Bombadier Alfred ASHWORTH


Regiment/Service:
Royal Field Artillery
Unit:
504th Battery, 65th Brigade
Service Number:
34816
Date of Death:
26 August 1917 - Killed in Action
Age:
28
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Ref. Number:
II. J. 29.

Personal History:
Alfred was born in the June quarter 1889 at 23 High Street, Buxton, the son of Alfred (Sadler) and Hannah Jane (née Handley) Ashworth. (1891 Census RG 12/2779) He had two older sisters, Annie and Gertrude Jane, an older brother, Handley, and three younger sisters, Alexa, Hetta and Marie. (1901 Census RG 13/3269)

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21241) the family (still all together except Alfred's mother who had died in the March quarter 1910, aged 54) had moved next door to 21 High Street, and Alfred was working as a "Joiner House". There is no record of Alfred being married.
Probate records show that on his death Alfred left a sum of £230 9s 10d (£230.49) in his will to his father.

Military History:
According to the SDGW database, Alfred enlisted at Buxton but unfortunately, his Service papers have been destroyed during a Second World War bombing raid. His Service Number, however, indicates he enlisted in September 1914 and his Medal Index Card shows that he entered the War, in France, with the 504th Battery, on the 8th September 1915. His Brigade, the 65th (LXV Brigade, RFA) was a 'Howitzer' Brigade and were part of 12th Division from formation in September 1914 until broken up in August 1916. During this period Alfred would have fought at The Battle of Loos and, of course, the Battle of the Somme.

After being wounded in the hip by shrapnel Alfred spent about 6 months of 1916 in Sunderland and Durham Hospitals recovering from his wounds. He brought his father a grim souvenir when he came home for Christmas 1916 - a piece of the shrapnel removed from his leg.

From 8th July to 3rd September 1917 the Brigade (four batteries of 18 pounders) was attached to II Corps, which was in Fifth Army in the Ypres sector. (At full establishment, a brigade of 18-lbr field guns consisted of 795 men of whom 23 were officers.) This period covered The Battles of Ypres 1917 ("Third Ypres") and in particular - as far as Alfred was concerned -  the Battle of Pilkem, 31st July - 2nd August 1917, and the Battle of Langemarck, 16th - 18th August 1917.

It was just a week after the end of this Battle that Alfred was killed in action. He was the only man in his Battery, and even his Division, to be killed that day - or for several days either side. His father received a letter from Alfred's Commanding Officer, published in 'The Buxton Advertiser', saying that:

"He was at the time of his death in charge of a gun, doing Sergeant's work. All the last month, during trying times, he had behaved well, showing pluck and reliability."

He is buried in Zantvoorde British Cemetery. However, the village of Zantvoorde (now Zandvoorde) was taken by the 39th German Division on 30th October 1914 and remained in German hands until 28th September 1918. It is quite possible, therefore, that he was reburied in Zantvoorde British Cemetery after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields and nearby German cemeteries.


Sources:
· I am grateful to The War Graves Photographic Project for the photo of Alfred's grave
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 1 November 1917

Link to CWGC Record
Alfred Ashworth's grave
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