Thursday 26 October 2017

Cyril Ashman Hon Artillery Company

Cyril Arthur Ashman - (Private No. 746) 2nd Battalion Honourable
Artillery Company 22nd Brigade - 7th Division

Cyril was born on April 17th, 1897 at about the time the family is believed to have moved to Eton Wick from Tidworth in Hampshire. In September 1910 he left the Eton Porny School to complete his education at the Windsor County Boys' School. During his school years he frequently helped on his father's farm until April 1914 when he left school to become a banker's clerk for Barclays at Southall. He joined the Army in April 1916 when he was just 19 years old and served with The Honourable Artillery Company.

He was a very likeable lad and probably more outgoing than his older brother, Douglas. Eight months before Cyril enlisted, his 23-year-old brother was killed in the Gallipoli offensive. It is not known whether this loss influenced his own decision to join the army, but it is not difficult to understand the apprehension of his parents as their one remaining son went off to war.

Edwin and Alice Ashman
with their children
Dorothy, Cyril and Douglas
As a boy he often called on Mrs Roll Bond of I Palmer Place and jokingly asked for titbits from her larder. In return he would take her a pail of skimmed milk and said it would only be given to the animals if she did not use it. Mrs Bond was very fond of young Cyril and she is said to have named a son after him. When Cyril had completed seven months of military training he was posted to the Western Front and in the late summer of 1917 he was serving in the Ypres Salient, Belgium.

He was wounded on October 7th and suffered Trench Fever, but was soon back in the front line. It was late Autumn and the battle had raged for three months with the aim of breaking out from the Salient and capturing the distant high ground known as the Passchendaele Ridge. Intense shelling had destroyed all the network of drainage ditches and the heavy rains made the terrain a glutinous, oozing quagmire.

The name of Passchendaele became synonymous with mud and slush, mud that drowned 
both men and horses. From the beginning of August 1917, the army had pressed painfully, slowly onward, until on
November 10th the ridge was finally taken at the appalling price of an estimated 250,000 casualties of whom 42,000 were never to be recovered. Cyril was killed here at Gheluvelt on October 26th, 1917, while trying to rescue a wounded comrade. Unlike his brother, he has a grave and is buried in the nearby massive military cemetery known as Tyne Cot. The cemetery is situated five miles northeast of Ypres and it contains 11,000 graves. Memorial walls there name nearly 35,000 other soldiers, who have no known graves. This total of approximately 46,000 British men were all killed in the Ypres Salient between August 1917 and the Armistice of November 1918.

Cyril's grave is number 21; Row C; plot 55. Mr and Mrs Ashman received a letter from their son's commanding officer which read: It is with the greatest regret that I am writing to inform you of the death of your son, Private Cyril Ashman of this Company, who fell on the 26th October while performing his duty under heavy shell fire. His officers regret the loss of a good soldier and his comrades mourn one of their most popular comrades, and it is the wish of all that I should convey to you their deepest sympathy in the great loss which you have sustained.In little more than two years, Edwin and Alice Ashman had lost both their sons in the Great War.

They left Eton Wick and the farm to live in Lansdowne Avenue, Slough. Their one remaining child was Dorothy. She lived until 1956 and was buried in the Eton Wick Churchyard. Her grave headstone bears the names of her two lost brothers along with her own.

Cyril's name is the second on the village memorial. He is also commemorated on the Eton Church Gates and on his old school memorial in Windsor. Cyril was single and 20 years of age.

This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

* The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the death
of Private Cyril Ashman as 28th October 1917. 

Ernest Brown: There is no information about him on Lives of the First World War as yet.

The Eton Wick War Memorial page on Buckinghamshire Remembers website.

Cyril Ashman is also recorded in the Barclays Bank WW1 Roll of Honour. Private Ashman was one of 645 Barclays employees who died in the service of the country during the First World War.

