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26th Jun, 2022

100 years ago five Redditch soldiers were fighting for their lives

Ross Crawford 16th Apr, 2018

THE Western Front was a deadly place and the fate of five Redditch soldiers who died this week 100 years ago reflects some of the perils they faced.

There’s John Thomas Robinson, who lies buried in Plymouth Road Cemetery.

John was born in 1897 in Alcester, one of George and Ruth Robinson’s three children. The family lived on Evesham Road at Dagtail, and John went to work as a crochet hook worker in the needle industries.

During the war he served with the 2nd Battalion, the Royal Marine Light Infantry.

To give an idea of losses this unit faced, after the losses at Gallipoli in 1915 the four original battalions were amalgamated into two battalions. Further casualties led to those two battalions becoming just one in April, 1918.

John was one of those casualties and was invalided back to the UK. He died of disease aged 22 on April 1 and is remembered today on the Astwood Bank War Memorial.

Harry Aston also served with the Royal Marine Light Infantry, in the 1st Battalion.

The son of Alfred, a biscuit meal maker, and Agnes Aston, of Crabbs Cross, he was born in 1886, one of the couple’s three children. Harry worked as a cycle finisher before joining up.

He died on April 6, 1918 at the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, in Doullens, France, from the effects of a gas shell. He was 32.

Harry is buried in the Doullens Communal Cemetery and is remembered today on The Bridge War Memorial, Headless Cross.

Another soldier buried in Plymouth Road Cemetery is Harry Norman Ashfield.

Born in Bromsgrove in 1892, Harry was the son of William and Sara Ann Ashfield.

By the 1911 census the family were living at 220 Mount Pleasant. William worked as a groom and Harry, aged 19, was a machine needle stamper.

He joined the war effort early, on March 7, 1915, and served with the 3rd Battalion, the Worcestershires but later transferred to the 536th Agricultural Company Labour Corps.

Sometime in 1918 Harry was wounded and was sent back to Great Britain where he was cared for in a military hospital in Carlisle. He died on April 9 and is remembered today on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

Albert Edward Millward and Leonard Prescott both died on April 11, 1918.

Both faced the German onslaught at the Battle of Messines, neither has a known grave, but both are included on the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing in Belgium.

Leonard, the son of William and Jane Prescott, was born in 1894 in Redditch.

The family lived at 5 Walford Street and his father was a labourer, his mother a glove setter.

By the 1911 census Leonard was a cycle machinist miller, and went on to marry Nora Prescott, finding a home next door to his parents at 3 Walford Street.

He served with 5th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment and had achieved the rank of Sergeant by the time of his death.

He is remembered today on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

Albert served with the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, which was moved into the front line on April 10 to face the German advance.

The son of Jesse and Annie Elizabeth Millward, and born in 1898, Albert’s father died when he was four-years-old.

Hs mother worked as a fishing tackle maker and later a gut picker.

He was killed, aged just 20, and is remembered today on The Bridge War Memorial.

With thanks to: Remembering Redditch’s Fallen Heroes; The Diary of the Worcestershire Regiment; and

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