh Guarantee is in force all over the world, so that wherever you take your bicycle you are covered. This unequalled guarantee is only possible by the special qualities and construction of the Raleigh.”

  • 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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March 9, 1917

Ammunition limbers of 35th Field Battery, Royal Field Artillery, passing a corner of the shattered Delville Wood, 17th September 1916. Copyright: © Imperial War Museum Q 1211

Battle of the Somme: Ammunition limbers of 35th Field Battery, Royal Field Artillery, passing a corner of the shattered Delville Wood, 17th September 1916. © Imperial War Museum Q 1211


Yet another Ashbourne soldier’s death was recorded in the columns of the Telegraph this week in 1917 but, unlike so many before him, Bombardier Wilfred Jones was the victim not of enemy fire, but ‘spotted fever’.

Jones, who was serving with the Royal Field Artillery at the time of his death in France, was just 23, but had seen action in some of the fiercest battles during his 17 months on the Western Front, including Neuve Chapelle , the Somme, Guillemont, Loos and Ypres.

He had been home to Derbyshire for leave in January and had only been returned to duty five weeks before his death from cerebal spinal meningitis.

Before the war Jones, son of Mr George Jones of Upper Mayfield, had spent three years with the Ashbourne Territorials, only resigning when he left home for a job in Ripley. He rejoined in August 1914 and had been drafted to France a year later.

The estate of farmer Thomas Orme was to be auctioned at the Green Man Hotel, Ashbourne, by Cumberland Brown and Page in conjunction with WS Bagshaw and Sons.

No date had yet been set for the sale, but an early announcement featured prominently on the front page of the Telegraph, in anticipation of much interest from potential buyers.

The principal lot was to be ‘the valuable residence and grounds’ known as The Firs, Derby Road. Also going under the hammer were two villa residences and building land in Green Road, a shop in St John Street, cottages in Derby Road, Compton and Low Top, together with a house and schoolrooms standing to the east of St John’s Church.

The late Mr Orme also owned ‘five enclosures of accommodation or building land’ in Windmill Lane, ‘four enclosures of garden allotments’ in Old Hill, Windmill Lane and Green Road and ‘six conveniently situated smallholdings’ in the parishes of Ashbourne, Sturston, Clifton, Hartington and Stanton.

The auction notice concluded with details of other possessions, including ‘several parcels of land in and around Ashbourne’, and shares in tithes and rents from land in the parishes of Bradbourne and others.

Ashbourne Volunteer Company orders were regularly printed in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph. In recent months these had largely been to report for drill practice, but this week Platoons nine and ten were to attend a ‘bombing lecture and throwing practice’ on March 12, ‘bayonet fighting’ three days later followed by ‘musketry and drill’.

The paper reported, without headline or preamble a new weapon to protect the British public from air attacks by German aircraft.

“An invention has been designed for the destruction of Zeppelin balloons by aeroplanes. It consists of a steel dart fitted at its rear with a fish-hook style projection. The dart is hollow, and contains an explosive which burns with a fierce, sharp flame.

When such a dart is dropped from an aeroplane upon a Zeppelin or other gas balloon the hooks catch in the fabric after the point of the dart has pierced it, and the explosive charge is ignited by the pulling backward of a friction detonator. As the explosion takes place inside the gasbag, its effects are expected to be disastrous.”

Ashbourne War Work Party, a group of women in the town was reported to have made 400 garments for the British Army in the past year. In addition to donating the labour they had covered the cost of all materials as well.

“Seventy-six garments were given to the Ashbourne Christmas Parcels, the rest were sent to the county depot of the Red Cross Society.”

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March 2, 1917

A stretcher bearer party of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment stand on a road in Fonquevillers, March 1917. All are wearing their steel helmets and carry their box respirators around their necks. Imperial War Museum Q1643

A stretcher bearer party of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment stand on a road in Fonquevillers, Pas-de-Calais, March 1917. All are wearing their steel helmets and carry their box respirators around their necks.
Imperial War Museum Q1643

For a second week the subject of food dominated much of the editorial space in the Ashbourne Telegraph as March heralded the start of spring.

The paper repeated a claim published in Country Life magazine that breakfasts of porridge and milk, ‘although widely advocated’, had ‘fallen into disrepute’.

“His Majesty’s horses on all parts of the front, and at home, are consuming such enormous quantities of oats that the price of oatmeal has become almost prohibitive.”

The piece said oats were now more expensive than flour, and milk prices were higher than ever before.

