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ceashtonpicIn the late spring of 1877, Edward Ashton married Sarah Ann Potts at St Thomas’ Church, Stockport. Later in the year, Charles was born. As young man, he joined the regular army and, in 1905, married Elizabeth Sharples, also at St Thomas’.

By the time war was declared on 4 August 1914, Charles was an established family man. He had finished his term in the army and was working as a porter and shunter at Edgeley Station (and would be later included in the London & North Western Railway Company’s Roll of Honour). He and Elizabeth were living at 52 Hempshaw Lane with their three children. Charles was still on the army reserve and was mobilised when war was declared. He probably had to report to the Regimental Headquarters at Preston before joining the Battalion, then at Aldershot.

By 22 August, Charles was in France and, the next day, went into action at the Battle of Mons. Between the 7th and 10th of September, he will have again seen action at the Battle of the Marne and, a few days later, at the Battle of the Aisne.

October brought the troops to Belgium and the First Battle of Ypres. On the 27th, the Battalion left its camp and marched though the village of Hooge (just outside Ypres – now called Ieper) to a large wood east of the village. British troops advancing in front of them encountered far superior numbers of Germans advancing towards them.

On the 29th, there were reports of Germans massing for an attack and, in the late afternoon, Charles and his comrades advanced north of the village of Gheluvelt and dug in.

The Regimental History records that during the night of 30/31 October; “the four Companies were strung out along a line of trenches, most of the time under a heavy bombardment and on the early morning of 31 October, the Battalion was ordered to retire through the wood to Hooge, where it formed up. On receipt of fresh orders, it went forward again at 9am and, in company with the Gordon Highlanders, made a successful attack, ending with a bayonet charge on the enemy, inflicting considerable loss upon him. Advancing again, the Battalion occupied a position facing the village of Gheluvelt.

One of the Battalion’s officers also recorded the events “At 9am we try to move through Gheluvelt, but in crossing a lane we are enfiladed by a machine gun. Captain Ryley (went) off to try and locate the gun. That was the last heard or seen of him.”

The diary continues “We reach the main road at Gheluvelt and then come to a standstill, for it is quite impossible to advance any further on account of the terrific shelling……We withdraw again to our trenches. The movement has lasted only half an hour and has cost us dear – two officers and half the two companies have been placed hors de combat. We retire on Hooge and find a general retirement has been ordered, but this is almost immediately countermanded and we advance. We press forward and attack, drawing the enemy out of a wood on the side of the Menin Road. We bayonet and shoot hundreds and are weary of fighting.”

Charles was one of 68 men from his Battalion killed during the day, bringing the total since they arrived on the Western Front to 256. After the fighting, Charles was listed as being missing. His body was never found and identified. The determination of the British Army had resisted the German attack and their attempt to break through to Ypres failed.

Rank: Private
Number: 6110
Unit: 1st Battalion LOYAL NORTH LANCASHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 31 October 1914
Age: 38
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

This article has been reproduced with kind permission from the Stockport 1914-18 website.

The following letters received by Charles’ wife, three are from Charles whilst he was training in the UK, and a forth letter informing her of her husband’s death in France;

ashtonletters

Sunday
16 August 1914
Felixstowe
Suffolk

Dear Wife & Children,

Got your letter and tobacco last night and it was just in time I was run(ning) out and would have not been able to have got any till Monday. Did your Sarah Ann bring our Herbert home? You mentioned about my clothses one of my chums sent mine with his to their house so they will be alright. There is no sign of us leaving here yet, but we might have to leave at a minutes notice. We are living very well just at present but don’t know how long it will last. I have nothing more to say this time, hoping to be with you soon.

Remember me to all friends and thank Mrs Flitcroft for her kindness for sending me the tobacco. You can tell mother it is no use writing to her for I (have) nothing more to say than I write to you and it would only be a waste of money. I will now conclude hoping this will find you all in the best of health as it leaves me at present.

From your loving husband Charlie
xxxxxxx
xxxxx
xxx
x

P.S – You must keep your ears open for there is a fund going to open in every town for soldier’s wifes and children. I have forwarded another £1 through my pay and you might also get the allowance through the Regiment next week which will be about 8s 6d per week. I am also allowing you 1s 2d a day out of my pay which is 8s 2d a week.


Thursday 20th (August 1914)
Felixstowe

Dear Wife & Children,

Got your letter yesterday, you did not say whether you got the second £1/0s/0d I sent. There are a few men in my company whose wifes are receiving relief from the war funds; one man’s wife is getting 8d a day for herself, and 2d a day for each child and they have also received the seperation allowance from the Army. One man’s wife has three children same as us, and she has got 38s for this.


Sept 5th 1914

Dear Wife & Children,

I now take the pleasure of writing these few lines, hoping they will find you and the children in the best of health as they have me at present. I have not had any letters since we left Felixstowe, but I am not expecting any till we get settled down, so we can get mail to us. Dear Wife you must not upset yourself about me for I think I shall be with you before long. Just remember me to all inquiring friends and my best and fondest love to you and the children, also mother, brothers and sisters.

From your ever loving husband, Charlie


42 Grafton St
Preston
28 Nov 1914

Dear Mrs Ashton,

My cousins wife told me when I was at her house last week that you wanted to hear from me as to how I directed parcels so that you could send something to Mr Ashton but I did not write to you because I hadn’t the heart to tell you what I know.

Sometimes I have thought I ought to tell you what I had heard, just each time I tried to write I hesitated because I thought as bad as the heartbreaking anxiety of not hearing from your husband must have been, it could not be as bad as knowing that he was dead.
I have tried to spare you as much pain as I could, but now I think I must tell you that your poor husband was killed in action, at the Battle of the Aisne.

My cousin wrote to his wife that his chum Charlie, which of course means Mr Ashton, died a brave soldiers death, and from what she heard from another source, your husband suffered no pain.

——————-

Paul McCormick
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Paul McCormick

Paul McCormick is the creator and administrator for the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment website. Since 2010 he has been researching the soldiers that served during the First World War and sharing their stories on his website. You can contact Paul through the website 'Contact Me' page or on Twitter and Facebook.
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2 Responses to 6110 PTE. C. E. ASHTON. L.N.LAN.R

  1. Steven Prendergast says:

    Pte Charles Edward Ashton was my grandfather, my mothers father. She was born February 1914 and had two brothers, as you can see from the dates her father only knew her for 6 months before he was killed.I have in my possession several letters from him to his wife (my grandmother) and one from a serving soldiers wife in forming her of his death. I would gladly scan these for you and e-mail them if they would of any interest to the history of the regiment.
    Yours Sincerely S.Prendergast

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