JOHN DILLEY’S WWI BLOG: April 3, 1917 – Teenage farmhand escapes ‘a good birching’ after he admits slicing off heifer’s teat with a shovel

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.

A 14-year- old farm labourer admitted slicing off the teat of a heifer’s udder with a shovel when he appeared in Children’s Court according to a report in the April 3, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The boy, who worked at Welham Lodge for farmer Mr Craig, cried in the dock and said ‘he was very, very sorry and would not do anything like it again’.

The court heard that the farmer discovered an injury to a heifer’s udder on the morning of March 18 and questioned the boy who denied any knowledge.

The next morning when the farmer examined the same heifer he found a second injury and ‘a teat neatly cut off’.

Inspector Arthur Smith, prosecuting for the RSPCA, examined the animal on March 20 and it ‘was in an awful state’.

The report states: “Inspector Smith questioned the defendant who admitted doing the injuries to the heifer because Mr Craig would not take him to Market Harborough.

“There was no doubt, said the Inspector, that in consequence of the injuries, the heifer calved prematurely and the calf died.”

The report concludes: “The Bench placed the defendant on probation for two years and expressed the hope that his conduct in future would be better. Some of the bench thought a good birching was what was required now.”

There is very little war news in this week’s Advertiser, partly because restrictions on paper have now reduced pagination to just four pages.

This means the weekly listing of the 1,500-plus local men in service, and those who have been injured or killed, is no longer to be published.

The editor reassures readers though that those in uniform will not be forgotten. “Mr F G Shindler [who compiles the list] will, however, continue to supply us with particulars as fresh men go, and we shall publish these from time to time, as also the names of those who have died in the service of their country or are missing.”

In fact, there is news in this edition of one soldier who has been wounded in action. Lieutenant H S Baxter, formerly of the staff of Barclay and Co Bank in Market Harborough, also has his photograph published.

There is also room for some national news via the War Office about the capture of 900 Turkish prisoners and the defeat of 20,000 Turks five miles south of Gaza in the Middle East.

There is also news of the sinking in the Atlantic of the British steamer Alnwick Castle which was torpedoed by a German submarine without warning. Thirteen passengers and crew were killed but many made it to safety in lifeboats including one that made it to the Spanish coast.

The report says: “This boat contained 29 people, including a stewardess and a child, of this number eight had died and the survivors were all suffering from frostbite.”

Technology, of course, did not allow the Advertiser to carry any news of the declaration of war by US President Woodrow Wilson the day before publication.

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.