John's real-time WW1 blog: Medal for Harborough hero who takes machine gun nest and 30-odd prisoners single-handedly

John Dilley
John Dilley

May 7, 1918...

Gloom, despondency, despair, a bitterly set chin facing relentless adversity: these are the general emotions suffered by the people of Market Harborough as they lived through the Great War.

Market Harborough's heroes

Market Harborough's heroes

There aren’t many moments when they could collectively have a real sense of pride. But the May 7, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertise provides readers with one of those instances when they learn of the gallantry of one of their own.

Everyone in the town would know – or at least know of – SECOND LIEUTENENT WILLIAM MANNING because not only does his family live in Logan Street, a popular road in the town, the young soldier is an old Market Harborough Grammar School boy. That gives everyone the opportunity to reflect in the family’s honour of Manning receiving the Military Cross medal, an achievement not to be sniffed at. The official description of the ‘brave deed’ that won him the medal reads as follows: “An enemy ‘pill box’, containing some 30 or 40 men and two machine guns, having been passed over by the assaulting troops, with his revolver he forced them all to come out and give themselves up and then searched the inside to make sure

it was clear.”

And they will have a similar sense of pride in PRIVATE WALTER SMITH who has been recommended for the Military Medal after ‘rescuing under heavy fire a comrade who was lying in front of the German trenches’. Smith, who worked for Messrs James Hearth and Co at the Hosiery Factory in Market Harborough before the war, hails from Kibworth where his wife and parents live.

Pte. Walter Smith

Pte. Walter Smith

Like last week’s edition of the Advertiser there are also a string of names of young local men among the casualty list.

This week most of them warrant only a line or two although there is a photograph of CORPORAL ARTHUR SMITH of Newcombe Street, Market Harborough, whose death was reported last week. Here is the list of TWELVE more men on that bleak register, TWELVE more families decimated by the news about their loved ones.

Killed in action

PRIVATE GEO THOMPSON of School Lane, Market Harborough.

Corpl. Arthur Smith

Corpl. Arthur Smith

PRIVATE REGINALD TAYLOR of Grange Farm, Kibworth.

SECOND LIEUTENANT H WEBB, a former assistant master at Kibworth Grammar School.

Injured

PRIVATE TRUSS of Market Harborough has a fractured ankle.

CORPORAL A G GILBERT of High Street, Market Harborough, is suffering from a gunshot wound in the arm.

CORPORAL G STANGER of Great Easton is wounded in the left knee and his brother GUNNER F STANGER has been gassed.

PRIVATE T C LEE of Braybrooke has a gunshot wound to the leg.

Prisoners

BOMBADIER ALFRED AYRES of Leicester Lane, Great Bowden.

PRIVATE LEN CORT of Hallaton.

PRIVATE G E SMITH of Ivy House, Glooston.

Missing

SAPPER H BROWN of Great Easton

Clearly the war is having an effect on everyone and the government knows this – that’s why an open-air exhibition of war films is being toured around the country.

Harborians turned out in their hundreds when it came to The Square this week. ‘A splendid crowd’ watched pictures beamed on to a large screen fixed to the front of Messrs Mawson and Co’s premises and provided ‘a capital view’.

- 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.

- Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.