John DIlley’s WWI Blog: Christmas from 1916

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.

December 5, 1916 – Christmas shopping in Market Harborough going with a bang Christmas in Market Harborough’s town centre is in full swing despite the continued fighting on so many fronts.

The December 5, 1916, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser is full of shopkeepers encouraging readers to stock up for the festivities and buy presents for those at home and abroad.

The majority of the display adverts have some kind of Christmas theme which demonstrates that those at home are getting on with the business of living even though many of the town’s young men are still in mortal danger.

This is brought home with photographs of two men killed in action whose deaths were fully reported in the previous week’s paper.

Second-Lieut Walter Elliott, who used to work for town retailers Shindler and Douglass, had been serving with Queen Victoria Rifles of the Royal Fusiliers since the beginning of the war and had been on the front line for the best part of two years.

And 19-year- old Private Albert Allbright of Gladstone Street, Market Harborough, who had previously worked at Messrs R and W H Symingtons, was killed just over a year after enlisting with the 7 th Leicesters.

There is also plenty of sensational national news included in this week’s edition:

*An engineer from Port Talbot in Wales fell 50 feet into a dry dock and was killed.

*An inquest in Blackfriars, London, heard how a man rushing to get onto a tramway-car was killed.

*A scheme to deal with venereal diseases, which will cost 50,000 a year, was adopted by the London County Council on Tuesday.

*The driver of a motor-lorry and a little boy were drowned in the River Teme when it crashed through a wooden fence at Bransford, Worcestershire.

*Theatre and cinema owners in Carnarvonshire have agreed that no films ‘depicting comedy or crime’ will be shown in the county on Good Friday or Christmas Day.

*A West Ham schoolboy has been awarded a silver watch by the Carnegie Hero Trust after he rescued a girl from drowning.

*James Howarth Hargreaves was sentenced to death at Manchester Assizes for murder after smashing the skull of a woman following a drunken bout.

*London ambulances were called to 37 cases in 24 hours, seven being due to people being knocked down by motor vehicles, most of them occurring in daylight.

*Public playing fields in South Acton will be turned into allotments to help boost the production of ‘war food supplies’.

*Mrs Hannah Anker, the oldest fishmonger in England, died at Peterborough on Tuesday aged 96. The report says: “Up to the last she assisted in the business and signed all cheques.”

The most unusual local story in this week’s edition is not quite as sensational. The Advertiser reports that a horse attached to a Co-operative delivery cart bolted in St Mary’s Road and dashed round the corner of Northampton Road where another horse and cart were standing outside a shop.

The story continues: “The second horse adopted a ‘follow my leader’ policy and also bolted in the wake of the other. Fortunately both were stopped before any damage was done. ”

This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100 th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.

John’s 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.