There is a different feel to the November 10, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.
Despite some lone voices in previous weeks that seem to be questioning the logic of enlisting, this edition takes an almost workmanlike approach to dealing with the inevitable consequences of war.
That means for the first time that there is an overwhelming emphasis on reports about men who have died, been wounded or taken prisoner.
- Private O Wignall, whose ‘parents live in market Harborough’ is recovering well in a French hospital after being wounded in the battle of Aisne on September 14.
- Lieut A G Murray Smith of Gumley Hall is also recovering after being seriously wounded at the Battle of the Rivers but has been taken prisoner by the Germans.
- There are also deaths to report. Private Geo Spriggs, whose father works for the Urban Council, has died as ‘the result of wounds received in action’.
- One of the local postmen Mr J Grainger of Bath Street, Market Harborough, is feared lost after his ship the HMS Good Hope was sunk in action off the coast of South America.
- Lieut Edward Leatham of Thorpe Lubenham Hall is reported as being killed in action near Ypres on October 31 and Major the Hon Hugh Dawnay of Dingley Hall is also reported dead although no particulars of the circumstances are available to the 1914 readers of the Advertiser.
And there is also news of the death of Capt C Banbury. The report does not include any mention of his home so he probably does not come from the Market Harborough area. However, readers would have been interested because of the circumstances of his death.
“It appears that the Germans hoisted the white flag and had a body of infantry in concealment so that when out men advanced on seeing the white flag they were exposed to oblique fire of this body,” says the report.
This may be propaganda from the Press Bureau, the professional spin doctors set up by the Government to regulate ‘patriotic’ news for the British public. However, there is similar anti-German sentiment from a more reliable home-grown source in the shape of Private J Satchell who has written to his parents in Braybrooke.
He says: “I don’t think the war will last long for men we capture as prisoner say they are starved and some also state when they were called up they thought they were going on manoeuvres and did not think they had got to fight the English.”
His letter continues: “The German officers do their own cooking for fear of their food being poisoned. In one place we went to the dead bodies of Germans were piled up to protect those left fighting.”
He concludes with patriotic – but with hindsight – misguided optimism: “We are now getting on towards to Berlin.”
News enclosed in another letter from the Front is also reported. This one comes from Mr Louis Shattock ‘who may be remembered as one of the Motor Scouts of the District’. He is also staunchly patriotic.
“Their trenches stink with the dead. They have had more than they reckoned with from the ‘contemptible little Army’ and they don’t like cold steel.
However, he concludes in a less optimistic tone than the Advertiser’s other source. “I don’t think we shall be home this side of Christmas, they [the Germans] have such a devil of a crowd.”
There is also one other remarkable story about the war in this edition. Store owners Messrs Shindler and Douglas, who are compiling a list of those who are serving in the forces, provide a breakdown of where the local young men come from.
The story notes that 1,139 men from Market Harborough and nearby villages are on war service. Therea re even percentage breakdowns of the figures and for instance there are nearly seven percent of the men from the town serving in the forces.
That breaks down to an even more chilling figure when the percentage is worked out from men aged 18 to 30. “This works out at the excellent proportion of 37.4 per cent,” says the report.
There is no similar breakdown for the villages because the exact numbers are unkown however the report says ‘we have no doubt the result would be surprising [as] the male population of villages being in many cases very small’.
- Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.
- My fellow researcher and De Montfort University colleague David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.