November 27, 1917 – Appeal to make Christmas special for front line soldiers runs into trouble

fund headline

War fatigue is not just affecting the soldiers in France and Flanders; those on the home front seem to be suffering too according to the November 27, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The annual fundraising campaign to send a Christmas gift to every one of the 1,750 Harborough, Great Bowden and Little Bowden lads on active service is running into difficulty and is well short of the £750 target.

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Above is a slideshow of all the donations made to the fund so far

The finance committee of the Market Harborough Territorial Xmas Fund is taking drastic measures. “It was decided to make a special effort from December 1st to December 8th to be called ‘Our Boys Week’,” says the Committee.

“Circular letters will be sent from house to house drawing attention to the 200 boxes out in the town and district asking for generous support.”


And that’s not all. The County Electric Cinema on The Square is hosting a ‘Grand Benefit Night’ on December 4th with a sprinkling of celebrities adding glamour to ‘a specially selected programme’.

Two days later there is to be a whist drive and dance organised by Messrs Symington’s Committee also in aid of the fund.

It’s not surprising the campaign is running into difficulties. In 1916 there were 1,500 men to be remembered and in 1915 it was just over 1,000.

And there is even a hint of controversy judging by a Letter to the Editor from a correspondent named only as ‘Harborian’.

“Would it not be better for all concerned, and the Fund in particular, if the Hon Secretary ceased contributing columns to the Press publishing purely private letters and glorifying his own efforts at the manifest expense of the Committee.”

He adds: “I only hope the Committee will be able to retrieve the present unfortunate position they have been placed in.”

Elsewhere in this edition there are more stories of men who have been wounded or killed in action.

Official news of the death of Private Clarence Coleman, 25, of Highfield Street, Market Harborough, is reported. Coleman had been badly wounded in 1916 but after a lengthy period in hospital he was sent back to the front three months ago. Before the war he had been employed at Mr West’s confectionary shop on the High Street and had been a prominent member of the town swimming club.


Private Geo West of The Cottage, Husbands Bosworth, is reported killed in action. West joined the Sherwood Foresters in 1909 ‘and took part in a lot of fierce fighting’. He was wounded in August 1915, recovered and rejoined his regiment. “On October 4 he laid down his life for his King and country.”

There are mixed emotions for the wife of Sapper Frank Martin of Clarence Street, Market Harborough, who has officially been posted as ‘missing’. The report says: “Much sympathy will be felt with Mrs Martin and her two children in their anxiety.”

Private F Neal of Market Harborough, who had previously been reported missing is now officially listed as killed in action and Private A E Whiting of Market Harborough, who is in the newly formed Tank Corps, has been wounded.

  • 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.

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