April 30, 1918...
Willie March and his brother Ernest grew up in Great Bowden and did everything together.
When they left school they both got a job at the Co-op – Willie in the grocery and Ernest in the butchery.
It was obvious when the war started they would both join up and they both fought bravely at the Front. And this week they have both made the ultimate sacrifice together.
They are just two of the 25 local men who are reported captured, injured, missing or dead in the terrible fighting in Flanders in the April 30, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.
National newspapers, with their vast resources, are able to report the big picture of colossal armies surging this way and that. Market town newspapers like the Advertiser, however, are able to paint more intimate and poignant cameos.
The story of the March brothers carries the headline In Death Not Divided and describes how PRIVATE WILLIE MARCH was found dead by his Lewis machine gun and PRIVATE ERNEST MARCH was ‘wounded so badly that he died on the way to the dressing station’.
It is a terrible story for us to read a century later: imagine the despair of their family, losing two sons together.
The Advertiser story concludes with massive understatement: “The news of their death has cast quite a gloom over the village.”
And the final line of the story hints at even further angst. “Their father Mr March has another son at the Front.”
This edition of the Advertiser carries photographs of two young men whose deaths were reported in last week’s paper – PRIVATE WILLIAM MUGGLETON of Wilbarston and SAPPER GEO GARETT of Weir Road, Kibworth.
The many other stories of bravery and sadness take up nearly all of page three of this week’s edition.
THEY HAVE PAID THE UTTERMOST PRICE
PRIVATE FRANCIS BALE of Caxton Street, Market Harborough, had been in France for less than a fortnight before he was killed.
The story says Bale had only just become of military age. His father Private Sam Bale had been ‘called up as a reservist at the very commencement of the war’ and has been serving in France for three years and is still there.
CORPORAL ARTHUR SMITH, 24, of Newcombe Street, Market Harborough, who used to work for the Caxton Type Foundry, was killed instantaneously by a shell while on a night patrol.
The Advertiser has clearly seen the letter sent to Smith’s mother from the company chaplain as the account of his death is fairly detailed.
The chaplain says: “He showed splendid bravery and was cheerful and kept his men the same under trying circumstances.”
Smith was buried ‘at a corner where four roads meet and the service was beautiful’ although the chaplain admits ‘the noise of the guns was so loud his friends could hardly hear my words’.
GUNNER FRED POLLARD of Market Harborough, who was a career soldier and had given 13 years of his life to the Army, has died of his wounds in a French hospital. The report says: “He was on leave at his brother’s house in Logan Street only five weeks ago.”
SAPPER C CLIFFORD of Granville Street, Little Bowden, leaves behind a wife and two children. Clifford, who used to work as a carpenter for Eady and Dulley, was wounded but died on his way to the casualty clearing station.
PRIVATE CHRIS FOSKETT of Theddingworth had only been at the Front for three weeks before he suffered ‘severe gunshot wounds to the shoulder’. A letter to his mother from the hospital matron says: “We would have sent for you had we thought he could have lived till you got here. But his condition was so grave on admission that he was unconscious for some hours and I am sorry to tell you there was no message from him.”
He is buried in a ‘proper coffin’ in a ‘nice little cemetery where the graves are well cared for’. This is a small crumb of comfort for the Fosketts as thousands of young soldiers had no bodies left to bury.
SIGNALLER J M HADDON of Scarborough Crossing, Lubenham, is another of the ‘growing list of local heroes who have laid down their lives for the country’. He had been home a year ago suffering from ‘trench foot’ but had gone back to the Front and was killed in action during the German’s Spring Offensive. He was 22.
PRIVATE H BUTLIN of Welford who used to run his own business as a baker and grocer before joining up in August 1916, has been killed in action. He was a Lewis machine gunner.
Other local casualties merely listed without further details include PRIVATE J WILDEN and PRIVATE R INGRAM both of Market Harborough and both of whom have died of wounds suffered in battle.
WOUNDED AND FIGHTING FOR THEIR LIVES
SAPPER ALFRED MARLOW of Desborough, a ‘well known and esteemed boxer’ before he joined the Royal Engineers in 1916, is now lying in a Stourbridge hospital ‘after he was gassed and seriously injured in the back by a gunshot wound’.
Terrible news for Mr and Mrs Jos Brown of Spencer Street, Market Harborough, who have received information that their son PRIVATE A C BROWN of the Leicesters ‘has been dangerously wounded’.
PRIVATE BEN SMEETON of Clipston has been shot through the shoulder and is in hospital in England.
PRIVATE H MORRIS and PRIVATE T G SMITH, both from the Leicestershire Regiment, are also listed as wounded.
SAFE – BUT IN THE HANDS OF THE ENEMY
The wait for news has begun for the family of GUNNER GEO WOOD of Logan Street, Market Harborough. An officer’s letter to Wood’s wife says: “I regret that I can give you no definite information but from what you know it seems highly probable that he is a prisoner of war. An officer of this battery who is also missing was with him so if we hear anything I will let you know.”
Good news of a sort for the wife of PRIVATE S DENNIS of Highfield Street, Market Harborough. Dennis had been reported missing in action but it is now ‘reported as wounded and a prisoner of war’.
PRIVATE TED HALL of Martin’s Yard, Market Harborough, who ‘is well known in local football circles’ and who played in the ‘soldiers home of leave match in the town some two or three months ago’ has been captured and is now a prisoner of war.
PRIVATE HARRY DUNKLEY of Springfield Street, Market Harborough, who used to work for R and W H Symington, and SAPPER HARRY BOTT of Gardiner Street, Market Harborough, are both now prisoners of war.
LANCE CORPORAL S WILSON of Goward Street, Market Harborough, who joined up at the outbreak of war with the old Territorials and has seen ‘two years’ hard fighting in France’ has been captured.
A GLIMMER OF HOPE DESPITE NO INFORMATION
LIEUTENENT NORMAN WOODROW of Leicester Road, Market Harborough, who was attached to the Lincolnshire Regiment as a Portuguese interpreter is listed as missing.
- 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.