In a clear dig at the Food Controller appointed by the Government, the writer said: “It is strange that those who claim to be food advisers continue to preach the economy of using oatmeal, apparently without taking the trouble to find out how much it costs.”

Ironically the Telegraph had dedicated the front page editorial section to the Food Controller for the second installment of Food and How To Save It, an instructional series, this week explaining the calorific content of protein, carbohydrates and fat.

After a lengthy explanation, more suited to the classroom than a local newspaper the Food Controller suggested three daily menus, respectively, for labourers, ‘light working’ men, and businessmen and women doing ‘steady work’. The latter diet of 2,800 calories was ‘ample’.

  • Breakfast: An ounce of porridge, an egg or three ounces of fish, coffee, half a pint of milk and half an ounce of butter or margarine and half an ounce of sugar.
  • Lunch (or dinner): Four ounces of meat, six ounces of potatoes, or one and a half of rice, five ounces of milk pudding or four ounces of stewed fruit.
  • Tea: Two ounces of bread, one ounce of biscuit, one ounce of butter or margarine four ounces of milk, tea and half an ounce of sugar.
  • Supper (or lunch): Six ounces of fish, four ounces of vegetables three ounces of bread, two ounces of cheese, one egg, in custard and a four-ounce apple.

On page 2 readers were informed:

“The young fronds of bracken, cooked and served like asparagus make an excellent green vegetable course.”

And in an extract from the Pall Mall Gazette there was reference to ‘aliens’ – refugees fleeing the continental conflict – in terms not dissimilar to the arguments currently being debated as part of the UK’s plan to leave the European Union.

“I hear the attention of the Food Controller is being called to the depletion of our essential supplies by aliens who are flocking, temporarily and permanently to our shores.”

“The evil is aggravated in some of the larger ports where in many cases hundreds of men whose boats are held up through delays in clearance are invariably to be found. These neutrals ‘do themselves well’. They are under no obligation, moral or practical, to obey the Food Controller’s stern injunction to conserves supplies by frugality. Nor do they do so.”

Meanwhile in Snelstone:

“Strenuous efforts are being made in this parish towards increasing the food supply: most of the farmers are ploughing up some old turf land, the Rector taking the lead by sacrificing his tennis lawn for the purpose of producing potatoes.”

Other alternative sources of food were also being suggested. The Board of Agriculture was reported to have issued a leaflet advising on the production of parsnips.

“The food value of the parsnip, it I stated, is about four fifths that of potatoes. Since, therefore, difficulty might be experienced in obtaining sufficient seed potatoes during the coming spring, parsnips might be grown as a partial substitute.”

The Telegraph reported that the Parliamentary Food Secretary Captain Charles Bathurst had declared: “Hoarding food is nothing less than a crime at the present time, and I do not hesitate to say that if the Food Controller tales action to put a stop to such selfish cruelty the penalties will be very severe and will bring open shame on the delinquents.”

Whether ‘fake news’ from the propaganda machine in Whitehall or a genuine story, food was also the subject of international interest.

“A German scientist, Professor Juckenack of Berlin, claims to have prepared a new kind of bread, made principally of carrots. The dough is orange-coloured. The crust is quite black. Taste and smell are described as ‘bearable’.”

News reached the Ashbourne home of Mr and Mrs Harding that a second of their sons had been killed in action. Private Rowland Harding, of the King’s Own Lancashire Regiment, had been fatally wounded in Mesopotamia on February 9 and his death was notified to his brother, who in turn wrote to his parents.

“A pathetic feature is the fact that by the same post Mr Harding received a letter from Rowland himself under the date of January 10, in which he stated that he was quite well and that he had not much news except that they were slogging away at the Turks.”

Harding, who was 25, had previously been apprenticed to W Smith and Son, coachbuilders in Ashbourne before moving first to Mansfield and then London. He enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters and had seen action in France before being invalided home. He was then transferred to the King’s Own Lancashire Regiment and drafted to Mesoptamia.

Mr and Mrs Harding lost their son Arthur, of the Sherwood Foresters, in September 1915. They had two other sons also serving.

Another soldiers death was also announced; that of Private WT Coxon, the eldest son on Mr William Coxon of Sturston and Mrs Philips of St John Street. Coxon had emigrated to Australia and was working in new South Wales when he answered the call to arms in 1916. He embarked for France from England on September 9. He had three brothers serving.

Featured alongside Private Coxon was Private Charles Braddock, one of four sons of Mr and Mrs Braddock of Pales Farm, Calton. He had volunteered for service and had seen fighting on the Western Front.

