Two weeks into The Great War and the Market Harborough Advertiser is becoming a strange beast: stories are now understandably dominated by news relating to the conflict but at the same time much of the content is comfortingly familiar.
The front page is, as usual, covered in advertisements and the dominant one is a repeat of last week’s ‘Call to Arms’ from War Secretary Lord Kitchener who shouts ‘Your King and Country Need You’.
However, the advert nestles cheek by jowl with an advert from Geo Green & Co. who has new fishing tackle and lawn tennis racquets in stock and Eady & Dulley Ltd are proud of their India Pale Ale which is ‘pure, brilliant and healthful’.
There are smaller adverts which also exhort the powers of Madam Melbe’s Velveen Cream which is ‘an ideal preparation for chapped hands’ and Horton’s Benedict Pills which ‘in a few days correct all irregularities and remove all obstructions, and also cure anaemia’.
The objective of juggling the military and the mundane is abandoned on Page 2 with a huge slice of escapism in the form of the latest instalment of Nat Gould’s chapter by chapter thriller novel ‘A Fortune at Stake’ and on Page 8 which is dominated with parochial and non-war news, mainly from the courts and council. Life goes on, even in times of emergency, and therefore one man is fined 7 shillings for riding his bike without a light and another is fined £2 for poaching – his 34th time before the magistrates on such a charge.
The Advertiser is changing in other ways too. The salacious approach of earlier months where bizarre real-life tabloid-style stories of murder, sex and intrigue from around the world were regularly included in the Advertiser’s columns have all but gone. It seems there is a sense of self-censorship being imposed in an effort not to belittle the enormity of war.
The closest to intrigue comes in the form of ‘The Spy Peril’ which is reported in various parts of the paper. In one story a British sentry was killed ‘by friendly fire’ when a suspected German spy was chased near Dulwich Station.
Although the Advertiser is always behind the news provided by the daily printing of national papers, in some ways it provides an even more important role. It still records the momentous events already published including the formal declaration of war on Austria-Hungary and fighting in Belgium, but it is also provides local news that can be found nowhere else: in fact, in many ways, the readers of the Advertiser will relate more to the news from their own doorstep than of momentous battles far away.
So it is interesting to read that three young men, married in the past few months, are now serving their country. There are brave men named as well: two sons of draper Mr J Wood, are in battleships; Mr Lindsay Smith, a son of the late Mr John Smith of Coventry Road, is on a submarine; Mr Wilfred Dunkley is on a destroyer; Dr Stott of Hallaton is a regimental surgeon to the Seaforths; and Dr Ingram of Welford, has also gone on service.
This is the kind of information service that only the local paper can provide as readers will know – or know of – the families of these men and that connection makes the story more special.
And virtually all the readers of the Advertiser can identify with the story from the town’s railway station over the weekend .
“Watching the troop trains pass through the station was quite an occupation on Sunday for a large number of people. There was a rumour on Saturday morning that members of ‘E’ Company [formed by many local men] would pass through Harborough Station and quite a few relatives of the men waited on the platform in the hope of seeing them.
“They were, however, doomed to disappointment, for on Saturday the men marched from Duffield to Derby, arriving there about 11pm.”
Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.