John’s real-time WW1 blog: Town preparing for Christmas as the war rages abroad

A cartoon featured in the November 24, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, the forerunner of the Harborough Mail.
A cartoon featured in the November 24, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, the forerunner of the Harborough Mail.

NOVEMBER 24, 1914: Life goes on in Market Harborough and the surrounding villages as Christmas 1914 approaches.

This edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser is testament to that. The decision to reduce the pagination of the journal from eight to four pages right after the outbreak of war has been reversed and readers now enjoy more news – and no doubt to the delight of the publisher – more advertising.

An advert featured in the November 24, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, the forerunner of the Harborough Mail NNL-141124-102844001

An advert featured in the November 24, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, the forerunner of the Harborough Mail NNL-141124-102844001

There is a marked increase in the number and size of the adverts and the newspaper is not slow to take advantage of this with a large ‘house ad’.

The residents of town and district are given ‘some good advice’ by the publisher, then housed at 6 Church Street, Market Harborough.

“Read the local news in YOUR LOCAL PAPER, printed and published in Market Harborough. Mark that all local events are faithfully recorded and fully reported.

“Learn that is the best advertising medium for anything you wish to advertise.

An excerpt from the November 24, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, the forerunner of the Harborough Mail NNL-141124-102821001

An excerpt from the November 24, 1914, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, the forerunner of the Harborough Mail NNL-141124-102821001

“Inwardly digest that its circulation takes it into town and country and into the homes of all classes of the community.

“Having done this, order the Market Harborough Advertiser to be sent you weekly.”

The conflict is clearly having an effect at the front but also at home as well. William Flint, of 36 High Street, is prepared to spend money on a large ‘display advert’ to explain an increase in the price of beer because of the war budget tax.

“Owing to the extra taxation on beer, the following increased prices will be charged on all bottled ales and stouts from this date: - 1/- per dozen pints and 6d per dozen half pints. Draught ales and stouts increased in proportion.”

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)

Shindler & Douglas, the store which has regularly linked commerce and conflict in its advertising is at it again. Readers are urged to support the store’s Christmas Bazaar to be held on Saturday, November 28, because it will bolster the fund to help the town’s 49 Belgian refugees who are being ‘sheltered and maintained in our town’ by ‘£15 to £20’.

The advert proclaims: “Every purchase you make will not only satisfy the claims of affection and friendship but also assist ‘in the support of this noble people’.

Despite the increase in advertising space, the journalists have clearly struggled to fill the larger number of editorial columns available.

So A Fortune at Stake, several chapters of the serialised ‘murder and blackmail’ book by Nat Gould, returns; the list of men from both town and country who have volunteered for Kitchener’s Army are also reprinted just a few weeks after first being published; and the entire timetable of the Midland Railway is also included.

There is also a return of a cartoon on page 3, this one on a recruiting theme and exclaiming ‘There’s a vacant place for you my lad!’ The caption reads: “Lord Kitchener has obtained 900,000 recruits and only 100,000 are needed to make up the first million. So take your place in the ranks, young man, at once, and enlist at the nearest recruiting office, for the sake of your King and Country.”

Actual news from the front itself is thin on the ground and only a few sentences are devoted to the death in action of several local men: Lance-Corporal F Clay of Great Bowden, a regular with the 1st Leicestershire Regiment, and a comrade Private John Deacon of Gallow Hill are reported killed.

Harborough postman and father-of-two Mr J Grainger, of Bath Street, is believed dead after his ship the HMS Good Hope was sunk.

The most vivid reminder of the war comes in a report first published in the Morning Post newspaper on November 6. The national news in the Advertiser comes from press agencies, the Government’s Press Bureau or other national newspapers. Even though it is several weeks old, the readers of Market Harborough’s paper will still be engrossed by the account of life on the Front for a British soldier.

“We had a frugal lunch of bread and bullybeef and then we moved off, wandering from place to place, ever nearer the fighting line.

“The next day shelling went on all round us and we had two or three hours of hell. It is the only word for it. During the whole of that time without a moment’s respite, we were unmercifully shelled with high explosives from the German ‘Jack Johnsons’.

“Those shells vary very much in their effect. The particular size they were using against us make a hole in the ground from five to six feet in diameter and about four feet deep.

“They scream as they pass through the air, the sound growing louder and louder as they approach, and the noise of their explosion is deafening.

“Imagine an old steamroller to be lifted about 300 feet in the air and dropped through a glass roof on to a cobble yard below and then the bits flying round hitting the surrounding windows and walls and you will have some idea of what it is like.”

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.