JOHN DILLEY’S WWI BLOG: April 10, 1917 – Devastating news for parents on soldier son’s birthday

Ex Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the Market Harborough Advertiser.
Ex Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

Chas Capell and his wife of Coventry Road, Market Harborough, were all set to quietly mark the 19th birthday of their son George even though he was serving in France.

But the cautiously optimistic mood in the Capell household changed the moment the postman delivered a letter – to say that George, a gunner with the RFA, was officially listed as ‘missing’.

The sad story is related in the April 10, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, and also tells of another twist in the tale.

“Quite recently Gunner Capell wrote home to say he had discovered the grave in France of a man who he thought came from Market Harborough,” says the account.

The details were passed on to the parents of the dead soldier. However, the story continues: “Before Gunner Capell could be informed that his kindly message reached those for whom it was intended, the news came that Gunner Capell was himself ‘missing’.”

There is another sad story of a town soldier, Gunner F Dunkley of Caxton Street, who has died of his wounds only days after meeting up with his brother Ted on the battlefield for the first time in more than a year.

In a letter to his parents, Gunner Dunkley’s commanding officer says: “His brother is still with us and I trust most sincerely I shall be able to return him to you safe and sound in due course. I know we all hope this may be before so very long.”

The Dunkleys will also be worried about two other sons who are serving, a son who is a prisoner-of- war, and a son-in- law fighting in France.

The Advertiser also reminds its readers that Gunner Dunkley, who worked for Messrs R and W H Symington before he enlisted, was a stalwart of the Harborough Town Football Club and ‘he also won a number of prizes for running both at the Great Bowden Sports and also at Kettering Sports’.

There is a reminder that not all families are given swift closure like the Capells or the Dunkleys. There is news that Private Harry Weston of Gumley has been officially declared as killed in action – eight long months after his family were told he was ‘missing’. He was just 20.

Sadly the local war news does not stop there. Brief details are given of two other Harborough soldiers who have been wounded in action – A Modd and E Surnton. And the Advertiser publishes a photograph of Corporal Edward Chas Archer, son of Mrs Bindley of Logan Street, Market Harborough, who was killed in action on March 31.

There is also some proud news of local men serving in khaki. Corporal George Featon – who is one of five brothers serving in the Army – has been promoted to sergeant and Lieut-Col G F Stanley MP of Sibbertoft Manor is now back to full health and will be returning to France.