In the week when conscription finally became a reality for Britain’s young single men, the Market Harborough Advertiser has tracked down a scoop that shows one record-breaking family that has led the way in joining up.
The January 11, 1916, edition proudly describes how 13 men from the Bury family in Market Harborough were ‘serving with the colours’.
The story says: “The record is, we think, one which will be very hard to beat anywhere, for it is a remarkable example of the patriotism of the members of one family.”
The editor is clearly a man with news sense because he goes to town on the presentation of the story as well.
Not only is the headline displayed in a larger point size than any other story in the paper, the editor has forsaken the normal single column width and set the words across three columns to give it extra emphasis.
And that’s not all. There is a photograph of every single one of the men, all displayed neatly in exactly same size picture frame, with consistently-styled captions underneath them all.
The pictures are separated into family branch units with the first group showing Private F Bury of Market Harborough and his five brothers; in the second group are the four brothers of his wife; and the third group are her three cousins.
The story states: “All have lived at one time or another in Market Harborough and the majority of them have their homes in Market Harborough at the present time.”
It’s a remarkable achievement for a small town newspaper editor, especially in such a historic week.
The paper goes into some detail of the announcement in a crowded House of Commons of what it calls ‘compulsion for the single slackers’.
In a nutshell, it meant that all single men aged between 18 and 41were to be conscripted into the services although there a number of exceptions which were also listed in much detail.
And there is still plenty of room for other incredible tales from the front. Private Percy Palmer, whose parents run the Talbot Hotel on the High Street (now Wildwood Restaurant), describes in horrific detail how he witnessed the slaughter of many of his comrades.
He says: “The Germans exploded three mines on our front, between the first and support lines. As the trenches were packed with the two lots of men all they could do was to stand still and watch the huge lumps of earth and sandbags come thundering down.
“Men were buried alive and others crushed to death. The Machine-Gun-Seargt was blown to bits at the beginning.
“The Germans stood on their parapets and watched the murder going on. When the last mine had settled down they rained shell after shell on our battered lines.”
He goes on: “Our platoon has had two doses of gas in the three days. I have come to the conclusion that the gas helmet is as good a friend as the rifle, if not better, after seeing the poor beggars being dragged out.”
And there is another report written by ‘a Northampton Press Representative’ who conducted a face-to-face interview with Capt Edgar Mobbs, leader of ‘Mobb’s Own’ company, which includes many Harborough men.
The lengthy story includes one poignant detail. “A sad but interesting piece of information is that at Vermozelle – practically only the ruins of the Church remains now – a piece of land has been marked off as the cemetery for the Seventh Northants and here the fallen have been properly buried.
“A Perrier bottle with the name, regimental number and nature of the death, will help friends when the time arrives to identify the graves.”
Sadly, this will of course, not be for at least several years yet.
- 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.