July 10, 1917 – How much grief can one Great War family take?

military medal

A husband and wife from Great Bowden who have seen all five of their sons don the army khaki have had their worst nightmares come true, according to the July 10, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The Pritchards of Leicester Lane have learned that their 23-year-old son James, who had only recently been awarded the Military Medal for bravery, has been killed in action.

The death of the Machine Gun Corps sergeant was ‘instantaneous’ according to a letter to his mother and father from the James’ commanding officer.

The CO adds: “James was popular with the officers and men and his cheery manner will be greatly missed by us all. He did his duty and he died doing so.”

These must have been comforting words for James’ parents who had only ‘a short time ago’ been told one of their other sons – Corporal Harry Pritchard – had been killed in action.

The Advertiser also notes that the three other brothers – although alive – have not come through the war unscathed.

Private John Pritchard, Private George Pritchard and Lance Corporal Albert Pritchard were ‘curiously enough all wounded on the same day, July 14th, 1916’. George ‘has lost the use of his right arm’ and John is still ‘recovering from his wounds’.

The Advertiser concludes: “To have five sons in the Army is a splendid record and the greatest sympathy will be felt with the parents in that two of the five have fallen in action.”

The Pritchards’ story is a remarkable one and would touch so many of the Advertiser’s readers as they are facing similar situations.

It is also remarkable that the local paper in Market Harborough, hundreds of miles from the punishing conflict in France, is used as a vehicle for trying to locate a missing soldier from the trenches.

Private A Gilmore, who actually comes from Oldham, is the grandson of well known Medbourne farmer Mr J Driver, and it is that connection that prompts the story of appeal in the Advertiser.

It appears that the Tommy’s battlefield grapevine may elicit some news about Gilmore in a letter home from a Harborough soldier. It is a torturous route of communication but the close-knit communities of the early 20th century it seems are just as effective at passing news along as any 21st century social media vehicle.

Further evidence of how everyone knew everyone is found in a story that is fully three columns long and contains the name of every one of the SEVEN HUNDRED people who took part in the Car, Cycle and Character Carnival held in Market Harborough at the weekend.

There were ‘no less than 28 cars depicting in realistic manner a variety of subjects in a very creditable and artistic manner’ and there were about 200 ‘cyclists and walkers in fancy dress costume’.

Can you spot one of your ancestors among the names printed in the Advertiser? And, although there are no pictures published in the newspaper, does anyone have any pictures of the 1917 carnival that can be added to this archive?

  • This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.




3 thoughts on “July 10, 1917 – How much grief can one Great War family take?

  1. My Great Grandmother ‘Miss H Downes’ is listed as part of the Tango Tea. Also the ‘Aeorplane. Ernest Elliott was a cousin of my grandmother.

  2. Many thanks Heather, it’s interesting to know that there are still those keeping alive the memories of their families.

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