Documents from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website 

Tuesday 24 October 2017

The Village News viewed from Eton Wick

I have lived for over 40 years in and have been part of the life of two villages, Eton Wick and West Chiltington Common so when Tom Fort's “The Village News” came out I felt that I should get a copy. It is a fascinating collection of village stories that takes the reader on a meander through rural England both geographically and historically. From Twyford where his parents moved to when he was a year old in 1952 to Sonning Common where he currently lives his book looks at how villages have survived and what they need to make them work as communities.

His journey from Twyford to Sonning Common takes in Eversley, Luccombe and Chelsfield in the South of England to Troutbeck and Chopwell in the North. He chose his villages with care as most of the places that he has written about have either literary connections or researched histories written about them; these are referred to throughout the book.

Eton Wick may not get a mention, but villages across much of Berkshire are from Chieveley* in the west, home of Miss Read via Three Mile Cross, Miss Mitford and Sonning Common (used to be in Berkshire) to Twyford are covered and the changes that the passing of time has brought them. Eton College does get a mention as it is part of the history of Juniper Hill in Oxfordshire.

Juniper Hill was the village that Flora Thompson called Lark Rise in the novel of that that she wrote about rural life in the   North Oxfordshire community in the 1890's. One part of Juniper Hill's history is the experience of the area being enclosed by the landlord, Eton College. Mr Fort writes

"when it was enclosed the people would lose their rights to graze and take wood, and much more alarmingly would risk losing their homes."

Eton Wick had its own experience with the threat of enclosure when John Penn attempted to gain the necessary legislation through Parliament which was defeated on 1st May 1826. Eton Wick is still surrounded by open fields, Lammas land and commons. And of course, Eton College is Lord of the Manor.

The story of Three Mile Cross contrasts with Eton Wick as both villages are close to major urban centres, but so far have different futures. Three Mile Cross which is part of the Parish of Shinfield* the area was subject to several Enclosure Acts between 1856 and 1863.  The village lies immediately south-east of the M4 – A33 junction and is being developed. There is a website for the Shinfield plan that shows where the national house builders are adding the new homes. 

The Village News illustrates that every village is different and that actions and decisions taken in the past can bring about very different futures for the communities that live in villages. Eton Wick had a major growth phase from the early 1880’s with the development of Boveney Newtown starting on former farmland on the north side of the Eton Wick Road and west of Bell Lane. The growth continued through to the early 1970’s when the Wheatbutts was built on.

Mr Fort suggests an asset mix that can make a village successful. This includes in no particular order:

The village school, Church, shops and Post Office, sports and other clubs, families with young children and people how are prepared to be actively involved in making the community thrive. He also adds that finding space for small developments is important, Eton Wick offers all those. I think that as someone who has a keen interest in Eton Wick and looking through the lens of The Village News I would say that the village community has much to be proud of and some issues to be wary of.

Some notes on the growth of Eton Wick.

The census records for the older part of the village in 1861 show that there were 78 occupied dwellings with a population of 276.   By 1911 the village had gained a neighbour, Boveney Newtown on what had previously been farmland immediately to the west. The two communities, they both had their own Parish Council totalled 248 houses and 1026 inhabitants.  The population of the village at the 2011 census was 2260. 

During 100 years between 1861 and when my parents brought their family to the village in 1960,  it gained a new school in 1888 and extended several times since to cope with a larger population. A Post Office arrived in the mid-1880’s as well as other shops. A new parade of shops was built by the local authority in the early 1950’s  and a second parade was added in the early 1970’s. The Village Institute/Hall, Scout Hut, Youth Club, St. Gilberts RC Church and Football & Social Club were added to the south side of the village between 1900 and the end of the 1970’s.

*Author's note: my own 3x great-grandparents, Richard and Asenath Povey lived in Chievely and had nine children including my 2x great-grandfather also called Richard.

Elizabeth Povey, a granddaughter of Richard and Asenath is recorded as having stayed at the Wheatsheaf Inn, Shinfield on the 1901 Census.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

E. Brown - The Queens

Ernest Brown (Private No. T/202287) 3rd/4th Battalion The Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment – 62nd Brigade – 21st Division

Ernest (Ernie) Brown was born on December 17th 1894 and spent most of his early years in

the family home at 2, Curlew Cottages, Northfield Road, Boveney Newtown. He was not related to the other Boveney Newtown casualty of the Great War with the same surname. However he did have a brother William who served in the Dardanelles in 1915 and later on the Western Front. William survived the war. They had five sisters and all except the two eldest of the seven children were born in Northfield Road. The two eldest were born in London and came to Eton Wick on account of their father's work as a horse coachman. Unfortunately the father died of cancer in 1905 leaving a widow to bring up the large family.

