July 2, 1918 – The RAF Market Harborough takes on the barbarous Hun and saves the lives of our loved ones

Imagine the scene: one of the newly-formed RAF’s super planes sweeps across the blue skies above France and shoots down enemy aircraft destined to take the lives of your loved ones.

And proudly emblazoned across the fuselage near the iconic RAF roundel are the words: The Market Harborough.

This is the picture painted in the July 2, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser in an advertisement proclaiming the beginning of Market Harborough Aeroplane Week.

plane week

It is all part of the Government’s countrywide campaign to sell National War Bonds and War Savings Certificates to help fund the war.

The advert promises: “If during the week beginning Monday, the subscriptions from Market Harborough for Bonds and Certificates reach the total of £20,000, the authorities will give an aeroplane the name of our town.”

And the advert really pulls on the patriotic heart-strings. “Think of the civic pride if we read in an official despatch that the aeroplane Market Harborough has carried the war into German territory and harried the lines of communication of the foe – perhaps that it has saved Market Harborough men from the deadly attack of the Hun, enabling them to return unharmed to their wives and children.”

It is a brilliant PR strategy: it’s succinct, it’s personal, and it hammers home the calls for cash in the penultimate paragraph: “Do your duty during Market Harborough Aeroplane Week. Have your money ready for Monday – ready to buy National War Bonds and War Savings Certificates – ready to help in making Market Harborough Aeroplane Week a triumph, a record success.”

And what a perfect punch line, complete with short, tub-thumping sentences and a nice, little pun to end on. “Get your pass book. See how much money you have in the bank. Draw the cheque and have it ready to give Market Harborough’s effort a flying start on Monday morning.”

 Another advert explains other ways in which investments can help win the war:

  • £80 will buy a machine gun
  • £20 will supply five rifles
  • £10 will provide 23 hand grenades
  • £40 will feed and clothe a soldier for eight months

[The outcome of the campaign is revealed in the July 16, 1918, edition of the Advertiser.]

Meanwhile, there are still personal tragedies to be dealt with by families across the area and this week the bad news letters seem to be focusing on Great Bowden. Mrs Cresswell of Great Bowden has learned that her brother Sapper Eric T Oxley has been killed by German bombs dropped on the hospital where he was being treated for gas poisoning. Oxley had been gassed three times in as many years of fighting.

Private Arthur Gilbert of Great Bowden, who was employed at Market Harborough Gas Works prior to the war, is reported missing. Another Great Bowden soldier, Private Bernard Fielding, has also been reported missing.

Lance Corporal S Liney of Sutton Road, Great Bowden, has been wounded in the left arm and is convalescing in a Welsh hospital.

There is news of two Market Harborough men:  Private J H Dunkley of Adam and Eve Street has been wounded and is now a prisoner in Germany; and Signaller G Wood, who previously worked at Messrs J W and A Newcombe, has also been captured and is now a PoW.

And finally, a little bit of scandal, much-loved by newspaper readers across the generations.

A 38-year-old soldier from Kent was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude for bigamy. He had illegally married FIVE women before being caught and apparently at the time of his arrest ‘he was making arrangements to marry THREE other women!’

  • 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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