Despite all the privations at home, and the gallantry and suffering of soldiers abroad, the commercial imperative was such that editorial space was given over to spoof news stories, promoting medicinal products.

British Soldier’s Remarkable Endurance, reads the headline. Below was told the tale of Sergeant H Byrne of the 44th Royal Engineers. Apparently he was in constant pain in hospital for 42 days but was quoted as saying: “I did not improve until I took the first box of Baker’s Backache Pellets.” The item concluded with details of the Ashbourne stockist where the cure for ‘backache, lumbago, sciatica, rheumatism, gravel, dizziness, dropsy and all kidney troubles’ could be bought.

The proprietor of the Ashbourne Telegraph was facing tough times himself, if a news report of a meeting of the committee of the Newspaper Press Fund was to be believed.

Lord Burnham told the annual meeting that the coming period was ‘most serious’ for newspapers owing to paper restrictions’.

“He feared it would be a hard job for some newspapers to keep going at all.”

Lord Burnham, owner of the Daily Telegraph, said newspapers had suffered more than any other trade in the country, having seen prices of cost of the raw material for paper production rise by up to 400 per cent since the start of the war.

  • 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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February 23, 1917

Food, or rather the shortage of it, was a recurring theme in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph in early 1917, reflecting the national picture which had seen the Government appoint a Food Controller.

Lord Devonport, officially the Minister of Food Control was appointed in December of 2016 as the continued sinking of merchant shipping restricted imports, which amounted to 60 per cent of England’s food supplies.

Among the news items on the subject this week was a report which stated the Roman Catholic Cardinal Bourne declaring that it was the duty of Catholics to abstain from meat, although clergy were granted wide ranging powers to give dispensations to munitions workers and others ‘not able to obtain suitable abstinence food’.

Elsewhere it was reported that the Yorkshire Wild Birds’ Protection Society had urged Lord Devonport to commandeer all gulls’ eggs laid n 2017.

“In the course of two or three months there will be millions of eggs, and they can be collected with such facility on Farne island, The Scilly Isles, in the Lincolnshire and Lancashire gulleries and in Scotland.”

The society suggested the eggs could be sold at markets for 1d each.

Other imaginative ways of making food go further were being explored:

“With the food shortage, café carvers are studying how to cut the joint so that it will make more portions, but they have a long way to go before they can equal the experts who cut the ham at Vauxhall Gardens, who were able to produce slices so miraculously thin that enough to cover the whole of the gardens could be cut from one single ham.”

Other snippets included news that Welsh schoolboys were to grow potatoes, with the intention of producing them at half the cost of buying them; that pupils at Eton School had been told they were to go on ‘war rations’ for bread meat and sugar and that ‘tuck shops’ had ben requested not to supply the boys with food in breach of these rules – such as cakes, biscuits, rolls, and scones. Only chocolate and fruit were to be permitted.

Such was the concern over food waste that the editor had decided to publish the first of a ‘series of short articles’ at the request of the Food Controller on ‘Food and How to Save It’. The front page editorial slot was taken by a lengthy explanation of the role of food in human physiology and suggestions on how to plan menus.

“We are asked by the food controller not to use more than 212 pounds [of meat] per head per week on average. This will mean more for a man, less for a child. An ordinary man, not doing heavy muscular work, will keep within his share if he takes 4 ounces of butcher’s meat or less a day, and 2 ounces of bacon at breakfast, these quantities being before cooking. At a third meal he may take fish or cheese instead of meat. Again he may save bread or flour by taking porridge at breakfast, potato with his meat at dinner and using as much rice pudding or similar as possible.”

Shrovetide Football was played for the third year under war conditions, and the Ashbourne Telegraph had a ‘full report of two days’ play’.

“There were many familiar faces absent, those who have rarely failed to attend a ‘turn up’ of the first ball of the season. The majority of the regular players are serving their country and are engaged in a more serious game than the one they love so well and many thoughts on their behalf were expressed during the progress of the play.”

Despite missing the men serving overseas, and the agricultural workers unable to leave their roles, due to the shortage of labour, the game was played ‘in much the same way as in previous years’.

The reporter noted that after the ball moved at a ‘merry pace’ along Compton in the hands of the Downwards, the Upwards turned it around and a ‘short but stern struggle ensued’.

“Amongst those in the thick of it were noticed Messrs J Harrison, W Barnes, WC Tomlinson, WH Wibberley, J Northwood, W Marsden, Sergt W Wibberley (who had got leave from Bordon Camp to be present), Private C Howard, S Sowter, J Sowter, H Sowter, C Ward, C Grime, Purdy ‘China’ Wibberley, J Hoptroff, Private T Fearn &c.”

