June 15, 1915 – the Harborough woman left with no husband to help bring up their child


There is plenty of war news in the June 15 edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser for 1915 readers. Equally there are plenty of signs that for those left at home – men, women and children – it is business as usual.

There is the sad news of another Harborough soldier killed in action. Private H Whittle was not a callow youth – he was 37 years old and had a wife and child living in Bowling Green Place in Market Harborough.

The story is sourced from a letter from her husband’s Commanding Officer who says: “It is with the greatest possible sorrow that I now write to tell you that your husband was killed yesterday by a shell.

“He was universally held in great respect by Officers and men alike, and the other Officers who knew him wish to join me in expressing great sympathy for your loss.”

By the end of the war there will be hundreds of these type of stories but even less than a year into the conflict it warrants only 28 lines of editorial with the simple headline ‘Harborian killed in action’.

There are also numerous other war stories – mainly from official sources like the Press Bureau, which is the Army’s own propaganda news service. There are accounts of fighting from Ypres and Gallipoli, successes of sinking German submarines and blowing up an enemy airship, as well as announcements from the great and the good like War Secretary Kitchener and Munitions Minister Lloyd George.

But reading the eight pages of this edition leaves the impression that everyone is getting on with life.


On the front page, which is of course filled with display adverts, there’s news that lawn tennis racquets are now in stock at Geo Green and Co, the athletic outfitters on High Street and St Mary’s Road.

There’s the customary advert from the County Electric Palace cinema – always in the same position (bottom left). There are plenty of comedies showing this week including Mabel’s Latest Prank and a ‘powerful emotional drama’ entitled The Penalty of Beauty.

There are more exhortations of what to do with your leisure time: Market Harborough Urban District Council has placed its weekly advert for swimming times at the public baths and The Market Harborough Public Pleasure Resort on Northampton Road has the St Alban’s Orchestra providing the music for dancing on the lawn on Thursday next.


There are also constant reminders of what to eat and buy: one advert claims ‘there is no dish more enjoyable and certainly none more wholesome than stewed in fruits in season with plenty of creamy Bird’s Custard’; and the Pure Dairy Supply Company on High Street assures all customers ‘that for several years all the cows from which their daily supplies are obtainable are examined by a veterinary surgeon in order to obtain a pure milk supply’.

Cows and custard seem a long way from the trenches where Private Whittle was killed by a shell but it demonstrates that for the people of Market Harborough they had to live – and die – side by side.

  • 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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