b. 1859 Newmarket, Suffolk. d. 21/02/1913 Whitwick, Leics.
Thomas Elsdon Ashford (1859-1913) was born in 1859 at 2 Peck’s Cottage, in the All Saints district of Newmarket, Suffolk. Little is known about him prior to his enlistment in the Royal Fusiliers in 1877, aged 18. Shortly afterwards, he found himself posted with his regiment to the Afghan War. He was part of the 2nd Battalion which was in Kandahar in 1880.
On 16th August 1880, a sortie was sent out from the city of Kandahar, to engage with the Afghan tribesmen. At Deh Khoja, during the fierce fighting, a Private Massey of the Royal Fusiliers was hit and severely wounded. He managed to get himself into the shelter of a blockhouse. At this point, Lieutenant William Chase of the 28th Native Infantry, together with Private Thomas Ashford, rushed out under heavy fire to the blockhouse. They then rescued Massey and carried him 200 yards under heavy enemy fire to a place of safety. They were forced to rest several times, but continued to achieve their objective.
Both Ashford and Lt Chase were recommended for the VC which was gazetted on 7th October 1881. He was presented with the medal by Lord Roberts VC in Madras on 13th December 1881. After his military service Thomas went to live in Thringstone, Leicestershire, and worked as a postman. He married Betsy Ann Sisson in Thringstone Church on 29th January 1891 and later moved to nearby Whitwick.
Ashford died at home in Skinner’s Lane, Whitwick on 13th February 1913, and was laid to rest in Whitwick Cemetery, in the presence of thousands of mourners, though the grave lay unmarked for many years, until a monument was provided by the local British Legion in 1992. Three street names in Whitwick have since been named in his honour. His medals are held by the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London.
LOCATION OF MEDAL:ROYAL FUSILIERS MUSEUM, TOWER OF LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: WHITWICK CEMETERY, LEICESTERSHIRE.
Thomas Ashford's medals at the Royal Fusiliers Museum, Tower of London
(Picture - Thomas Stewart).
His original VC (Paul Deeprose)
Courtesy of Kevin Brazier