Ashton, Claude Thesiger
Claude Ashton was the youngest of the six sons of Hubert Shorruck Ashton and Victoria, nee Inglis. His mother was the daughter of Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis, who commanded the British Forces at the Seige of Lucknow. After his preparatory education at Lindisfarne Prep School, Blackheath (the school later became Abberley Hall on moving to Worcester) Claude followed three of his brothers, Percy, Gilbert and Hubert, to Winchester, where he joined Southgate Corner (later Morshead’s) under Mr Irving, and where he captained the Lords cricket team in his final year. He also captained the football, racquets and fives teams. He then went to Trinity College, Cambridge where he represented the university at hockey, cricket and football as well as captaining the England soccer team in its match on 24th October 1925.
After graduating from Cambridge with a BA in 1923, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant, and later worked for Price Waterhouse & Co from 1923 to 1926, and from 1927 was with the stockbrokers Cohen Laming Hoare, becoming a partner in 1935. He also worked at the London Stock Exchange. He was the first Chairman of the joint committee of the London Federation of Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs. On his death, the Warden of the Ashton Playing Fields at Woodford Bridge, Essex wrote in the Times:
“To the general public… Claude T. Ashton was chiefly known for his prowess at games, but there was another side to his character, which should be mentioned – his work for and interest in providing the best facilities for organized recreation for those least able to afford them. Before the war he acted as the first chairman of the joint committee of the London Federation of Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs, who had recently acquired a lease of the old Essex County Cricket Ground, Leyton. Here was established, largely through his guidance, a youth centre for both indoor and outdoor recreation, under the best conditions – a forerunner of the Board of Education Service of Youth work. He was also chairman of the South-West Essex Fitness Council, whose work was just beginning to bear fruit when war came. The largest private open space outside London, fifty acres in extent, known as the Ashton Playing Fields and Cultural Centre, at Woodford Bridge, Essex, will, for generations to come, be associated with his name, as a centre where young people from the congested areas of east and central London can play games under the best conditions. To the boys of East London he was already a hero, modest, unselfish, and amazingly generous.” The fields still bear his name to this day.
He received a commission in No 909 (County of Essex) Squadron of the Auxiliary Air Force on 5th July 1938, and was promoted to Flying Officer that same year, serving on the London Balloon Barrage in 1939. He was promoted to Flight Lieutenant on 18th September 1939 and appointed Squadron Leader responsible for ATC recruiting in 1941.
He qualified as a Radio Observer in February 1942 and was posted to No 256 Squadron RAF, a night fighter unit equipped with Bristol Beaufighter aircraft. He was killed in a mid-air collision during night flying in North Wales on 31st October 1942. Flying with another Wykehamist of great athletic distinction, Squadron Leader Roger de Winton Kelsall Winlaw (1926-1931) (see individual entry) in Beaufighter X7845 they took off from Woodvale, with Winlaw at the controls and Ashton navigating and operating the radar. While they carried out mock attacks on Wellington bombers their aircraft collided with Wellington BK234 and both aircraft crashed at Perfeddgoed Farm, near Bangor, with the loss of both crews.
On the afternoon of Friday 6th November 1942, after a service at Fryerning Church in Essex, Ashton was buried in grave B.145 of the Ingatestone and Fryerning Cemetery. The Times recorded that “members of his squadron were bearers, and a Royal Air Force chaplain took part in the service.” A memorial service was held the following Tuesday at St Michael’s, Cornhill attended by representatives from Hoares, the MCC, Essex and Surrey County Cricket Clubs and Winchester College.
He married Isabel Norman-Butler in 1929 and had three children.
- Surname: Ashton
- Forenames or initials: Claude Thesiger
- House: E
- Years in School: 1915-1920
- Rank: Squadron Leader
- Regiment: RAF
- Date of Birth: 19th February 1901
- Date of Death: 31st October 1942
- How Died: Died in flying accident
- Location in War Cloister: Inner D2
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: Ingatstone & Fryerning Cemetery: Grave B.145