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Herbert Ashby

Date of birth: 20.3.1894
Date of death: 2.9.1918
Area: Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of George and Mary Ashby
Rank: Private
Service number: 52643

War Service

Herbert joined up as Private 52643 in the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry 2/4th Battalion.
On 1st September 1918 they moved from Behagnies to Vaulx-Vraucourt to attack the enemy. The war diary states that “throughout the early morning of 2nd September the enemy were intermittently shelling all the grounds W of Vaulx-Vraucourt and using a considerable amount of gas”.
At 5.30am they started to move forward under their own barrage “the men at first being reluctant to leave the sunken road owing to heavy enemy barrage they had to pass through however their officers led them forward”.
At midnight they were heavily shelled, then the rest of the night was quiet with information being received that the enemy had withdrawn. The battalion was relieved on 3rd September with casualties on the previous operation being recorded as 1 officer and 14 other ranks killed and 4 officers and 137 other ranks wounded. Two more men died of wounds later.
Herbert was one of the men killed in action on 2nd September 1918. He was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal and is buried in the Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery, France. Herbert named his aunt Mary Bickerdyke as his sole legatee. He is remembered on the South Ossett war memorial as well as in Wrenthorpe.

Family Life

Herbert was born on 20th March 1894, son of George, a coal miner and his wife Mary. He was baptised at St Anne’s Church, Wrenthorpe on 2nd November 1899, at the same time as his sister Alice Ann who had been born on 6th June 1898. The family were living in Kirkhamgate at the time. Herbert had an older brother Thomas who had been baptised at St Anne’s on 3rd August 1892 when the family were living at Robin Hood Hill.
The 1901 census records the family living at Beck Bottom, Kirkhamgate with their father George, said to have been born in Lofthouse. Mary had her 15-year-old daughter Florrie Pitchford living with them and they were both said to be born in Wakefield. There was also another child called Clara who had been born in about 1900 while they were living in Kirkhamgate.
Sadly in 1907 George Ashby died and Mary remarried the following year. In the 1911 census both Herbert and his brother Thomas were living with John and Mary Bickerdyke at Station Road, Ossett. Mary was George Ashby’s sister who had married John Bickerdyke in 1881 so therefore Herbert and Thomas were their nephews. Both Thomas and Herbert were coalminers and were now recorded as having been born at Bragg Lane End. The younger siblings were living at 5, Wellington Yard with their mother and stepfather – Joseph Brooke – according to this census which also shows that Herbert had a further sibling George who had been born in 1905.

Photo of Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery. Rows of white headstones in front of a stone wall memorial with 2 central towers. Vis-en-Artois British Cemetery

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