Frederick Ashby, Sergeant 9707, 2nd Battalion, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Frederick Ashby was born on 9th December 1893 in Radnage, Buckinghamshre England. He was the sixth of twelve children, most of whom made it to adulthood. At the time of Frederick’s birth, his father Alfred Ashby was working as a chair turner. The nearby town of High Wycombe was filled with furniture factories that needed a constant supply of chair parts. The area was known for its beech-woods which supplied the timber for the chairs. The logs would be cut into lengths and then split into billets. The man in the photograph is roughly shaping the billets with a hand axe. The boy seated at the shaving-off horse is preparing the billets for the pole-lathe turner.

Bodgers in the Beech Woods near High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire (1907)

In 1901, the Ashby family were living at the Three Horseshoes in Bennett End, Radnage. Frederick’s father was still working for the chairmaking industry and is described as a ‘chair stuff maker’. The family appears to have mostly remained at the Three Horseshoes until the late 1920’s as Alfred Ashby’s name is found in the Kelly’s Directories at that address. Frederick had moved out of the family home by 1911 and was working on his aunt and uncle’s farm. Jane Bird, his mother’s sister, had married Richard Keen in 1882. They lived at Chenies Farm in Eastcote, Middlesex where Frederick worked as a cowman.

Chenies Farm, Eastcote, Middlesex

The following year Frederick enlisted with the Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Light Infantry at Oxford on 28th April 1912. He had been working as an ‘agricultural labourer’ with his last employer being recorded as R. Keen. At the time of his enlistment he was 18 years and 6 months old, 5 foot 3 inches tall, weighing 129 lbs. with a fully expanded chest measurement of 35.5 ins. Frederick had blue eyes, a fresh complexion and light brown hair.

Frederick Ashby (1893-1964)

At the outbreak of WWI, Frederick was one of the first soldiers to arrive in France in August 1914. He served in France until November 1918. Frederick was promoted to Sergeant on 14th November 1916 whilst in the field. There are a number of entries on his Casualty Form. Further research in the Battalion’s war diaries is required to establish his Battalion’s movements. Two entries on the Casualty Form show that he was ‘wounded in action’ at Richebourg on 16th/17th May 1915. He was victim of a severe shrapnel wound to his right ear. Due to his injuries he was transferred to England and did not return to France until 17th December.

The below is the war diary entry for the 17th May 1915 which gives a good description of the events of that day.

War Diary WO 95/1348/2 (The National Archives)

[Line No.]

Page 14

[1] 17th May 1915 In the RICHEBOURG breastworks
[2] At 6 a.m. following orders received:
[3] The 2nd. Divn. will advance to secure a
[4] junction with the 7th Diva. The 2/H.L.I.
[5] ordered to attack N.W corner of Ferme
[6] DU BOIS, the Glasgow Highlanders to be
[7] in support, the Regt. to put Cos.
[8] in ^trenches vacated by 2/H.L.I.
[9] The Regt., less 1 Co. in the new
[10] Commanr. trench & a few men with
[11] Regt. Hd. Qrs. In German trench with
[12] 2/H.L.I, remained in the
[13] breast-work lines all day.
[14] The enemy shelled all day
[15] all trenches, occupied by
[16] us, very heavily, the shooting
[17] on our breastworks being very
[18] accurate and destructive,
[19] and a considerable number
[20] of casualties occurred there.
[21] Some very good work was done
[22] ^at night by stretcher-parties bringing in
[23] wounded from the front.
[24] The Regiment was relieved

