2nd Lieutenant, Alfred ASHWELL
Aged 22

1st Battalion (att'd 10th), King's Royal Rifle Corps
formerly R/9115, L/Cpl, 14th Battalion, King's Royal Rifle Corps
Killed in Action on Wednesday, 4th April 1917

Alfred Ashwell was born in Bishops Stortford on 6th May 1894 (Bishops Stortford Q2-1894 3A:498), son of Jeffrey and Julia Elizabeth ASHWELL (née TOPLIS).

1901 census... 6, he was at Stortford Park Farm, Bishops Stortford with his father Jeffrey ASHWELL [51] farmer, born Eaton Bray, Beds; his mother Julia E [49] born Greys Inn Road, London, sisters May [21], Daisy [15] and Elizabeth [13] and brother James A [11]. All the children were born in Bishops Stortford.

1911 census...Aged 16, a scholar, he was at 4 Half Acres, Bishops Stortford with his parents, sisters Kate and Daisy and widowed Charlotte MENS [62] born Colkirk, Norfolk.

He enlisted in the King's Royal Rifle Corps on 13th January 1915. He gave his date of birth, profession, bank clerk, born Bishops Stortford, father Jeffrey ASHWELL of 4 Halfacres, Bishops Stortford,( a farmer). He was educated at the East Anglian School, was 5 feet 9.5 inches (176.5 cm) tall, weighing 147 lbs (66.9 kg), chest 33.5" to 38.5" (85.1 to 97.8 cm).
Promoted to Lance Corporal on 5th June 1915, he was a Lance Corporal on posting to the British Expeditionary Force in France on 27th July. He was transferred back to UK on 29th June 1916 to attend Officer Cadet School and received his commission in the 14th Battalion K.R.R.C. on 20th November 1916.
Returning as 2nd Lieutenant in the 1st Battalion to France, he was attached to the 10th Battalion and died in action on 4th April 1917. He was initially buried 1,000 yards SE of Metz-en-Couture, SE of Bapaume. The notification of his death reached his parents the day after his last letter home.
In his will all his money was left to Miss Gladys May Bollen of 10 Princep Road, Hove, Sussex, the rest of his possessions to this parents.

The Battalion War diary has:- In the line. Apl.4th. short report on operations on April 4th 1917.
The battalion was ordered to attack enemy rearguard positions East and South East of the village of MEXZT-EN-COUTURE, including the south east side of the village itself and consolidate on a line on the high ground to the N and NE of the village.
The 11th battalion were conforming on the left and the 8th Division on the right.
The hour of commencing the attack was 2:0 p.m. at which time the battalion deployed in one wave of two lines on a two company front from DESSART WOOD - Weather - snowing hard.
Operation commenced without incident.
About 2:16 p.m. the battalion came under heavy machine gun fire, being then on the high ground. Casualties were incurred at once but the advance continued steadily and good direction intervals were maintained.
The left companies pushed steadily on into METZ, the right companies were hung up in the SUNKEN ROAD on their right flank, this road was cleared but more Germans counter attacked from the SE and after inflicting heavy casualties drove out the right company of the second line. The leading company of this flank had by then gone on to and passed its final objective.
The situation then was this - The right flank was in the air - nothing could be seen of the Division on our left - the enemy were in behind the right company at an unknown strength.
A message was at once sent to the right company to detail a party to return and deal with the situation, and instructions were then received from Brigade to use a company of the 10th R.Bs who were established 500 yards north of DESSART WOOD.
This company of R.B.s was ordered to assault the road from a south westerly direction and consolidate there.
The enemy however either had retired towards GOUZEAUCOURT WOOD or surrendered prior to their arrival so this company was ordered to hold the line from the right of the battalion to the left of the Division on the right, forming a defensive flank.
In the meantime all objectives had been gained, about 30 prisoners were taken mostly from isolated posts. They belonged to Regiments 229, 230 and 231.
The attack seemed to be a surprise the enemy possibly owing to the snow storm in which it took place. Unfortunately casualties were heavy.
Capts Egerton-Leigh, C.R.Blake and D.C.Davies MC, 2nd Lt Ashwell - killed. 2nd Lt Marlow killed by a shell the night before in Dessart Wood, 4 other officers wounded. Amongst other ranks 22 - killed; 128 wounded and 20 missing.

As with so many men, they were often buried almost where they fell as soon as the opportunity arose.
Many of these impromptu graves were later lost, or the markers were destroyed, resulting in yet another name on a memorial but no known grave.
However many were later recovered and re-interred in a CWGC cemetery as was Alfred Ashwell. The date though has not been discovered.
Even today (2107) many bodies are still being discovered as the countryside is developed, or pastures ploughed up. They are then carefully removed to one of the few cemeteries that remain open for just such eventualities and given the usual military burial.

photo: Rodney Gibson

Alfred Ashwell is buried in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery, France grave 6:F:14

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details