This list presumably came to an end as: “Suddenly the play opened out and ball was played swiftly up Compton and around into Station Street.”

And it was here that it was picked up by Herbert Sowter “known to his chums as ‘Peter’”.

“He made off with it and gaining the railway lines ran with it to Clifton, where he goaled it thirty-five minutes after it was turned up – a record.”

‘Considerable interest’ was being aroused by the building of a German prisoner of war camp in the Peak District, which the paper stated would ‘resemble a village’.

“An extensive area of land has been acquired on which an army of workmen are now engaged in the erection of a camp for German prisoners of war. The buildings will be timber erections with every convenience, and the extent of the camp may be imagined when it is stated that about two hundred men are to be interred there. Work will be found for them in the adjoining extensive stone quarries.”

Although no location was given – it would have been prohibited under the Defence of the Realm Act – there is little doubt that any such development would have been a poorly kept secret in the locality.

  • 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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February 16, 1917

The war had an impact on every business in Ashbourne. In February 1917 Dixons announced that "Owing to be called up for military service" all stock was to be cleared.

The war had an impact on every business in Ashbourne. In February 1917 Dixons announced that “Owing to be called up for military service” all stock was to be cleared.

The village correspondents contributing to the News of the District column on the back pages of the Ashbourne Telegraph routinely reported on community activities such as whist drives, and dances, but also had the task of relating the various fortunes of servicemen with families in their local communities.

Osmaston’s correspondent this week reported that Osmaston Manor Estate’s head keeper, Mr Afleck’s brother had been killed on the Western Front, while Swinscoe’s writer told of the funeral of Private Herman Robotham, who had been the ‘chief support’ for his widowed mother until he was called up for service just three weeks earlier.

He had been in training at Brocton Camp, Staffordshire, where he contracted pneumonia and died.

Another soldier who had undergone initial training at Brocton, Private MW Baker was featured in the For King and Country feature. Baker, who joined the Sherwood Foresters in April of 1916 had been sent to France in August and fatally wounded in October. Other details were scant.

Featured alongside Private Baker was Corporal George Braddock, one of four sons of Mr and Mrs Alfred Braddock of Pales Farm, Calton, enlisted with the army. He and his brother Alfred signed up to the Australian Contingent and were drafted initially to Egypt and then France.

Once again the Parish Church was crowded for a memorial service to Ashbourne men killed in action. This week the congregation remembered Gunner Walter Sellers of the Royal Garrison Artillery, Private John Brown of the Sherwood Foresters and Neville Massey, of the Highland Light Infantry.

The Volunteer Training Corps assembled in the Market Place and were led by the Old Volunteer Band to the church.

Popular culture would write of ‘Lions Led by Donkeys’, suggesting that the fearless British infantryman fought bravely, but were routinely sent to their death by incompetent officers. History indicates that this was far from the truth, and this week in 1917 the Telegraph reported that the House of Lords had been told by Lord Curzon that six Peers had been killed in action, 120 sons of Peers, 62 heirs to peerages and eight peerages were in danger of extinction.

The great sacrifice made by the families of Ashbourne and District were summed up on the front page of the paper, as the editor continued to find space for a mixture of news and comment amid the auction sale notices and advertisements for cold cures and lamp oils.

“When the history of the great war comes to be written it will be found that our particular district in the heart of the midlands did its duty to the utmost of its ability. At the first thrill of war men poured from the fields and factories in the neighbourhood in larger proportion to many others; later when the Derby Scheme was launched another great exodus took place and since the operation of the Compulsion Act there has been still a further drain on our manhood.”

The Victory Loan scheme, in which local authorities, businesses and individuals were encouraged to invest – in return for a promise of generous interest – was very much a hot topic. The editor noted that earlier in the week the Urban Council had agreed to invest £500, and when added to the money from the Rural Council, the Board of Guardians and Mayfield Rural Council the total added up to £4,100. He said it was not only a sound investment, but a duty.

“If local authorities do not invest they cannot blame individuals who do not invest. Preaching is of little value without practice and example is better than precept; and the example of the local authorities mentioned will do more to inspire the confidence of the residents within their borders than any amount of patriotic speeches at meetings convened for the purpose.”

