120950 PTE. E. ASHCROFT. C.E.F.

 

(My thanks to Charlie O’Donnell, who located Edward in the Canadian Army records).

 

Edward Ashcroft was one of twin boys born on 17 May 1893 in Lostock Hall; his brother was Robert.  They were the sons of John Ashcroft (b. 1865 in Preston), a general labourer, and Ellen Trafford (b. 1871 in Llangollen).  Ellen’s parents were originally from Croston/Tarleton and they moved to north Wales in the mid-1860s, where her father was a gamekeeper, returning to Lostock Hall in the mid-1880s. That is where she and John met, and they were married at St Saviour’s in Bamber Bridge in 1891.  Although we have no definite records, it appears that between 1893 and 1901, the family emigrated to Canada, settling in or near Montreal, in Quebec.  Edward enlisted at Sherbrooke, Quebec (about 150km east of Montreal) on 7 September 1915 – the recruiting officer records his place of birth as “Loftycall” and later as “Toft Hill” (and in one place his name is spelled “Edouard”).  He was a labourer.  He was 5’4” tall and had a 33½” chest.  His religion is recorded as Methodist and the attestation papers also record that he is “Canadien français” suggesting that he was brought up as bilingual.  He was assigned service number 120950 and posted to 69th Battalion, Canadian Infantry.

 

The attestation papers record Edward’s next of kin: John (his father) is recorded as living at “5 Central Building, Lofty Call, England”, but this is then crossed out and replaced with Edward’s wife’s details – on 21 February 1916, Edward married Georgina (also spelled “Georgeana”) Kenny (b. 1894 in Montreal).  Georgina Kenny was the daughter of Edward Kenny (b. 1858 in Whitechapel, London) and Bridget Burns (b. 1860 in Ireland).  The large Kenny family moved to Montreal in 1894, just before Georgina was born, so she would have grown up bilingual, like her future husband Edward.  Edward was already signed up in the Army when he married Georgina, and it seems she followed him wherever he went: in 1916, Georgina’s address is recorded as 121 Britain Street, St. John, New Brunswick (which is where Edward was in training and the port from which he would later sail for Europe), and an alternate address is also provided, as 4 Stade Street, Hythe, Kent (which is where Edward was in training in England before leaving for France).  A later document, which assigns overseas soldier’s pay, gives Georgina’s address as 5 Central Building, Lostock Hall, Preston, Lancashire.  This all suggests that John Ashcroft may have returned to England by 1915 leaving his son(s) in Canada, and that Georgina had come to England when Edward was posted there and that she moved to Lostock Hall when Edward was sent to France.  Edward’s last payment (due in May 1917) was forwarded to 284 Rue de St Vallier, Montreal.  And by 1920, Georgina had moved to Rue Mance, Montreal.

 

On 17 April 1916, Edward embarked at St John, New Brunswick, aboard the S.S. Scandinavian, bound for England and landed on 29 April 1916.  He was then in training at Bramshott in Hampshire, then at Otterpool and finally Dibgate (which are near Hythe, Kent).  Whilst in Dibgate, Edward was regularly absent without leave; on 2 August (72 hours), 26 September (3 days) and 17 October (2 days), for which he served 8 days detention for the first offence then for the second and third offences, 14 and 15 days No 2 Field Punishment.  Soon afterwards, however, he was transferred to 60th Bn and he joined them in the field on 6 November 1916.  At the end of March 1917, he was briefly in hospital (No 6, Canadian Field Ambulance) suffering from scabies.  In April, he would take part in the assault on Vimy Ridge, the greatest Canadian engagement of the War so far.

 

The assault on Vimy Ridge, the northern part of the wider battle of Arras, began at 5:30 am on Easter Monday, 9 April 1917.  It was the first occasion on which all four divisions of the Canadian Corps attacked as a composite formation.  The Canadian achievement in capturing Vimy Ridge owed its success to a range of technical and tactical innovations, very powerful artillery preparation, sound and meticulous planning and thorough preparation.  At Vimy, the Canadian Corps and the British XVII Corps on their immediate southern flank had captured more ground, more prisoners and more guns than any previous British Expeditionary Force offensive.  Vimy Ridge was a particularly important tactical feature. Its capture by the Canadians was essential to the advances by the British Third Army to the south and of exceptional importance to checking the German attacks in the area in 1918.

The Canadians had demonstrated they were one of the outstanding formations on the Western Front and masters of offensive warfare.

 

Edward Ashton was killed in this action on 9 April 1917, although his Battalion was in reserve.  He was probably killed in general shelling whilst moving from reserve into the trenches.  He was 23 years old.

 

Rank:  Private

Service No:  120950

Date of Death:  09/04/1917

Regiment/Service:  Canadian Infantry, 60th Bn.

Grave Reference:  V. D. 25.

Cemetery:  ECOIVRES MILITARY CEMETERY, MONT-ST. ELOI

 

The evidence suggests that John Ashcroft was back in England, and living in Lostock Hall, when his son enlisted in 1915, and that he looked after his daughter-in-law at the time his son was killed.  That would also explain how Edward’s name is recorded on the Lostock Hall Memorial.  I believe John died in 1929.

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