John's real-time WW1 blog: Those magnificent Market Harborough men and their flying machine

John Dilley
John Dilley

Three cheers for the RAF Market Harborough!

-s we have recently celebrated the centenary anniversary of the birth of the Royal Air Force, let’s remember the town that was asked in 1918 to raise £20,000 to buy an aeroplane in the fight to bring the Great War to a successful conclusion.

The headline covering the town's fundraising efforts.

The headline covering the town's fundraising efforts.

Not only did the town reach its target during War Weapons Week – and in the process earn the prestigious right to have one of the newly-born RAF’s fantastic flying machines named as The Market Harborough – it SMASHED the goal and raised more than FIVE times the total.

As you can imagine there were some pretty big smiles around which is reflected in a laudatory article in the July 16, 1918, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser.

The story says: “Surely no better tribute could be forthcoming to the zeal and patriotism of Harborians expressive of their determination to see the war through to a successful issue.

“Splendidly has Market Harborough done in her contribution of men to the fighting forces of the Empire, backed up as it was by a contribution of money which we bid to say far exceeded the most sanguine hopes of the promoters.”

One of the campaign organisers Mr J J Douglass said: “We set out to raise £20,000, which was the minimum amount which would enable us to have an aeroplane named after the town. Up to the present they have raised more than five times that amount and words really fail me in my wonder that our little town should have been able to make such a magnificent effort.”

The story added: “If there is one thing which would bring comfort to our boys at the front it was to feel that they who were home had done their bit.

“I trust the effort might in some way be the means of helping them further on the road to victory. It has been a long road and a horrible time and I am afraid they have more bad times in front of them.”

Mr Douglass called for everyone to stick together and that victory was in sight.

“We must show no signs of weakness and insist when peace comes that it was not only a just peace but a final peace, and one that as far as anything in this world ever could, would prevent another such war ever taking place in the future.”

Little did Mr Douglass realise how prophetic his words would be just 20 years later.

There is very little news from the front but Rifleman C J Flint of Ratcliffe House, Market Harborough, has been wounded for the third time and is being treated in a French hospital and Second Lieutenant Maurice

Pickbourne, who used to work for Messrs J W and A Newcombe, is in a London hospital with a shrapnel wound.

- 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.