One topic which had been exercising the folk of Ashbourne in recent weeks had been the proposal to convert the Ashbourne Hall Hotel into an isolation hospital. The Urban Council had been riven as members questioned some of their colleagues on the Joint Hospital Board, who had already agreed to buy the hotel from the estate of its former owner Mr Holland. Such rancour had been inspired that the operation of the council had effectively been suspended until the matter had been considered by the Local Government Board.

The topic had come to a head this week when it was announced that the Board ‘did not advocate’ the isolation hospital scheme.

The editor observed: “The trustees of the late Mr WR Holland have released [the Joint Hospital Board] from their contract, and in view of the strong opposition to the scheme shown in town it is a good thing that this acrimonious controversy has ended.”

  • 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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February 9, 1917

Ashbourne was in the grip of snow and ice – a cold snap that was showing now sign of a thaw.

“It is many years since Ashbourne experienced such a severe spell of winter as we are experiencing now, for it is a long time since Compton Brook, or to give it its proper name, the Henmore was frozen over,” the Telegraph observed,

Many rural routes were almost impassable with sharp frosts followed by snow causing hard rough road surfaces.

But conditions had been worse – the writer recalled a winter when not only was there skating on the frozen Henmore, but a sheep was roasted on it.

And skating was proving a popular distraction for those prevented from travelling far in 1917.

“During the severe weather large numbers have seized the opportunity of a little skating, a pastime which has become somewhat rare in this district. It is many years since we have had such a long spell as the present and many have dived into the innermost recesses of their household to recover once more their old favourite skates, which have lain dormant for so long.”

Some of the icy surfaces being used by skaters were: the fishpond in the park, Osmaston Manor lake, and Snelston Hall lake at Stanton, where there was a 3d charge in aid of the Ashbourne Cottage Hospital.

The hard weather was reportedly responsible for some rare visitors to the skies over Derbyshire; several sea gulls were said to have been witnessed flying over Derby, apparently driven inland by the harsh weather.

The persecution of birds of prey remains a problem across the UK, but in the early years of the last century one of 21st-century Derbyshire’s most popular birds was a rare sight indeed.

“Another rare visitor is reported to have been seen in the neighbourhood of Dovedale, this being a buzzard. The local farmers refrained from shooting it, but it was discovered lying dead, one day having apparently eaten something of a poisonous nature. Residents declare it is about twenty years since one of these birds was seen in the Dovedale District.”

The deaths of two more servicemen were reported in the columns of the Ashbourne Telegraph, those of Private Neville Massey and Rifleman Henry Hood.

Massey, the youngest son of Mr Joseph Massey of Station Street, and formerly employed by Mr J Hilton, had been reported missing in October, and officially reported to his family as killed as January drew to a close. Massey was with the 2nd Highland Light Infantry and aged just 22. He had two brothers also serving, Harold, a Driver with the Royal Field Artillery and Joseph, a Private with the Sherwood Foresters.

Hood was the grandson of Mr Henry Hood of Rose Cottage, Ashbourne. Aged just 18 he had been serving with the Rifle Brigade when he was injured on January 22, dying two days later in hospital in Amiens.

And there was a tragic death closer to home – this time of six-year-old Harrriet Harlow, daughter of Mr and Mrs James Harlow of Lumbard’s yard, Compton.

“The mother, it appears, went out to make some purchases in the morning leaving the girl with two younger children in the house. Shortly afterwards the neighbours heard her screaming and on entering the house found the poor child all in flames.”

Despite the neighbours’ best efforts to extinguish the flames and to take Harriet to the cottage hospital it was found that her wounds were ‘of a terrible nature’ and she died the same afternoon.

Alongside the brief news item the Telegraph carried a report of the inquest held on the morning of publication.

Harriet’s mother, Mary Ellen, told the coroner that she had left her daughter in the house with two other children, one aged two and the other 14 months old, whom she was nursing while their mothers were at work. She had only been out of the house for 10 minutes and when she returned she found her neighbours ministering to her daughter.

“She was quite conscious and told her mother that she was getting on a chair when her pinafore caught fire.”

She told the inquest that if she were to continue to take in nurse children she would get a fireguard.

Shorthand has always been – and still is – an essential skill for the professional reporter. In 1917 it was still taught to a non-journalistic audience, for would-be secretaries for instance, and from time to time the paper would record the names of those who had passed their exams.

And it was on the topic of shorthand that the paper ran a political ‘sketch’:

“The fountain pens of shorthand writers are always busy when Mr Lloyd George delivers a speech. But although verbatim reports are taken, in the transcription, two words used by he orator do not find a place. They are ‘Well now’ – a phrase for which the prime minister is in the habit of prefixing his sentences.”

  • 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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