Page 15

[1] Soon after midnight by the
[2] 15th Sikhs and returned into
[3] temporary billets at RICHEBOURG
[4] St. VAAST.
[5] Casualties: 15th-18th May
[6] Killed: Capt. F. H. BEAUFORT
[7]….17….Lieut R. E. B. BULL
[8]…………..“……D. H. W. HUMFREY
[9]…..2nd…“……L. A. DASHWOOD
[10]…2nd…“……F. E. L. RIDDLE
[11]……………..and 42 men……………..47
[12] Wounded Capt. H. M. DILLON
[13]……12……….“……G. BLEWITT
[14]………………..“……S. F. HAMMICK
[15]…….Lt. (Tempry.) W. G. TOLSON
[16]…………Lieut. C. S. BAINES D.S.O.
[17]……………“…….G. W. TITERINGTON
[18]……………“…….D. A. D. SEWELL
[19]……………“…….J. W. G. WYLD
[20]……………“…….E. H. WHITFELD
[21]………2: …“…….W. J. BARNARD
[22]………………….and 270 men………..284
[23]……….& R.A.M.C attd..2…“….[men]
[24] Missing: Bt. Major E. H. KIRKPATRICK
[25]……3……..Lieut. C. J. WARNER
[26]……………….“……R. D. RENDEL
[27]………….2n…“……F. E. L. RIDDLE
[28]……………………..and 61 men……..64

…………………………………………………395

Corrected up to 7th June 1915
(the above is a left hand margin annotation – corrected numbers are on far right in bold)

Page 16

[1] 18th May 1915
[2] Most probably the missing are either
[3] killed or wounded, as some of
[4] the area fought over was not won
[5] and it was almost impossible
[6] to search it even after dark.
[7] All the area also between our
[8] original front line and the German
[9] line was so shell-swept, it is
[10] very probable many bodies were
[11] entirely destroyed by this fire.

Frederick survived the war and was known as “Happy’ to his family. When I asked my grandmother why he had the nickname Happy, I was told it must have been due to his cheerful disposition. Family story states that Frederick was buried alive in the trenches which contributed to his hunched over appearance in his later life. My grandmother told me that he was offered an operation to correct his spine which he declined. During WWII he was a member of the ‘Radnage Civil Defence’ and is pictured outside the parish church.

Happy was a gardener in his later years and tended the garden of elderly lady in a wheelchair. She loved her garden and Happy built a wooden walkway so that she could still manoeuvre herself around her garden to see the plants and flowers. My grandmother told me how she remembers going to see her grandfather when he had passed away to ‘say [her] goodbyes’. My mother was only a year old at the time.

Radnage Civil Defence 1939-1944

Radnage Civil Defence 1939-1944

Back Row: A. W. Day, D. Pitcher, Sgt. Eagles, Pt. W. Cross, Pt. Neighbour, L/Cp. J. Ross, Pt. J. Bladwin, Pt. A. Martin, Pt. J. Prentice, Pt. Higgs, Pt. Maunder, Fireman A. Tapping
Middle Row: A. White, W. Newell, H. Lane, Pt. T. Warren, Cpl. H. Quantick, Pt. P. Burrell, Pt. F. Stevens, Pt. L. Bradshaw, Cpl. R. Stone, A. Sears, H. Holland, M. Newell
Front Row: H. Tapping, F. Ashby, M. Day, Lady Addison, M. E. Burdett, J. Rowntree, H. Rivett (Head Warden), Lt. F. E. Burton, Rector, M. Wayte, E. Brown, A. Curtiss, Firewoman H. Burdett

Frederick Ashby died on 11th February 1964 and is buried at St Mary’s, Radnage, Buckinghamshire, England. The below picture (c.2002) shows myself next to Happy’s grave. Happy was my great-great grandfather and he is buried with his wife, Florence Maud Ashby née Brooks (1902-1986).

Grave of Frederick Ashby (1893-1964) and his wife Florence Maud Brooks (1902-1986) at St Mary’s, Radnage, Buckinghamshire

© Richard Holt, Holt’s Family History Research 2021

Published by holtsfamilyhistoryresearch

I am a professional genealogist and AGRA Associate. I love researching those hard to find ancestors and using DNA to help crack those family mysteries. I feel at home in archives handling old documents and getting my hands dirty - often quite literally from years of dirt and grime! https://www.agra.org.uk/richard-holt-genealogist-in-cambridgeshire

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create your website with WordPress.com
Get started
%d bloggers like this: