Ralph Vincent ASHTON
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 227127
Unit: 12th Battalion SOUTH WALES BORDERERS
Date of Death: 27 November 1917
Age: 21
Cemetery: St Roch Communal Cemetery, Valenciennes, Nord, France

Ralph Gladstone Ashton, an electrical engineer, married Lily Bowen in 1893 at St John's Church, Heaton Mersey. They soon had a daughter, Alice and, in 1896, a son who they named after his father. Both children were born in Manchester. When the Census was taken in 1901, the family was living at Holly House, 4 Mauldeth Road, Heaton Moor. This was the home of another Ralph Ashton - grandfather of the future soldier and a merchant. By 1914, they had their own home at 182 Heaton Moor Road. Ralph and Lily would later retire to live at 67 Lord Street, Blackpool.

Nothing else is known of Ralph's life until he enlisted into the Army at Warrington. His service number was not issued until after the beginning of 1917, confirming that he was not an early volunteer for the army. It also confirms that he was originally assigned to the Monmouthshire Regiment and went on active service as one of its soldiers. It is not known when Ralph was transferred to the Borderers but it was probably very soon after he landed in France.

At some point, Ralph was taken captive by the Germans and died as a prisoner of war. Army records published after the War indicate that he "died" - usually a definition indicating a death from natural causes. However, the 12th Battalion had attacked at the Battle of Cambrai, fairly near to where Ralph is buried, on 22 November. Their objective was Bourlon Wood - a key point on the battlefield. They left the protection of a sunken lane near Havrincourt and made their way up a slope to the wood, under constant shellfire. There was very hard fighting in the Wood and it was only possible to secure part of it. It seems very possible that Ralph was wounded during the fighting and taken by the Germans.

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