Frank Astle

Private 26526 – Cheshire Regiment
Private 31009 – South Lancashire Regiment

Frank Astle – Commemorative Certificate

Frank Robert Astle was born in Woodside, Ashton (next door to the Dixon family), son of Richard and Sarah Astle, in the year 1883. He was baptised later that year on 17th April at the church St John the Evangelist, Ashton Hayes. The 1901 Census shows Frank at the age of 18 still living with his family in Woodside where he was employed as a general farm labourer. The public records  also show that he married Sarah Allen in Denbigh on 22nd August 1911.

The baptism of Frank Robert Astle is recorded in the Baptismal Roll book which is kept in the church.

Although partially damaged by a fire which destroyed the records for many other soldiers, Frank’s army record is very detailed.

He first attested at Chester on 11th May 1915 for the Chester Regiment. He was 32 years old and at that time he was still employed as a labourer. The record shows that he was married ‘but not living with wife’ and his next of kin is recorded as Mrs Sarah Astle, his mother (confusingly, as we shall see later, the same name as his estranged wife).

Extract from the War Diary for the
2nd Battalion South Lancashire Regiment – May 1918
Sunday 26 May

Rather dull day. Light rain up to about 2 pm. Divine Service. Training suspended. Lieut Colonel J. B. ALLSOPP returned from short leave in PARIS and resumed command of the Battalion. About 6.45 pm sudden orders were received for Battalion to be prepared to move at short notice. Left ROMAIN about 10.20 pm under orders to proceed to a position of readiness in vicinity of VENTELAY. This move was in connection with an expected attack by the enemy.

Monday 27 May

About 1 am the enemy commenced to shell our front line very heavily. Also back areas. Much gas being used. About 3 am several shells dropped amongst the huts in which the Battalion was accommodated. 4 men being killed and 9 wounded. At 6.45 am orders were received

for a nucleus of 1 platoon to move forward to the ROUCY-BOUINGNEREUX line and about 8.30 am remainder of Battalion moved forward. 11th Cheshires on our left. 7th Brigade one our right. 8th Borders in support. Enemy aircraft was remarkably active from 5 am to 7 am. The village of ROMAIN, where Battalion details were billeted, was frequently shelled during the early morning and several casualties were sustained. In consequence these details withdrew to transport lines about 1½ miles South of the village. No information was received from Battalion but the enemy was reported to be advancing rapidly and about 8.30 pm Transport moved to bivouac on FISMES-JONCHERY road about 1½ miles West of latter place; it again moved at 11.30 pm.

Tuesday 28 May

Roads much congested with traffic, movement very slow. Transport arrived in vicinity of CRUGNY about 5 am, remaining till 2 pm when it moved to bivouac about 1 mile South of LHERY arriving about 6 pm. No news was received of the Battalion, but it was reported that companies had been disorganised by enemy’s heavy attack and that small parties were scattered about among other units. It was also reported that many casualties had been sustained and that amongst them Lieut Colonel T.B. ALLSOPP had been killed. No news of the Battalion could be obtained although efforts were made to get in  touch and receive rations – these had to be dumped for the benefit of any units requiring them.

Wednesday 29 May

Transport moved off under sudden orders at 5 am via ROMIGNY to bivouac at PASSY-GRIGNY arriving at 10.30 am. Movement very slow owing to enormous traffic on roads. Moving off at 2 pm transport arrived at a camp on North bank of the MARNE about 1 mile North of PORT à BINSON and halted for  the night. Still no news of Battalion.

Thursday 30 May

Transport left camp at 4 am and having crossed the MARNE, marched along the South bank due West and bivouaced about 7 am in vicinity of VASSIEUX, N.E. of DORMANS. By this time a muster of stragglers had been collected, these included 4 officers and 74 other ranks. Still no news of the Battalion but further reports were received to the effect that the enemy was advancing rapidly and that many more casualties had been sustained, including Captain J.R. BEALL M.C. adjutant reported wounded. At 3.45 pm the stragglers referred to above moved to Division Head Quarters at LA CHAPEL about 4 miles further South where they were to join a composite Battalion in process of formation. This party moved under command of Major A.J. STATURE who had become detached from the Battalion on 27th. Transport also moved at same time, proceeding East along South bank of MARNE to PORT à BINSON, thence S.E to bivouac about 1 mile S.E. of CHENE LA REINE, arriving about 7.30 pm. During this move a few more stragglers were collected but no definite news of the Battalion could be obtained.

A headstone was eventually erected in the Niederzwehren Cemetery to mark Frank’s final resting place: some headstones had personal inscriptions added by the family of the fallen but Frank’s carries no inscription other than his name, rank, regiment, regimental number and the date of his death.

Frank was posted as Missing in Action on 6th June 1918, presumably as a result of the above action on 27th May. He was in fact taken as a prisoner of war and detained in a camp at Saarbruecken where he contracted dysentery. His death is recorded as having taken place in the Reserve Hospital on the 10th October 1918 at 8.30pm and he was buried at South Cemetery – Saarbrucken. His next of kin clearly knew of his death and they were eventually notified of his place of burial on 10th October 1921.

Following Frank’s death letters were sent to the Regiment from both his mother and his estranged wife: the wife’s letter was sent on 16th August 1920 but the full date on the mother’s letter is illegible due to fire damage. It would appear that the wife received Frank’s Memorial Scroll but as Frank’s mother was declared ‘next of kin’ it is presumed that she received his pension although there is a letter on file which suggests the contrary.

Concentration of Graves

from the CWGC website

Old battlefields were searched for small cemeteries (usually of less than 40 graves), isolated graves and the previously unburied dead. All of those found were gathered into ‘concentration’ cemeteries, either newly created or built up around already existing burial grounds.

more information …

In the years that followed, the Imperial War Graves Commission undertook a process of Concentration of Graves. The remains of Frank Astle were exhumed from the cemetery in Saarbruecken in 1924, along with those of at least four other men, and taken to Niederzwehren Cemetery, Cassel [sic] for reburial.

Name

ASTLE, F R

Rank

Private

Service Number

31009

Date of Death

10/09/1918

Regiment

South Lancashire Regiment

Service Country

United Kingdom

Grave Reference

II. M. 7.

Cemetery Name

Niederzwehren Cemetery, Kassel