Coalville Army and Air Cadets join Veterans to Honour Local Victoria Cross Recipients

Air cadets from 1188 (Coalville) Squadron joined with Coalville Army Cadets and members of the British Legion to pay their respects to two local men who were awarded the Victoria Cross (VC).

Coalville Air cadets joined with the local army cadets and members of the Whitwick Branch of the Royal British Legion on Saturday 26th October in two acts of remembrance.

Everyone met at the cemetery in Whitwick to remember Thomas Elsdon Ashford. He was a private in The Royal Fusiliers, British Army during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. He was awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous gallantry during a sortie from Kandahar, on the 16th August, 1880. He helped rescue and carry Private Massey for a distance of over 200 yards, under the fire of the enemy. He was assisted by Lieutenant William St. Lucien Chase. Private Massey had taken shelter in a blockhouse. Several times they were compelled to rest, but they persevered in bringing him to a place of safety.

After his military service, Ashford settled in Thringstone, Leicestershire and served as a postman for many years. He was married in Thringstone Church to Betsy Ann Sisson on 29 January 1891. He later moved to the neighbouring village of Whitwick and died on 13 February 1913. He 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. His VC is in the Royal Fusiliers Museum at the Tower of London.

The cadets and veterans then moved to the graveside of William Dolman Bees who is buried in the cemetery on London Rd in Coalville. He was a private in the 1st Battalion, The Derbyshire Regiment (later The Sherwood Foresters), during the Second Boer War. It was on 30 September 1901 at Moedwil, South Africa that he was awarded the VC. Private Bees was one of the Maxim-gun detachment, at Moedwil, six men out of nine had been hit. Hearing his wounded comrades asking for water, he went forward, under a heavy fire, to a spruit held by Boers about 500 yards ahead of the gun, and brought back a kettle full of water. In going and returning he had to pass within 100 yards of some rocks also held by Boers, and the kettle which he was carrying was hit by several bullets.

His VC is in theAshford Collection at Duxford.

The cadets and veterans then made their way to the clock tower for the launch of this year’s poppy appeal. Flight Lieutenant Rebekah Harrison-Page RAFAC, the commanding officer of 1188 (Coalville) Squadron said “ I am really pleased the cadets were able to join with the members of the Royal British Legion again this year to remember those who have gone before. The weather was bitterly cold and it was raining but the cadets did the squadron proud”.