Major Richard Ashford MC

{ Dick }

Richard ‘Dick’ Ashford was born in 1908 in Kent, the son of Richard and Annie Ashford, and husband of Phyllis Gertrude Ashford, of Ilfracombe, Devon.

Richard Ashford was serving in The East Surrey Regiment, as a Warrant Officer Class II when he was chosen to be commissioned, as a Lieutenant, on 18 January 1941.

He volunteered for airborne forces in September 1941 and was posted to the newly formed 2nd Parachute Battalion as the Intelligence Officer. He took over as Adjutant in November 1941, when Captain Frost was promoted and took over C Company. By April 1942 he had been promoted to the temporary rank of Major and took over command of HQ Company and then by October had taken over command of A Company.

Major Ashford went with the battalion to North Africa, which docked at Algiers on 12 November 1942, and was eventually billeted at Maison Carrée.

On 29 November 1942, leading A Company, he parachuted near Depienne to take part in the planned attack by 1st Army to take Tunis which, unknown to the 2nd Parachute Battalion, had been cancelled. Undaunted, they advanced on Oudna and over the next 4-5 days engaged in constant running battles with large German forces until they reached British lines on 3 December 1942 after a fighting withdrawal covering some 50 miles.

Major Ashford was awarded the Military Cross for his actions during this operation.

From December 1942 through January and February 1943 the battalion was used as ‘line infantry’ and A Company were constantly in action.

3rd February 1943.

Orders were received to be prepared to move to ROBBA under command 36 Infantry Brigade. The battalion embussed and started to move off: an A-Company Platoon position on Djebel Diaffa was attacked by an enemy patrol as the Company was preparing to move off: enemy casualties unknown. Own casualties, 1 killed, 1 missing.

4th February 1943.

Orders Groups moved forward to reconnoitre positions for the battalion in area crossroads O 7669. The reconnaissance was carried out in three Bren carriers, one hit a mine and blew up killing Major R. Ashford and Captain M. Moore, Sergeant G. Fisher A-Company and the driver were wounded. Major Lane assumed command of A-Company. [1]

The following account is from the 2nd Parachute Battalion’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant-Colonel. John Frost;

The next day I made a recce with three Bren carriers. As we approached our assembly point I noticed the road had been recently disturbed. I immediately shouted to the two Bren carriers behind, but it was too late. There was a tremendous explosion and one vehicle turned over catapulting out its occupants. It was tragic. ‘Dinty’ Moore, my Battalion HQ commander and ‘Dick’ Ashford, the ‘A’ Company commander, were killed and all the rest were very badly injured. Both the officers were great characters and would be sadly missed”. [2]

Major Ashford was killed on 4 February 1943, aged 35 years old. He was laid to rest in Enfidaville War Cemetery, Tunisia. 

Lieutenant (Temporary Major) Richard Ashford MC, was posthumously awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal (Military) on 2 January 1948.

[1] 2nd Parachute Battalion War Diary. February 1943.

[2] ‘Tunisian Tales’. The 1st Parachute Brigade in North Africa 1942-43. Niall Cherry.

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Decorations

Richard  Ashford

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  • Major Richard (Dick) Ashford MC, 2nd Para Bn (A Company) KIA Tunisia 1943.

    Major Richard (Dick) Ashford MC, 2nd Para Bn (A Company) KIA Tunisia 1943.

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  • Three officers of A Coy, 2nd Parachute Battalion, stand in the Beja area of Tunisia, 1943.

    Three officers of A Coy, 2nd Parachute Battalion, stand in the Beja area of Tunisia, 1943.

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  • 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment HQ Company 1942.

    2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment HQ Company 1942.

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Medal Citations_1

  • Citation for the award of the Military Cross to Major Richard Ashford, Oudna, 1942.

    Citation for the award of the Military Cross to Major Richard Ashford, Oudna, 1942.

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