JOHN DILLEY’S WWI BLOG: Loving father held the hand of his dying son

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.

January 23, 1917 – Doting dad’s final moments with his soldier son.

A four-day bedside vigil of a loving father holding the hand of his dying son is told in the January 23, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

It’s an unusual story as it often days, weeks or even months before some parents are officially notified of their son’s death in battle.

However, Mr G Brown of Horninghold learned on January 5 that his son Lance-Corporal F Brown ‘was lying dangerously ill’ in a Canadian Hospital at Le Treport in France.

The 23-year-old soldier of the Royal Berks Regiment and attached to the Trench Mortar battery had suffered severe shell wounds.

The Army explained that he could be visited and Mr Brown and his fourth son Joseph dropped everything to get over the Channel within a couple of days.

The report says: “They arrived at the hospital on Tuesday, January 8, and were with him until he passed peacefully away on the January 12. They attended the funeral which was nicely carried out by the chaplain of the hospital.”

The Advertiser’s editor has also followed up a story from last week’s edition about the huge honour received by the Battery Quarter Master Pitts who not only won the Military Medal ‘for bravery at Gallipoli’, the Distinguished Conduct Medal for ‘bravery at the Battle of the Somme’, but was also recently married in Market Harborough Parish Church.

The editor publishes a picture of the Harborough hero who is the nephew and adopted son of Mr and Mrs Underwood of Logan Street – a great excuse to tell the story all over again.

And there is also a photograph of another DCM winner – Lance-Corporal A Lount serving with the 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment and ‘a Hallaton lad’.

This edition of the Advertiser is also full of intriguing short news stories which today’s Buzzfeed would be proud to publish.

Private Charles Farmer, a veteran of the Crimean War, is the oldest serving British soldier on active duty, acting as a guard at the prisoner of war camp on the Isle of Man.

The prevalence of juvenile crime is ‘assuming a very serious aspect’ and ‘remand homes where youthful offenders can be sent are full’. At last week’s Kettering Petty Sessions ‘practically the whole of the cases were offenders ranged from 10 to 15’, charged with stealing or obtaining good by false pretences.

Six women were fined 10s each at the Andover Sessions on the quaintly termed charges of ‘treating’ and ‘allowing to be treated’.

At a women’s meeting at St Pancras a speaker declared that after the war ‘women would have to propose as many men might hesitate to come forward owing to being crippled’.

Thirty-one Chinamen were arrested during a series of raids made overnight on Liverpool opium dens. At one place detectives were attacked by a dog and a number of Chinamen who threw boots and missiles from the housetops’.

Coffin makers are in short supply in Bermondsey because they are all being called up – and that is leading to a delay in funerals taking place.

And finally...the Minister of Agriculture worried about food shortages has recommended eating jacket potatoes rather than boiling them as they are more nutritious.