JOHN DILLEY’S WWI BLOG: The 14-year-old who was desperate to join the army

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.
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February 13, 1917 – 14-year-old so determined to be a soldier he even offers to just blow the bugle

A 14-year- old boy has tried so hard to join the Army he has even offered to be a bugler according to a story in the February 13, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The lad, who is not named in the story, is the son of former Market Harborough man John Dimblebee and now living in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

The story is taken from the Ottawa Evening Journal, presumably sent to the boy’s aunt, Mrs Matley who still lives in King’s Head Place, Market Harborough.

The account, which must have been handed over to the Advertiser’s editor, begins: “Because he is too young to be a soldier the 14-year-old son of John Dimblebee, an Ottawan butler, is perhaps the unhappiest youth in the city.”

He was so persistent in his demand for permission to enlist that his father took him to the Base Recruiting Offices.

The story continues: “The boy has been going to school regularly but he did not like his books and wanted to fight for his country.”

He pleaded with the recruiting officer: “I have never been sick and I can lift a whole lot. Sure I can blow a bugle as well as any. Please, Captain, let me join.”

Unsurprisingly, the recruitment officer turned him down even though his ‘intentions were commendable’ and ‘the boy’s eyes swelled with tears’.

However, the teenager was given a crumb of comfort as ‘he was assured he might be given a chance to wear the uniform in camp soon as a position may be found for him as an orderly’.

There is also news of another train accident at Welham sidings just a week after two men had ‘a miraculous escape from death’.

Mr J Randall of Patrick Street and Mr W Ulyatt of Clarence Street were not so lucky and suffered ‘serious injuries’ to their heads, arms and legs.

Both men were taken to Harborough station and then carried by workmen on stretchers through the town to the Cottage Hospital before being transferred the next day to Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Last week’s story about a severe frost in Market Harborough has even made the national newspapers who dubbed the town ‘the coldest place in England’.

This week’s account says: “Last Sunday night 39 degrees of frost – seven below zero – were registered in the grounds of Manor House, Little Bowden. This seems to have been the lowest recorded in England.”

The figures are in Fahrenheit where freezing point is reached at 32 degrees – on the Celsius scale mainly used today that is an eye-watering minus 20.

The story concludes: “It is 22 years ago that the thermometers registered below zero in Market Harborough and inhabitants with frozen taps, burst pipes etc, devoutly hope that it will be 22 years before zero is registered again.”