January 8, 1918 – laughing mob kicks general to death and then plays snowball game with his naked body

The bloody killing of a proud soldier is described in prolonged and graphic detail in a news story in the January 8, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser does n

The sensationalist approach is a reminder of the type of stories regularly published to titillate readers in pre-war days and also harks back to the warts-and-all accounts of life in the trenches from Market Harborough soldiers throughout 1914 and 1915.

In the past two years the columns of the Advertiser have mainly had curtains pulled firmly closed on lurid detail as it appears the stench of death is just too close for comfort with loved ones dying in horrific circumstances and at an alarming rate.

However, it is intriguing social commentary for the Advertiser to revert to tabloid journalism when the subject is a former Russian general who is beaten and bayoneted to death by a revolutionary mob thousands of miles away in Petrograd.

General Dukhonin pulled the short straw of being the last man to be put in charge of the army when the famous Russian Revolutionaries decided to sue for peace with the Germans.

Dukhonin was arrested and as he was being transferred to prison a mob spotted him at a railway station and he was attacked.


The Advertiser describes with great relish a witness account of Dukhonin’s death written by the Stockholm correspondent of the Paris Matin newspaper. “The mob pushed closer and closer and with a single blow the general was struck down by a tall sailor.

“Dukhonin got to his feet at once, his face streaming with blood. He tried to speak but a dozen bayonets were run through him and then blows and kicks were rained upon his body.”

The lurid details do not stop there. “The soldiers fought for his clothing, tearing it from him, even his shirt. Grotesque and horrible scenes followed.

“The corpse, stripped bare, was set up against a railway carriage and the mob, laughing like madmen, started a gruesome game. Sailors, Red Guards and soldiers made snow and mud balls and flung them at the general’s head.”


In stark contrast the language used in reporting the death of Private Herbert Waddsworth of Scotland Road, Little Bowden, is dignified and lacking in any shocking features.

The story provides only the barest of facts leaving out any mention of how he became injured. “Waddsworth was wounded on October 9 and after being in hospital in France for two weeks was brought to England and taken to Hampton Grange Auxiliary Hospital in Hereford.

“Here everything possible was done for him but the end came somewhat suddenly on the night of New Year’s Day.

“The body was brought to Market Harborough by rail on Friday. Sincere and deep sympathy has been extended to the widow and her young son and other members of the family.”

It is the second bereavement for the family as his brother – Mr C Waddsworth – was killed in France recently.

Waddsworth, who had been a cutter at W H Symington and Co before the war, was buried in Market Harborough with full military honours.

There are also dignified tributes to Private S J T Cooper, the brother of Mrs Harry Poole of Victoria Avenue, Market Harborough, and Private Frank Wilson of Logan Street, Market Harborough, who were both killed in action in separate sectors of the French battlefields. Twenty-year-old Wilson had joined up in 1915 but had only been in France for two weeks before he died.

  • 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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