Today we commemorate the 101st anniversary of the death of John Thomas Ashton of Morton and also of the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment.

John Thomas Ashton was born in Morton by Bourne, Lincolnshire.

His birth was registered in Bourne in the December quarter of 1894 indicating a birth between October and December of that year.

John Thomas was the second son of William Ashton an agricultural labourer from Morton and his wife Lizzie.

William Ashton was born in Morton c1866 and married Elizabeth Cox in 1890, she was born c1869 in Stainfield. Elizabeth had a daughter Gertrude Cox b c1888 in Stainfield who was living with them in 1891.

William and Lizzie Ashton had the following children:-

William Edward b c1893, John Thomas b c1894, Albert b c1898 and Doris Cathleen b c1905.

Arthur Ashton, the cousin of Thomas is also mentioned on the Morton Memorial having been killed in action in November 1915.

In 1911 Thomas is listed on the census of Morton with his parents on Hanthorpe Road.

The War office records show John Thomas Ashton’s place of residence as Oakham.

Thomas joined the 8th Battalion Lincolnshire regiment although records indicate a previous territorial service with the Army service Corps.
His service records appear to have been lost in a fire in the blitz and so we can only really see what his movements may have been by looking at the 8th Battalion Diaries.
Again it is unclear if he was with the Battalion from the start although he was awarded the 1915 star for service abroad in 1915 and this is consistent with the date that the 8th Battalion was posted to France.

The Battalion trained at Grimsby during August 1914, and then at Halton Park in November. The Battalion moved into billets at Leighton Buzzard for the winter of 1914

In the spring of 1915 the Battalion moved to Halton Park Camp, Wendover and miniature rifle practice commenced. After completing the musketry course and a Review by Lord Kitchener, the Battalion moved to Witley Camp North, marching past His Majesty the King and Lord Kitchener, 12 August 1915.

All the Battalion commanders had been in retirement at the outbreak of war. Of the 21st Division in which the 8th Lincolnshire were attached only 14 officers had any previous experience in the Regular army.

The Battalion entrained for overseas service at Milford Station on 9 September 1915 leaving England the next day, sailing via Folkestone to Boulogne. For a week the Battalion stayed in the Watten area before receiving orders to move to the front.

A long and really arduous march took place which led the Battalion to the front and their first engagement of the war, The Battle of Loos.
During this battle an immediate gain was overturned and the highly inexperienced Battalion suffered tremendous losses.

In their first battle the 8th Battalion lost 22 of their 24 officers. 471 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing that being nearly half of all men in the Battalion.

The next major offensive for the Battalion was during the battle of the Somme in July 1916. The Battalion saw action in Albert, Bazentin Ridge, Fleurs-Courcelette, Morval, Gaudecourt, Transloy Ridge and eventually in November the Battle of The Ancre.

During the spring of 1917 the German Army retreated to the heavily fortified defensive Hindenburg Line.
When the retreat started the 21st Division were at Halloy spending a period out of the line in training exercises.

On the first of April the Battalion attended a voluntary Church Parade at Neuville Au Cornet before the following day being route marched to Denier for an attack on a trench system. Over the next days the Battalion moved to Avesnes-le-Conte, Givenchy-le-Noble, Lattre St Quentin before arriving at Duisans to withdraw equipment ready for their move onto the assembly area at Arras.

The Battalion entered the Battle of Arras at Battery Valley on the 9th April 1917 at 4pm digging in until 8pm.
The Battalion moved east and halted around midnight. At daybreak considerable enemy activity was observed round Monchy-le-Preux, also enemy troops and transport moving north east from Roeux. Artillery was asked for in both cases but there was no response.

At 9am the Battalion prepared to advance to its original objective as soon as the 111th brigade advanced on Monchy.

At 10:30 am Major Greatwood was informed that the 8th Somerset Light Infantry were in Monchy and that he must support them. They advanced to teh valley but in this advance they suffered heavy casualties as they had no artillery support.

At 4pm Major Greatwood issued orders to attack Monchy with the 8th Somerset on the right, Lincolns on the left. Again with no artillery support they had to dig in on high ground receiving orders to attack at dusk.
When they had already opened out for the attack, orders arrived from Brigade cancelling the attack and consolidate the position and patrols were posted in front.

By the end of the 10th April the Battalion had 9 officers wounded, 30 other ranks killed, 187 other ranks wounded and 8 missing.

On the 12 the Battalion were withdrawn from the line back initially to Arras and then a day later back to billets in Duisans and the on to Beaufort on the 14th April.

The Battalion did not return to Arras until called into reserve and bussed into the town on the 20th. Next going into the front line in the 23rd April.

It is reasonable to assume that Thomas Ashton, official date of death 20th April, was one of the wounded or more likely missing on the 10th April. The fact that he has no know grave and is listed on the Arras Memorial would point to him being one of the missing.

Private Thomas Ashton 43328, 8th Battalion, The Lincolnshire Regiment, was eligible for the following medals:-

Victory Medal

The British Medal

The 1915 Star.


Private John Thomas (Thomas) Ashton 43328, 8th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment, is remembered with honour on the Arras Memorial.
Panel Ref: Bay 3 and 4.
He is also remembered on the Morton War Memorial.