John’s WW1 blog: Town’s first Territorial soldier killed in action

An excerpt from the Harborough Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from April 13, 1915.
An excerpt from the Harborough Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from April 13, 1915.

APRIL 13, 1915: The first death of a Market Harborough Territorial soldier – the ones who volunteered for Kitchener’s Army – is reported in this edition of the town’s newspaper.

The story of Private E Harmer, of Nelson Street, being killed in action is another example of how local papers are getting round Army red tape and beating the Press censors.

An excerpt from the Harborough Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from April 13, 1915.

An excerpt from the Harborough Mail's forerunner, the Market Harborough Advertiser, from April 13, 1915.

His family have yet to receive official confirmation but the paper reports: “The first intimation was received by Mrs H West, confectioner of High Street, in a letter written from ‘France’ by her husband Pte Bert West.

“In it he said: ‘The Germans shelled out place yesterday...they dropped about 30 shells altogether. I am sorry to say one of our lads has been killed, Harmer is his name. He used to work at the Co-op and was always a nice little fellow, cheery and bright.”

The report concludes: “Pte Harmer who was only 24 years of age, was single, and had been employed by the Co-operative Society for several years. Last Monday Mrs Harmer [his mother] received a very cheerful letter from him.”

There is news of another Harborough death too. Private Bob Parker, whose mother and her sister live in Church Square, had been in the Army for five years.

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)

Much closer to home is an article about a young girl being killed in a road accident. The paper reports: “Just before going to Press a very sad fatality occurred near Market Harborough cemetery in Northampton Road.

“It appears that a little girl named Hopkinson, whose parents reside at Bath Street, Little Bowden, was playing with other children on the roadside. A covered motor car was passing, going in the direction of Northampton when the little girl appears to have run right into the side of the car and knocked down, killed practically instantaneously by severe injuries on the head.”

The paper adds that the child ‘is one of a large family’ and an inquest will be held.

This edition of the paper will be keeping everyone talking as there are also two stories of vicars refusing to conduct weddings.

One bridegroom was turned away from the Kettering Parish Church because he had not been baptised and so they transferred the ceremony to Kettering Fuller Baptist Chapel.

Incredibly, in the other story, the couple were actually at the altar when the vicar at Bozeat Church turned them away because he did not have the certificate of the publication of the ‘banns’ in his village of Olney.

“The decision was resented by a section of the large congregation present in church, including women, who vigorously hissed and hooted as he left for the vicarage; and made a further demonstration at a funeral service later in the day.”

And finally... there is a story of a circus coming to Freemasons Arms Field, in St Mary’s Road, featuring none other than a wire-walking elephant, horses playing musical chairs, and ‘a most accomplished horsewoman with her highly-trained horses The Two Willies performing the Turk to the British Lion’.

As the story says there will be ’60 laughs to the minute’.

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.