1917 January

Harry Smith
Harry Smith
Sheep eating 'herbage' on the Rec


1917 January 


During the month there were reports of three casualties from the war, which have all been mentioned in previous editions of the paper but now receive confirmation of the details.

Private Jonah Sole, 28, who had previously been reported missing was now confirmed as killed in action on 9th August 2016. He leaves a widow and child.

Private George ‘Bertie’ Westerman, 20, of Limekiln Lane, Ashwell, was wounded and is now in a hospital at Catterick.

Fuller details can be found on our web site under the ‘Historic Diary’ section of Topics or for individual life stories: Roll of Honour -WW1


The last confirmation was the death of Lance Corporal Harry Smith, after an earlier false report. Lance-Corporal Harry Smith served with the 1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment in France and Flanders.  He enlisted at Hertford on 7th September 1914 and soon attained the rank of Sergeant while training in England. He was sent to France on 20th October 1916 with the Expeditionary Force, reverting back to Private as was the custom.  He was promoted to Lance-Corporal by the time of his death west of Ypres where he was killed in action on 17th January 1917.  In a letter his CO Captain Thomas Gibbons wrote to Harry’s parents and claimed that “Harry was shot through the heart at 9pm on 16th January.  Death came instantly and he could have suffered no pain. He was a great loss, for he had proved himself a very brave and capable man, and he was very popular in his platoon”.

Harry was awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. He is buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery, Ypres, Belgium, and commemorated on the Ashwell War Memorial.

Harry was the second son of George and Lilla (nee Worboys) Smith of Silver Street, Ashwell.  He was a pupil of the Merchant Taylors School in Ashwell and before enlisting was a milkman. Harry’s brother Herbert was also killed in action in France on 21st March 1918.


The only other reported activity in the village relating to the war was a concert at the County Council School. £7.30 was raised which was divided between the Herts Prisoners of War Fund and the Ashwell Coal Club.

A further death and funeral was reported but with no mention of the war one presumes it was of natural causes. Mr John Turner White, son of Mr Thomas White of Ashwell aged 35, died on 16th January, leaving a wife and children. He was buried at Hertford.


There was a flurry of official meetings affecting many areas of village life.

The Moss Cottage Homes had a Trustees meeting which was combined with the Ashwell charities meeting.

Ashwell & District Nursing Association had its AGM at the ‘Technical Schoolroom’. (This is now the Parish Rooms in Swan Street next to the museum.) The association had a credit balance of £3.05 and all the officers were re-elected except for Rev Tom and Mrs Morgan. In transpired that they would be moving as he had just announced his resignation from the post of minister at the Congregational Church (now the URC) where he had been for the last 5 years. He was going to train to take orders in the Church of England.


At the Ashwell District Council the question of farmers and the ways of charging for water they use was again given much consideration.


At the Parish Council Quarterly meeting there was a lot to talk about. Mr J P Goble was welcomed on his return from service in a Church Army Hut in France providing relief and entertainment for the troops at the front.

Mr Walter Bray was appointed Assistant Overseer (temporary) following resignation of Mr Thorne due to ill health.

The provision of a new burial ground to ease pressure on the church graveyard was moving forward. The Parish Council had now been granted “Authority” to go ahead and had received a letter from Mr E O Fordham confirming his offer to sell a piece of Baldwin’s Corner for the proposed ground.

Another letter this time from Guilden Morden DC asked the Parish Council to support an application to the District Councils to get the Mobbs Hole to Guilden Morden footpath bridge repaired. The Parish Council resolved to ask Ashwell District Council to carry out their share of repairs. This route must have been used a lot to warrant a new bridge but now it is rarely used.

A request would go out to farmers for tenders to acquire ‘herbage’ on the Recreation Ground. This was in effect buying the grass on the land to feed sheep but it also kept the grass well mowed.

A public notice board was to be fixed up thanks to the generosity of Messrs A&C Christy and the final £1.85 of 4 payments for a ‘Telephone Guarantee’ was approved. Perhaps this was the equivalent of today’s high speed broadband connection.

All in all it was a good meeting for getting the business done.


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