Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The Ashcroft brothers and their Coburg Arts Festival connection

One of the things I love about historical research is the interconnections between events and people that it provides. I guess this is to be expected when looking into the history of a suburb, but it’s always gratifying when I find that research I’ve done for one reason ties in with other research. I’m a great one for following up on a hunch, too, and although I don’t always find the connections I was hoping for, the research is always interesting!

For some time I’ve been researching Coburg’s Arts Festivals of the 1940s and one of the names I have in my ever-growing list of people who were involved is Jean Ashcroft. Jean was a member of the ballet in the Coburg Branch of the National Theatre Movement’s production of the musical comedy Hearts and Gowns in 1947.

Image courtesy Cheryl Griffin.

Some of the cast of Hearts and Gowns. Image from 1947 program.
Courtesy Coburg Historical Society.

I knew the name Ashcroft from my World War 1 research and wondered if she were related to the Ashcroft brothers.  I haven’t found a direct link yet, but it seems very likely that she is a member of this family.

Walter Boyes Ashcroft married Emma Marion Parker in Liverpool, England and their children were born there. The family arrived in Melbourne in 1914 and settled in the Melbourne suburb of Windsor, although during the war years Emma Ashcroft and her daughters moved to Coburg. Walter senior, who had been an invalid for a number of years, died soon after their arrival and the three boys, Walter, Edward and William, supported their mother and sisters.

The brothers joined the AIF and as was the case in many families, they all served with the same battalion, the 5th:
 5649 Private Edward Beken Ashcroft, 17th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion.
3451 Pte Walter Benjamin Ashcroft, 17th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion.
5648 Private William Henry Ashcroft, 17th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion.

5648 Private William Henry Ashcroft, 17th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion. 
Image courtesy AWM. Image P02605.002.

William was the first to die. He was killed in action in France on 20 December 1916. He is remembered at the Coburg Memorial Avenue of Trees, Lake Reserve, Coburg. His tree number was 130.

5649 Private Edward Beken Ashcroft, 17th Reinforcements, 5th Battalion.
Image courtesy AWM. Image P02605.001.

Edward died of wounds on 8 May 1917. He is remembered alongside his brother William at the Coburg Memorial Avenue of Trees, Lake Reserve, Coburg. His tree number was 129.

The Red Cross files reveal that Edward and Walter (the oldest brother) were in the same company (D Company) and the same platoon (14th) and that when Edward was reported wounded, his brother Walter went looking for him, found his brother and brought him back in, but was badly wounded as a result.

Walter Ashcroft suffered severe gun shot wounds to his feet, his buttocks and his right arm and was evacuated to the Southern General Hospital in Oxford where he had both legs amputated below the knee. After a period of treatment and rehabilitation, he returned to Australia in March 1918.

The blow to the boys’ mother, Emma Ashcroft, was severe, as can be seen in the following document in Walter’s file:

Despite his injuries, Walter Ashcroft went on to marry and raise a family. He lived in the Coburg area for the rest of his life and died in Pascoe Vale in 1966 at the age of 76. He married Eva Jean Templeton in 1919 and in the way of these things, this provides another link to a family of World War One soldiers from Coburg, because Eva’s brothers Hugh, Keith and William Templeton of Anketell Street, Coburg, all served in the war and a fourth brother Wallace enlisted but didn’t serve because the war ended before he could embark.

They were:
2692 Private Hugh John Templeton, 8th Infantry Battalion.
4212 Private Keith Richard Templeton, 24th Infantry Battalion (an old boy of Coburg State School)
2876 Private William Norman Templeton, 14th Infantry Battalion  (member of the football club; awarded the Military Medal and the Croix de Guerre).
Their brother Wallas Angus Templeton enlisted but as I mentioned he didn’t embark for overseas. He was an old boy of Coburg High School.

You might remember that I started this entry talking about Coburg’s Arts Festivals of the 1940s and the involvement of Jean Ashcroft. I’m guessing that Jean was the daughter of Walter Benjamin Ashcroft and Eva Jean Templeton, but cannot be certain.
I’d be very interested in hearing from anyone who can tell me more about the Ashcrofts, the Templetons or the Coburg Arts Festivals of the 1940s.
(Sources include soldiers’ war dossiers, AWM embarkation and Red Cross files, electoral rolls , indexes to births, deaths and marriages and the resources of the Coburg Historical Society.)

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