Our People - Edward Ashcroft
9 April 1917
#120950 Private Edward Ashcroft
60th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.)
9th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division
Formerly 54th Regiment of Militia, 69th Battalion C.E.F., 23rd Battalion C.E.F.
Killed in action 9 April 1917 age 23
Ecoivres Military Cemetery, Mont-St.Eloi, Pas de Calais, France. Ref: V.D.25.
John Ashcroft & Ellen Trafford were married at St. Saviour’s church, Bamber Bridge on 24 December 1892. They were both residents of Lostock Hall and John was a printsman and Ellen was rover in a cotton mill. Edward Ashcroft and his twin brother Robert were born to the couple 17 May 1893 at Midge Hall . They were baptised a few days later on 4 June 1893 at St. Saviour’s.
Other records for the family, most notably the 1901 and 1911 census, seem to be absent. This may be explained by Edward’s re-emergence in Montreal, Quebec in 1915. The family could have moved to Canada not long after the twins’ birth in 1893, although to date I have been unable to find any Canadian census records for them.
Edward attested for the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 7 September 1915 at Sherbrooke, southern Quebec at the confluence of the St. Francis and Magog rivers. He said that he was already a member of the 54th Regiment of Militia (Carabiniers de Sherbrooke) and his trade was labouring. He is described as 5 foot 4 inches tall, with fair complexion, fair hair and blue eyes. His chest measured 29.5 inches with maximum expanse of 33.5 inches. He had no distinctive marks.
Before leaving Canada, Edward married Georgina 21 February 1916. It seems likely that she followed him over to England and may have stayed with his father John at 5 Central Buildings in Lostock Hall. Edward initially joined the 69th Reserve Battalion C.E.F. He arrived at Bramshott camp, Hampshire on 28 April 1916. He was then transferred to the 23rd Battalion at Otterpool camp at Folkestone 7 June 1916 and taken on strength at Dibgate camp, also Folkestone, the same day. There were three separate incidences of Edward going absent without leave while in the south east. From 2 August to 5 August 1916, from 26 September 1916 to 29 September 1916 and from 16 October 1916 to 19 October 1916. All these incidences occurred when it is likely his wife was in the country. The first incidence was punished with 8 days detention and the second with 15 days field punishment number 2 (shackled to prevent his escape and to undergo hard labour and marches with full pack etc). Incident three was punished with 14 days field punishment number 2.
Edward was then sent to the 60th Battalion C.E.F. for overseas duty on 27 October 1916. He was admitted to hospital to be treated for scabies 8 March 1917 and discharged 10 March 1917. Scabies is an infection caused by a microscopic mite and was common among men who shared very close quarters.
The 60th Battalion was in the trenches at Vimy in the early part of April up to the 5 April 1917, and then in the Divisional reserve at Villers-Au-Boix from 6 April to the 8 April. After communion services at 8 and 11 am, the Battalion were ordered up to the assembly trenches to the west of the Arras-Bethune road running through Souchez. They left at 9.30 in the evening and arrived in the trenches at 12:35 am the following morning 9 April. There were no shelters or dugouts for the men and they had to spend an uncomfortable night exposed to the elements. The Battalion were in support on the Bethune Road when the attack on Vimy Ridge got under way at 5:30 am on 9 April. They moved from the assembly trench to the old front line trenches at 11:15 am, where they stayed. It is difficult to know exactly when or how Edward died on the 9 April, but it is likely he died during the period the battalion were on the move between 5:30 and 11:15 am by a shell burst or bullets.
Edward Ashcroft was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He also appears on the Lostock Hall Civic Memorial on Hope Terrace.
Georgina Ashcroft lived at a number of locations in Quebec and New Brunswick from 1917 onwards and the last mention of her in the records is at 9 Plateau Street, Montreal, Quebec on 2 August 1923.
Notes - Edward Ashcroft proved hard to trace. When I couldn't find him in any British military records, I started to look further afield. I struck lucky when looking through the Canadian archival records and in particular the record for an Edward Ashcroft from 'Lofty Hill'. I looked further into the records and it became clear that this was, in fact, Lostock Hall. It is possible the wrong place name was written into the records or Edward was simply misunderstood.
Painting by Mary Riter Hamilton, “Isolated Grave and Camouflage, Vimy Ridge,” May 20, 1919
Mary Riter Hamilton. Library and Archives Canada, Accession No. 1988-180-223; e010857264
War Diary, 60th Battalion C.E.F., 1 to 8 April 1917
War Diary, 60th Battalion C.E.F., 9 to 13 April 1917