Killed in Action on Saturday, 13th March 1915, age 25.
Commemorated on Panel 17 and 18 of Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France.
1st Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 24th Brigade of 8th Division.
of Factory Road, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Birmingham, Enlisted: Birmingham, Resident: Unknown.
First landed France & Flanders, 5th November 1914.
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.
Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because his death was reported in the Tipton Herald.
Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/823511/
Birth of John William Ashley registered March quarter 1890 in Birmingham.
28 Ward Street, Birmingham
Joseph Ashley (48, Telephone Worker, born Great Bridge), his wife Ellen (39, born Birmingham), and their children: Robert (16, born Birmingham), Joseph (13, born Birmingham), John (11, born Birmingham), Lily (9, born Birmingham) and Nellie (5, born Birmingham).
3 House 3 Court, Lower Tower Street, Birmingham
John Ashley (21, Brass Polisher, born Birmingham), and his sisters: Lily (19, Brass Polisher, born Birmingham) and Nellie (15, Nickel Polisher, born Birmingham).
Marriage of John W. Ashley and Florence Chambers registered March quarter 1912 in Birmingham. Two daughters were born, Ellen in June quarter 1913, and Lilian M. in March quarter 1915.
The Tipton Herald of 24th April 1915 reports the death, at Neuve Chapelle, of Private Ashley of Factory Road, Tipton. There is no doubt that this is the correct man, but at the time of the 1901 and 1911 Census living in Birmingham. The Ashley family must have moved to Tipton possibly after he had enlisted.
As John was with the 1st Worcesters when they first landed in France in November 1914, he must have been either a pre-war Regular, or a Reservist. John served only in the Neuve Chapelle area, and was killed at battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915; he has no known grave and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.
After John's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £2/13/2d (2 pounds, 13 shillings and 2 pence); this was paid to his widow, Florence, in September 1915. His War Gratuity was £3/0/0d (3 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Florence in August 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that John had enlisted within the previous 12 months, not surprising as the war was only 8 months old.
The 1st Worcsters were attached to 24th Brigade in 8th Division, and landed in Le Havre on 5th/6th November 1914. They moved to the Neuve Chapelle area, where the line had stabilised after fierce fighting in October. The Germans still bombarded the lines with regularity and ferocity, and the Worcesters suffered from the cold after the extremes of Egypt. The Worcesters had 40 men killed in the area by the end of 1914, and 100 men by the commencement of the Battle of Neuve Chapelle.
The Battle of Neuve Chapelle raged from the 10th to 13th March 1915; it was intended to eliminate a German salient into the British lines, to break through their defensive lines and capture Aubers Ridge. This was originally planned to be in combination with a French attack on Vimy Ridge, but this was not carried out due to their resource constraints.
The Worcesters were to have attacked at 9.30am on 10th March as the second wave of 24th Brigade, but this was not possible because of delays on their left in clearing the 'Moated Grange'. At 2.00pm they temporarily assisted the 23rd Brigade on their left and suffered a number of casualties, and then at 4.30pm advanced eastwards until they met resistance near Piétre, and entrenched for the night. The 25th Brigade on the right had successfully captured Neuve Chapelle village by 8.30am, and, had communication allowed, this may have been the key to a more general breakthrough. Twenty Worcesters men had died on the opening day.
The next day, the 11th, was a day of confusion. The artillery attempted a bombardment of the German lines in front of the Worcesters but did not have an accurate location, and during the afternoon shelled an advance party of the Worcesters with numerous casualties. There were locally organised attacks in the morning before a more general attack in the afternoon which failed due to heavy German opposition, and the failure of the battalion on the Worcester's left flank.
At daybreak on the 12th, the Germans launched an attack against the Worcesters who waited until the Germans were 70 yards away before opening a devastating volley of rapid rifle fire. This halted the attack, and the Worcesters rose from their trench and counter-attacked with bayonet. This was successful with the Worcesters taking some ruined buildings just beyond the German front line. Unfortunately no reinforcements arrived, and the buildings were intermittently bombarded by our own artillery. Despite fighting off numerous German counter-attacks, it was obvious that this isolated position was untenable, and at about 10.00am the order was given to fall back to the initial line. This was across open ground, and the Worcesters lost many officers men in this operation, including the Commanding Officer, Lt. Col Wodehouse.
What was left of the 1st Worcesters was to attack again alongside the 2nd Devons at 3.00am on the 13th, but this was cancelled. Thus ended the 1st Worcesters action at Neuve Chapelle.
The casualty numbers, not surprisingly, are not accurate by day. The records show 11 men being killed on the 12th, but 105 on the 13th March when the action was almost over. It is probably better to say that the 1st Worcesters action at Neuve Chapelle resulted in the death of at least 12 officers and 150 men.
Like all the Tipton men killed at Neuve Chapelle, John has no known grave, and is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.
Tipton Herald 24th April 1915
At the Coppice Street Wesleyan Mission Hall, on Sunday evening last, a memorial service was held for the late Private Ashley of Factory Road, who was killed in the great battle of Neuve Chapelle in March. The preacher was Mr. W.J. Woodall, the deceased's old schoolmaster, who delivered a very appropriate sermon.