Thomas (known Tom) ASHTON
Rank: Private
Number: 28299
Date of Death: 23 April 1917
Age: 30
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Tom was born in Woodley and the family had lived at George Lane for many years. His father, Peter, was a bookkeeper for one of the local hat making companies. When Tom left school, he also found a "white collar" job, going to work as a clerk for the Great Central Railway Ltd. Much of his social life centred on the Romiley Liberal Club of which he was Secretary. He was also a member of the Hatherlow Brotherhood.

He probably worked at the Company's offices in Manchester and enlisted into the army in the city, probably in early 1915. His medal entitlement records, at the National Archives, confirm that he did not go overseas until at least 1916.

A major British offensive had been launched near Arras on 9 April 1917. Heavy fighting would continue throughout the month. During the evening of the 22nd, Tom and his mates moved into front line trenches just east of the village of Monchy-le-Preux. The Battalion's War Diary records what happened:

"At 4.45 on the morning of the 23rd, the Battalion went over the top and successfully captured the first line German trench. A and B Companies constructed strong points about 300 yards beyond the captured German positions. The covering barrage for the attack fell very short and caused a number of casualties to our own men. After the attack and during the consolidation, hostile sniping was very active".

Tom was originally reported to have been wounded and then missing. He had probably been hit while attacking across No Man's Land. Nothing was ever heard of him again. In the August the War Office made the official presumption that he must have been killed but, like so many others, his body was never found and identified.

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