Frederick Cyril Ashdown (1895 – 1985)

Labour Corps

Frederick Cyril Ashdown was born on 27 November 1895 at Old Soar Cottages in Plaxtol. He was one of seventeen children of Henry James Ashdown, a farm labourer from Wrotham, and his wife, Frances Ellen Janes (née Stone.) After briefly attending Plaxtol School, young Frederick transferred to St Mary Cray School near Bromley where he was a pupil between 11 October 1901 and 5 September 1902. His father had taken the family to live in the small farming hamlet of Hockenden after which they moved to Swanley, Kemsing and then Wrotham. At the start of 1911, the Ashdown’s took up residence at 7 Whatcote Cottages where Frederick joined his older brother Henry working on a local farm.

Henry was one of the first from the village to enlist in September 1914, and it wasn’t long before Frederick did the same and attested in Maidstone two months later on 23 November. He joined 157 Company, 19th Divisional Train, Army Service Corps as a driver although discharged from service at Ludgershall on 31 March 1915 having been deemed unfit for duty due to epilepsy, which he had suffered from since the age of six.

On 3 June 1916, while working as a coal carter (i.e. he drove a lorry delivering coal), Frederick married Harriett Glover in Malling, and a daughter was born later that year on 6 October. At the time the couple lived at Rose Cottage in Upper Platt. Frederick re-enlisted earlier in the year but found himself repeatedly turned away each time he was called up for active duty. In the summer of 1917 he would have received the tragic news that brother Henry lost his life in battle and a year later, in May 1918, Frederick’s medical category was adjusted to ‘B2’, which allowed him to serve with the Labour Corps. He was placed under the Eastern Command and briefly stationed at Bordon with postings to the 302nd Reserve Labour Company, and then, on 20 October 1918, the 580 Agricultural Company at Peterborough.

Three days after the Armistice, Frederick was admitted to the 1st Eastern General Hospital in Cambridge having suffered several epileptic fits and transferred to a hospital in Brighton shortly afterwards. A medical board on 6 March 1919 deemed that, due to his condition, he was no longer considered physically fit for service, and discharged from the Army.

Following the war, Frederick returned to Rose Cottage where he lived for the rest of his life. He found work as a labourer in a stone quarry and in his spare time, was a special constable. His wife died in 1941 with Frederick following her 44 years later in 1985.