Bands and joy as our war prisoners come marching home...
David Penman looks at the headline stories in the Ashbourne Telegraph 100 years ago
DECEMBER 6, 1918 ONE by one, Ashbourne’s Prisoners of War began to return home – and each was greeted with enthusiasm as they stepped off the train.
“On Friday evening, Pte Pegge, of Clifton, was met at the station by the bugle band and a large assembly of parishioners and friends.”
There were short speeches and rousing cheers. “On Saturday Sergt R Taylor of the ‘Pals’ Manchester Regiment arrived and was met at the station by the bugle band and the [POW] committee representatives. He was escorted in procession to the Market Place where ,on the balcony of the Town Hall, Mr JP Wooyatt and Mr AA Willmott expressed the pleasure it afforded the residents to have prisoners back at their own homes.”
On Monday it had been Private Bertram Plant of the North Staffs Regiment, whose home was in Union Street. He received a welcome party and was cheered by wounded soldiers at the Red Cross Hospital.
On Tuesday, Private F Edge, of Green Road, and Private James Renshaw, of Mappleton, arrived. Renshaw had been in the reserves when war broke out and was recalled to his regiment. He took part in some of the early engagements but had been a German prisoner since October 1914.
The signing of the Armistice did not bring peace to all. Mr George Moon had received official notification that his son, Private John Moon, of the Sherwood Foresters, had been killed in action on October 3. Moon, who had been employed with Potter’s Corn Merchants, enlisted soon after the outbreak of war and took part in the Suvla Bay landings on the Gallipoli peninsula, later transferring to France.
“Pte Moon, who was 24, has two other brothers in the army, while his father has also served in the forces for over three years.”
The Moreton family of Mayfield had official notice that their younger son Albert had been killed in action. “No news had been heard of him since March, despite exhaustive enquiries by his parents. A returning prisoner of war said he had been killed, but they kept hoping this would prove untrue.”
The family was told Albert had been killed on March 21, the first day of the German Offensive which saw them push back the allied forces. He had been serving with the 2/5th North Staffordshire Regiment. He was just 20 years old. “His death is sad, cutting short a life so full of promise, and is deeply deplored by his large circle of friends. The only consolation is found in the gallantry of this young life, and the heroism and sense of duty with which he faced the enemy, and the glorious cause for which he died.”
He enlisted in January 1916, was sent first to Ireland and then drafted to France in February 1917. He had worked in the gardens of Mayfield House.
A large congregation gathered in Shirley Parish Church for a memorial service to three men who had been killed in France: Private George Gilman, Rifleman Reginald Maskery and Private Charles Green.
Bayliss Brothers of St John Street announced The Victory Christmas in a large display advertisement on the front page of the Ashbourne Telegraph to promote its stock of ‘Toys, Games, Fancy Goods’ of ‘quality unsurpassed’ and at ‘prices reasonable.’ They promised a showroom displaying the largest and best ranges seen in Derbyshire. And there was patriotism too:
“Dolls! Dolls! Dolls! An exquisite stock of dressed and undressed dolls. Another success for the Allies. British and French production. Lifelike and pleasing in every detail.”
For the boys there were mechanical and wooden toys, claimed to be ‘both educative and amusing.’ Continuing their theme the store proclaimed: “The Pipe of Peace. The Armistice has been signed, and with it comes the Dawn of Peace; without Bayliss Brothers’ tobaccos, cigars and cigarettes your contentment and peace cannot be complete.”
Spanish Flu was sweeping the county. There had been four more deaths in Middleton-by-wirksworth, all young people. Almost every household was said to have a patient.
Ashbourne Rural Council heard from medical officer for health, Dr HH Hollick that 16 deaths in the district had been attibuted to the flu.
According to Colonel John Gretton, the Parliamentary Election coalition candidate in Burton-on-trent British public houses should be reformed along the lines of the continental café.
“Men on their return from the front would look for something better than mere drinking dens.”
●David Penman is a senior lecturer in journalism at De Montfort University, Leicester. You can read more of his weekby-week analysis of the Ashbourne Telegraph in his searchable weekly blog at greatwarreports.wordpress.com