John's real-time WW1 blog: Wedding celebrations take centre stage ahead of war

Lieutenant William Rowlatt Ashwell and Miss Esma Roberts
Lieutenant William Rowlatt Ashwell and Miss Esma Roberts

August 28, 1917...

The ‘pretty military nuptials’ of a town couple take pride of place in the August 28, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser, and nudge aside the tragic news of yet more frontline deaths of local soldiers.

Lance Corporal Charles Bosworth

Lance Corporal Charles Bosworth

The wedding of Lieutenant William Rowlatt Ashwell and Miss Esma Roberts is given remarkable treatment by the editor who uses all his design skills to make this news extra special.

It is not clear why this particular ceremony gets such exalted treatment – there are wedding reports in the paper every week but they are always treated with the same relatively low-key headlines as virtually all other stories.

This particular celebration, however, gets a huge headline – in comparison with most others – plus some never seen before decorative artwork surrounding photographs of the happy couple gazing across at each other from framed ovals.

Ashwell of Sutton Bassett and Esma of Bagatelle, Market Harborough, are both well known in the town – Ashwell was a member of the Hockey Club, one of the founder members of Mobbs’ Corps and ‘took part in some severe fighting in France’.

He then won a commission in the Royal Flying Corps – is being a pilot one of the reasons his marriage gets the celebrity treatment? Well, will never know!

The report of bridesmaids, dresses and presents takes up twice as much as the report about another well-known man in the town – 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Guy Lomer Borrow, the son of the Market Harborough’s Postmaster.

Borrow, ‘a fine specimen of English manhood’ known for his ‘bravery and dash’, was stationed in Egypt and wounded at the Battle of Gaza. He seemed to be making ‘good progress towards recovery’ but he later suffered from cerebral abscesses.

The report adds: “For the past month he lay dangerously ill and despite all the best medical skill and nursing he passed away.”

There was one piece of ‘good’ news for the Borrow family according to the Advertiser: in a message via the British Legation at Berne in Switzerland their other son Cyril, who had been posted as ‘missing’ since the Battle of Dunes, is, in fact, a prisoner of war at Karlsruhe in Germany.

There is bad news about other men from the town and district. First Class Stoker Frank Fellowes, 22, of Granville Street ‘lost his life on duty while in one of HM Ships on War Service’; Bombardier J R Fitzjohn of Market Harborough; and Sergeant E Ashby from Leicester but with ‘several of his relatives residing at Harborough, who died of wounds in action on August 1. Others reported missing are G Harfield and H Holt, both of Market Harborough.

There is also a photograph of Lance Corporal Charles Bosworth of Wartnaby Street, Market Harborough, whose death was reported in last week’s Advertiser.

Second Lieutenant Malcolm Renton has been severely wounded in France and will now spend the rest of his life without his right arm which was amputated by surgeons. He is just 19. Others reported wounded are H Mayfield of Fleckney, W A Baud of Hazelbeach, E A Ingram of Wilbarston, and J H Martin of Market Harborough.