John’s real-time WW1 blog: Reports filtering home of local war dead

A cutting from the Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from December 1, 1914.
A cutting from the Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from December 1, 1914.

DECEMBER 1, 1914: The Great War is taking its toll on the young men of Market Harborough as the Advertiser tells its readers 100 years ago today.

News of life – and death – on the Front is filtering through by various official and unofficial routes.

A cutting from the Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from December 1, 1914, showing the pictures of local soldiers who died in The Great War.

A cutting from the Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from December 1, 1914, showing the pictures of local soldiers who died in The Great War.

Perhaps one of the most shocking stories is of Private Albert Swann from the 1st Leicestershire Regiment who was killed at Armentieres where 400 county men were lost in the space of just a few hours.

The Advertiser quotes a cousin, who saw a shell hit him. “It either knocked him right into the earth or blew him into fragments, as nothing was ever seen of him again.”

The story has an even more poignant twist. The report continues: “I was talking to him less than five minutes before he was hit. He had been talking about his baby.”

The paper also reports on the sinking of HMS Bulwark at Sheerness – apparently from an ammunition-magazine on board exploding. Only 12 men survived from 800.

Former Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the 1914 Market Harborough Advertiser. '(MAIL PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER)

Former Harborough Mail editor John Dilley with a copy of the 1914 Market Harborough Advertiser. '(MAIL PICTURE: ANDREW CARPENTER)

Closer to home, there is clearly more unofficial contact with the newspaper which reports on the deaths of four young local men with accompanying photographs – a device little used in local newspapers a century ago.

There are always stories calling for young men to continue enlisting and there is one remarkable account of the Fisher family, from Kibworth.

Joseph Fisher has eight sons and five of them are fighting and the three younger ones are ‘all members of the local troop of Boy Scouts’.

The story concludes: “Mr and Mrs Fisher are naturally proud of their sons. They have only one daughter, who much regrets that cannot, too, join the colours.”

On the Home Front, tradesmen are gearing up for Christmas and the newspaper is once again a bumper eight pages to accommodate all the adverts, many of which use war themes to entice their customers.

For instance F S McLachan, of 9 The Square, Market Harborough, headlines his advert ‘The Great War’ and continues: “With all its horrors and likewise its many deeds of heroism, naturally occupies a prominent place in our thoughts at this present moment. We think of the brave men and lads who are out at the Front fighting for our liberty and freedom. It is generally recognised, however, that those of us who have to remain at home should continue doing our business as usual.”

It then exhorts readers to buy Christmas cards with ‘patriotic greetings’ and ‘pipe, pouch, tobacco or cigarettes for the boys at the Front’.

Perhaps the most overt example of using the war to drum up business, is in the advert from Elliott & Son’s, of 2 Church Street, Market Harborough.

The advert proclaims there is a 21 Days’ War Sale beginning today, Tuesday, December 1, 1914. It then adds: “Attacks are expected from our Allied customers, who will bombard our stock in order to compel bargains to surrender. Prices will be mutilated. Profits wiped out.”

Former Harborough Mail editor (1992-1996) John Dilley is compiling a real-time blog looking at the Mail’s forerunner, The Market Harborough Advertiser, during the 1914 war years while also looking at national newspaper coverage from The Daily Telegraph during the same week 100 years ago.

Follow the blog every Monday by visiting http://newspapersandthegreatwar.wordpress.com.