Asbury, Henry Thomas

Henry Thomas Asbury  (The spelling of Asbury changes to Astbury and also Asburey on different sources.)

Emma Parry married joiner Richard Asbury in a civil ceremony in Chester in 1872. One of their children, baby John Dicken had died aged 10 months in 1881. Henry Thomas was born on the 18th July 1882 and was baptised in Pentrobin Church, Hawarden. Sadly Richard Asbury, died before the 1891 census.

 The 1891 census, shows Henry  living in Pentrobin, Hawarden, Flintshire with his family which comprised of his mother Emma Astbury ( nee Parry)  head of the household, a widow probably 39 years old.  Her listed children were  Elizabeth 18 and Sarah,14, (both girls had been born in Hawarden).  Richard G 12, Henry T, 8 and baby William A. 10 months old had all been born in Pentrobin, Flintshire.

Emma was to marry again to Charles Lewis in 1896, in a civil marriage in Chester, and we find her in the 1901 census living with her new family at 2, Bretton, Saltney, Hawarden. ( St. Deniol’s ).  There was no sign of her original family.  Her new husband was Charles, age 63, a self employed Coal Dealer. Emma was now 48. Charles’s children were listed as Louisa  32 a Cook, Frederick 25 a Blacksmith and Elsie 3. Also in the household was a Grand daughter Rhoda Tilston age 12.

In 1901 Henry Thomas was living in a cousin’s household at 35, Gray Street, Bootle – cum Linacre, Lancashire. Head of the household was Jeremiah Wilkinson, 61  a Bricklayer. His wife was Emma, 60. Their son George, 28 was a Painter. Henry was listed as a cousin, single, 18, and a Bricklayer who had been born in Hawarden.

By the 1911 census, we find that Emma 57, once again was a widow.  Emma was head of the household. She had recorded on the form that she had borne 10 children one of whom had died.  Also with her was her daughter Elsie, aged 13 and her son Harry Asbury who was single, aged 28 a Builder and Contractor.

Henry Thomas married Mary Elizabeth Jones in the Primitive Methodist Chapel in Hawarden in 1916  (Flintshire (Mold) North Wales HAW/05/68). 1916 was the year he also entered the Army.

Henry Thomas Asbury’s army records survive and are accessible on He died as the result of a dreadful fire and much of the record consists of duplicate pages of the army enquiry into the fire. There are witness statements and detailed accounts of various health and safety issues such as the state of the roof and chimneys and when they were last inspected. We can, however,  piece together some of ‘Harry’s’ story from these records.

He was called up for service on the 15th August 1916 and enlisted at The Watch Factory in Prescot. His attestation form tells us he was 34 years and 2 months old. He was a tall man ( 6 feet 1 inch) and his trade was a bricklayer.  His Next of Kin was his wife Mary Elizabeth Asbury who lived at Belle View Terrace, Penyffordd Chester.  They had married on the 26th July 1916.

On the 17th August 1916 he was posted to The King’s own Liverpool Regiment. He was transferred to The Royal Engineers on the 15th March 1917 where he was listed as a skilled bricklayer. He became an unpaid Lance Corporal on the 5th October 1917 and he was eventually appointed as a paid Lance Corporal in June of 1918. He became part of the Syren Force on the 12th June 1918 and embarked for the port of Murmansk which was in the extreme North West of Russia.

It seems he would have been a member of the Allied intervention forces who were sent to aid the White Russians in their fight against the Red Russians (communists) in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.  (Thanks to Chris in the Northern Shenandoah Valley in the USA who explained this to me on the wonderful Army Forum).

The fire that engulfed the barracks at Murmansk was discovered early on the morning of the 1st February 1919 when most of the soldiers were still sleeping. The enquiry that took place heard various witness statements from soldiers who had woken to realise there was a serious fire and raised the alarm. Two soldiers were killed in the fire. They were  Lance Corporals H T Asbury and  J W Holden. Sergeant Price gave evidence to the enquiry about what he knew about the two fatalities.

“After coming out of the room in which my own section was sleeping I went to find the people left in the other room. I found two men and got to them. They shortly afterwards succumbed to the smoke and fumes and I could not get them out, we were all three crawling on the floor trying to find the door. I tried to pull the larger man out when he gave up. I could not shift him. I succumbed myself in the passage. When I regained consciousness I was able to say where these two men had remained. They must have been Corporals Holden and Astbury. I had previously seen both of them up and endeavouring to get out.” 

The Enquiry concluded that ‘Lance Corporal H T Asbury and Lance Corporal J W Holden had lost their lives owing to the shortness of time between the warning and the filling of the barrack room with smoke by which time they were overcome’.

Henry Thomas’s medal card also accessible on ancestry, records his medal details and both of his regimental numbers.

There are, unusually, two index cards for Henry Thomas Astbury in The Flintshire Roll of Honour in The County Record Office in Hawarden. One is Hope F1, the other, Saltney Ferry F2. The first one from Hope was signed by Mary E. Astbury 18th September 1919. The address given was Belle Vue Terrace, Penyffordd.

The second card, Saltney Ferry F2 was not dated or signed and the address given was Bretton. He was not listed on a Memorial in Saltney Ferry.

Henry Thomas Asbury in the UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 tells us that he burnt to death in N. Russia and the sole Legatee was his widow Mary E. who was paid £21. 7s 2d on the 17th June 1919. This included his War Gratuity of £9. 10s 0d. There was a recharge of 2/- to the Regimental Paymaster, Chatham on the 21st May 1919.

The England and Wales National Probate Calendar (index of wills and administrations) also accessible on ancestry, includes the following entry

Asbury Henry Thomas of Belle Vue Terrace Penyffordd, Flintshire a Lance Corporal in the Royal Engineers (548th Dundee Field Company) died 1 February 1919 in North Russia on active military service. Administration (with will) St Asaph 25th March to Mary Elizabeth Asbury widow. Effects £304..6s..10d

He was,  listed on memorials in Broughton, Penymynydd,  Penyffordd, Caergwrle,  Hope and in Bretton Methodist Church.  There is a Memorial at Brookwood Surrey in memory of those who lost their lives in Russia.

Those interested in the little-known campaign in North Russia, go to Wikipedia


Learn more about the other soldiers on the Hawarden Memorial

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