March 30, 1915 – The dead were heaped all over the place and the water in the trenches was dyed deep red

adYoung men still at home in the Market Harborough area are coming under increasing pressure to answer the call to join up.

A huge advert on the back page of the March 30, 1915, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser declares that recruits are ‘urgently wanted’ for the new 5th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (Territorials).

The advert says: “Come at once for the honour of the county, your delay is causing anxiety. Don’t let it be said that the young men of Leicestershire county cannot keep its own Territorial Regiment up to strength.”

It concludes: “Don’t wait. Your friends are already at the front. Apply at the Drill Halls at once.”

And there’s even more pressure from the editorial columns of the paper in a story headlined Recruits urgently needed.

“It was stated some weeks ago that if recruiting was not brisker in Leicestershire it would be necessary to recruit in neighbouring counties for the County Territorial regiment.

“Should this be necessary it would indeed be an ugly blot on the fair name of Leicestershire which has always had the reputation of being a ‘sporting’ county in the best sense of the word, and it is now open to the sporting instincts of her sons to see that that reputation is as worthily upheld in the serious times of war as it would be in the piping times of peace on the field of sport.”

If that kind of pressure is not enough, the young men of the district have to face even more

“There are yet dozens of young fellows in this town and district who should enlist. Nothing can be keeping them beyond the fact that they have not realised their duty to their country and county.

“Staying at home in comfort reading the war news each day, will not help England in this her hour of need to the great and glorious victory which will be achieved.”

The article goes on to suggest that any slackers will ‘prolong this terrible struggle with its awful loss of life’ and even suggests that employers should ‘point out the real facts’ to their workers. “A friendly hint in this direction goes a long way.”

The story also suggests that the British approach of voluntary enlistment may have to become conscription unless there is more support.

“We feel sure that the manhood of the nation will show to the world that in England, no compulsion is necessary.”

It’s a tough decision to make for any young man, especially as more reports of the big battle around Neuve Chapelle a few weeks ago, which claimed the lives of four local men are filtering through.

Trooper J Reading of the Northants Yeomanry, who was with Lieut Wartnaby of Clipston when he was killed in action – reported in previous editions of the Advertiser – describes the battle in a letter home, including the horrible consequences of ‘friendly fire’.

“400 guns starting firing rapidly and the noise was unrealisable. At about ten in the morning the artillery started dropping shrapnel short. Lieut Wilson, the troop officer, was killed, another mortally wounded.

“It was ten minutes before they could let the battery know and it simply rained shrapnel. It was terrible.”

Another letter from a Northampton soldier is even more graphic in describing what conditions were like in Neuve Chapelle.

“There was a terrific bombardment of the Germans by every imaginable kind of gun.

“For over an hour more than 500 guns spat out death and destruction to the Germans and the very ground trembled. Far ahead could be seen the great column of lyddite as it exploded. Within a few minutes of the order being given to advance the first trench was taken, and the second and third lines were quickly captured.

“The German trenches were in a horrible state. The dead were heaped all over the place and the water in the trenches was dyed deep red. Some of the Germans had been blown to pieces.”

If you were a young man in Market Harborough in 1915 reading this account, how would you feel about joining up?

  • 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.

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