Two houses comprised Curlew Cottages, and another of the village's Great War fatalities, George Bolton, had spent part of his early life in the other house. 

Ernie attended the Eton Wick Infant School from 1899 until at the age of six years and nine months he left the village school to attend Eton Porny. In 1908, when he attained his 14th birthday, he left school to start work. By this time the family had moved a few houses along the road and were in No. 2, Oak Villas

On at least two occasions Ernie was mentioned in the Parish Magazine for good school attendance and good work. It is believed he found employment with Tom Lovell the local baker, Postmaster and general stores who traded at Ada Cottage, next to the Three Horse Shoes public house. Tom was a much-esteemed village man, for apart from being the principal trader he was also a school governor and frequently sang in Eton Wick concert groups. His son, Frederick Lovell was the village draper and boot dealer. 

No reference has been found to the date Ernest enlisted into the army, although it was probably 1915, when he was 20 years old. Certainly the 3rd/4th Battalion The Queens was formed at Windsor in June 1915. The following month they went to Tunbridge Wells as a unit of the 200th Brigade, 67th Division. In October the Battalion moved to Reigate in July 1916 to Westbere and in November to Ramsgate. On June 1st 1917 they embarked for the continent and landed at Havre. In all probability Ernie last saw Eton Wick and home during May 1917, prior to sailing to France. 

When the time came for Ernie to return to his unit, he started to walk the village road to catch his Windsor train. A local trader gave him a lift on his horse and cart, and with a parting gesture said "Cheerio! Ern' all the best and I will see you next time you get home". Back came the reply "Thank you Bert, but you will not see me again". This chilling expression or premonition was quite common among men who knew so much about the battlefield carnage. As privates they could not expect to survive 18 months before their next home leave was posted. 

Ernie arrived in the war zone in time for the bitter fighting of the Third Battle of Ypres that commenced on July 31st and raged on through the treacherous and drowning mud of Passchendaele. Almost tantalisingly the tiny place of that name, standing on marginally higher ground, became the objective of thousands upon thousands of weary, struggling soldiers. By October the battle had raged for nearly three months and British and Empire units became involved in an attack on the Broodseinde sector. 

The 3rd/4th Battalion of The Queen's Royal West Surreys were expected to attack and capture "Fudge Trench" allowing the 1st Lincolnshires to pass through their positions to further the planned advance. Other regiments, together with Australian and New Zealand units, were to simultaneously attack on the flanks. 

Advancing was very slow as the troops were obliged to file forward over duck boards which spanned the mud filled shell holes, all the time being subjected to intense enemy fire. It was during this action, on October 24th*, that Ernest Brown was killed. There are no details, his body was never identified and consequently there is no known grave. He is commemorated on a wall plaque in the Tyne Cot Cemetery along with approximately 35,000 other men who have no known graves and who fell in the battle in this sector. 

Additionally there are 11,000 graves in the same cemetery. Tyne Cot is situated five miles north east of the Belgian city of Ypres. 

In the local newspaper dated November 24th 1917 we read: 

Ernest Brown of 2, Oak Villas, Eton Wick, second son of Mr Brown and Mrs Brown, aged 22 years, Faithful Unto Death, Grant Him Eternal Rest. 

Ernest was a single man. His name is sixth on the Eton Wick War Memorial and is also on the bronze tablets attached to the Eton Church Memorial Gates.

 This is an extract from Their Names Shall Be Carved in Stone  
and published here with grateful thanks to the author Frank Bond.

* The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the death
of Private Ernest Brown as 4th October 1917. 

Ernest Brown: There is no information about him on Lives of the First World War as yet.

The Eton Wick War Memorial page on Buckinghamshire Remembers website.