We are privileged to have a copy of one of Neville’s poignant letters to Rose from Flanders. It contains a stark contrast between the harshness and ugliness of life for Neville at the front and the gentle, loving relationship he had with Rose. In about 1925, widowed Rose and her daughter Betty, emigrated to Melbourne, Australia.
This is one of Neville’s poignant letters to Rose.
Name of Researcher / Enw’r ymchwylydd: Eifion & Viv Williams
Name of Memorial / Enw’r gofeb: Northop Memorial
Name / Enw: Neville Ayrton Astbury
Regiment/Catrawd: 49th Bn; Canadian Infantry (Alberta Regiment)
Service Rank and Number / Rheng gwasanaeth a rhif: Lieutenant
Military Cemetery/Memorial / Fynwent milwrol: Vimy Memorial
Country of Cemetery or Memorial / Gwlad y fynwent neu gofeb: France
Medals Awarded / Medalau a ddyfarnwyd: The British Medal, The Victory Medal and, for his widow, The Canadian Memorial Cross
Date and Circumstances of Death / Dyddiad ac amgylchiadau marwolaeth:
Died on 16th September 1916 at Courcellette. (There is a detailed description of how he was killed further down this page)
Neville Astbury was a member of an old Northop family but there were connections with Sweden and Canada. The 1891 census tells us he was one year old and was the adopted son of Edward and Jane E Astbury. He had been born on the 6th April 1889. The family lived in Northop High Street. Neville’s father Edward was the Clerk to the School Board. Staying with them on census night were Charles Hughes and Annie Hughes (brother in law and sister in law). There was also a resident servant – Hannah Blyddyn.
In 1901 Neville was 11 years old and was staying with his Uncle in 6 River Street, Rhyl. This Uncle was a Swedish national named Per Gustaff M Nark who was a 67 year old retired hotel manager. His wife was Abigail who had been born in Chester. There was another nephew staying there too. He was 7 year old Ainslie Nark Astbury – Neville’s brother. In the same 1901 census, Neville’s parents were in Northop, living in Grosvenor Cottage. Edward was described as a 45 year old Assistant Overseer and his wife Jane Emma was a 40 year old Postmistress. (An Overseer was responsible for the parish electoral register and ‘the poor’). There were two servants John Henry Barkes and Emily Griffiths.
Neville attended Northop school. He was admitted on 6th January 1896 aged 7 and it states that he had formerly been a pupil at a private school. The register records that Neville gained a County Scholarship. He went on to Hawarden School and afterwards went to St Davids College Lampeter. Some time later but we don’t know exactly when, he went to live in Canada, where he was a clerk with the Union Bank of Canada at Alberta.
Soon after war broke out, like many other ex patriots in the Empire, he signed up to help the mother country. Neville joined the army in Canada on August 6th 1914 but signed up for the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force on 29th June 1915. His Attestation papers from that date include a description of himself as 5 feet 6 1/2 inches tall with a freckled complexion, grey eyes and dark hair. He was gazetted to Lieutenant. Neville for some reason attended a military hospital, (one of the newspaper cuttings below says he was on sick leave in October 1915), where he met and fell in love with a nurse named Mary Rosina Puplett, known as Rose. They married on the 8th September 1916 at the Parish Church in Whitchurch, Shropshire. He was then sent back to the front where he was killed just 8 days later. He was never to know his daughter, Betty, who was born the following January.
COUNTY HERALD 22nd October 1915
Lieutenant D.A. Astbury – Mr. D.A. Astbury, the elder son of Mr. Astbury, of Grosvenor House, Northop, and who was for several years in Canada, since joining the Colours of the Colony, paid a surprise visit to his home on Monday. Mr. Astbury, who is now a Lieutenant, is on sick leave for a few days. His friends accorded him a very Hearty welcome.
The 1911 census places Neville aged 21 in Grosvenor Cottage, Northop. The head of the household was his father Edward Astbury, aged 54 and now a widower. He was still Assistant Overseer. In the house was Abigail Sarah Nark, Edward’s widowed sister in law aged 58 a hotel manageress. Also there was Annie Marie Hughes sister in law aged 50 and descibed as ‘single’. She was a sub postmistress. (Presumably, she is the same Annie Hughes listed in 1891) The form tells us that Neville was a theology student at college. The census tells us that all those listed in the household spoke Welsh and English.
The next pieces of Neville’s ‘jigsaw’ were sent to us from Canada by Evelyn Bromley who is researching her family history and in particular Charles Hughes who appears briefly in Neville’s story in the 1891 census. She informs us that she believes that Neville was born Neville Ayrton Hughes ( Ref Qtr June 1889, District W Derby, Vol 8b page 438) West Derby is a district of Liverpool. Evelyn has researched Neville’s emigration to Canada and has found him listed on ‘The Royal Edward’ which sailed from Avonmouth to Canada in September 1911. We can see that he was sailing for Toronto, that he described himself as an undergraduate and that his religion was Church of England.
Many thanks to Evelyn for these details from Canada. Good luck with your research!
Neville is also named on Hawarden County School‘s Memorial