Mill disaster brings home the horrors of war

As some of you (hopefully) have noticed, we’ve been running a column each week covering the news of 100 years ago, the period of WW1.

It’s hard to grasp the reality, of swathes of young men marching away and some not coming back.

As LP Hartley wrote: “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there,” and Congleton hundred years ago does not seem the place it is today.

That was until last week, when the Bosley disaster brought it home. The dreadful explosion saw four people killed and a local outpouring of grief and support as the community rallied round.

But in 1915 this death toll was, if not weekly, at least a regular occurrence. A Bosley every fortnight — it’s too awful to contemplate.

And it was worse in 1915, because families knew their loved ones were in harm’s way.

As we commented at the end of May: “Dread insomnia has made the nights a terror . . . the waking moments have been filled with the thoughts of the soldiers in the trenches, and the brave boys in blue watching and waiting”.

Thanks to Bosley, we can see this as no mere melodrama from the Chronicle editor.

That same issue we reported the deaths of three men: Pte Harry Macdonald, killed in action, Lce/Cpl Sydney Mitch-ell, victim to a German sniper, and Pte Jack Wilshaw, dead of shrapnel wounds.

A couple of weeks before, we reported the death of Lt Kenneth W G Meakin and Col Frederick Charles France-Hayhurst.

In June, one week saw three more deaths: Pte J Whitehurst, who had died from wounds, Drummer Sidney Green, killed in fighting, and Capt Oswald Armitage Carver, killed in the Dardanelles.

Only a week or so later, there were five more deaths: 2nd Lt Alfred John Haughton, killed in action, Pte James William Shepley, 2nd Grenadier Guards, killed in France, Lce/Cpl Frank Mullock, killed in an attack and buried behind the lines, Pte WG Morris, and Cpl George Sproston, who had relatives locally.

Into July and another week saw the deaths of 2nd Lt Alfred John Haughton, killed in France, and Pte Joseph Axson, killed in action.

How on earth did their families cope? They loved their families as we do today and grieved as much as do we.

Truly, war is awful.

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