We have been contacted by Lars Ahlkvist from Sweden who has the First World War medals of Leonard Aston, and has provided the following information. Despite having the same name and both being born in Bilston, this is a different man from the one featured a few days ago, as they were born six years apart.
Leonard Aston was a pre-war regular soldier in the First Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, enlisting sometime in 1906. The regiment had a high proportion of men from outside Wales.
With his 1914-star trio came two silver medals, engraved to him as Cpl, 1st RWF. One of them is for the “Regimental Cup” 1908-1909, on the other the engraving is partly polished away and reads “Regt L…. 1908-1909”.
He was with the First Battalion in Malta at the outbreak of war in 1914, leaving Malta on 3rd September and returning to the UK on the 16th. Leonard Aston went to France with the 1st Bn (7th Division) on 6th October 1914. During the next 24 days the battalion practically ceased to exist.
They first met the enemy advancing from Iseghem outside Ypres on the 19th, with about 120 casualties. The 20th and 21st found the battalion in rifle slits outside Broodseinde and under heavy attack by the Germans losing a great number of men missing/POWs, wounded and killed. On the 22nd 213 officers and men remained, and the battalion was in reserve at Ecksternest. One of the surviving officers, wrote of the action (quoted from the Regimental Record by Dudley Ward): “I do not know the losses of the rank and file. After the bombardment we found it impossible to use many of the rifles and we had to hammer our bolts open with entrenching tools; our maximum rate of fire was about three rounds a minute”
On the 24th, the battalion was at Veldhoek, and the number raised to about 400 due to reinforcements by stragglers and missing rejoining, and also a thinning of supporting services. They were sent forward in the line again on the 26th.
On October 29th, they held positions outside Zandvoorde on the right flank of the 22nd Brigade, when the Germans again attacked. The battalion “was scattered about in short slits of trench, without intercommunication, on the forward slope of a roll in the plain, their field of vision was short in the midst of hedgeenclosed fields, and it was impossible to know what was happening to the right or left.”
On the right of the 1st battalion were the 1st and 2nd Life Guards, who due to heavy enemy attacks were ordered to fall back. This resulted in the Germans being able to enfilade the positions of the 1st RWF from Zandvoorde village. German field batteries subjected them to heavy shrapnel fire. “With the attacking enemy on their front, his snipers to the rear, and his field batteries on their flank, post after post was wiped out” Lt Wodehouse records: “.. about midday the whole battalion was either killed, wounded or taken prisoner.” Lt Wodehouse was not entirely right, as 86 men and the Quartermaster managed to rejoin the british positions and were attached to the 2nd Queens.
In this action, Sjt Leonard Aston of C Company was wounded in the left lung by shrapnel and taken prisoner with about 60 other survivors. He was a Prisoner of War in Hameln, and sent to Holland 15th March 1918. His mother was a Mrs E. Aston who lived at 636 Parkfield Road, Wolverhampton. On the 18th October 1918 he was in St Georges Hospital, London.
His MIC gives no indication that he applied for the “aug-nov”-clasp, but he was issued with a silver war badge, no longer with the group.
A check on Ancestry 1901 census reveals a Leonard Aston living with his widowed mother Elizabeth in 43 South Street Walsall, Staffordshire (near Wolverhampton). This Leonard was born in Bilston in 1883, and working as a saddlers warehouseman. His two year younger brother Frederick is listed as a bridle cutter, born in Wolverhampton.
In 1891, the family lived in the parish of Aston, with the father William working as a Model Maker. At that time, a younger sister Mary was also part of the family.
The International Red Cross’ register of WWI POW’s confirms that this is the Leonard Aston who served in the 1st RWF. In 1921 he married Florrie May Shaw, and they had three children, Colin, Marie and Joyce. He died in Wolverhampon in 1961.
A Frederick Aston DOW in 1916 serving as a regular of the North Staffordshire Regiment, number 7464, may be Leonards brother. The number indicates an enlistment ca 1903, which would fit.