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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

C.A.W.E Ashburner, man of 3 wars!



Clifford Arundell William Ernest Ashburner had a proud heritage. He was son of Ernest Ashburner (1862-1939) who raised the Ashburner Light Horse at Kimberly on January 23rd, 1901 and was disbanded near the end of the Second Boer War on April 5th, 1902. Clifford's grandfather was Colonel William James Ashburner (1818/19-1888)

William James Ashburner started out as a Cornet in the Bombay Army in 1837. He was then posted to the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry in December 1837, and promoted to the rank of Lieutenant in March 1840. He'd see action in the First Afghan War and would be wounded on April 28th, 1842 and when he had recovered, he was appointed Adjutant. After the war ended, he was court martialed in 1847 for 'conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentlemen' and found not guilty and acquitted of all charges. He'd be promoted to Captain in August 1850 and serve in the Anglo-Persian War of 1856. He then commanded a detached force to combat rebels in the Jhansi and Jalaun districts in 1858 during the Indian Mutiny. William was promoted to Brevet Major in February 1861 as Officer Commanding the 3rd Bombay Light Cavalry, and then Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in January 1863 before finally becoming the Commandant of the 1st Bombay Light Cavalry with the rank of Colonel in January 1868. William retired in January 1875, and given the rank of Honorary Major General. There are plenty more names of notable family members of the Ashburner Clan, but that's not the topic today.

Clifford A.W.E Ashburner was born on September 6th, 1889 in Port Elizabeth in the Cape of Good Hope. At the age of 12, he signed on with the Driscoll Scouts on May 15th, 1902 at Bloemfontein. He was given the rank of Trooper with the serial number 1261.
Lieutenant Colonel D.P Driscoll (DSO, CMG, MiD, CDeG) who raised and commanded the Driscoll Scouts in the Second Boer War

He wouldn't see any action as he only served 47 days until the unit was disbanded. He was discharged at Bloemfontein on June 30th, 1902.
Clifford's discharge papers from the Second Boer War 

It is said he served with the British South African Mounted Police and the Kimberley Regiment during the war, though there is no evidence for this. He worked for Village Deep Limited in 1909 and probably 1910, then at the De Beers Consolidated Mines from March 1st, 1912 to November 28th, 1913 as a Guard. Near the end of his stint as a guard, he married Elizabeth Christina Wiehahn (1884-1960) on September 9th, 1913 at St Albans Church in Kimberly, Northern Cape. He moved to Australia in 1914 and enlisted into the A.I.F at Morphettville on October 19th, 1914, the same day the first convoy left Australia.
Morphettville Camp | Places | A World Away | South Australia's War
Men flocking to enlist. August 5th, 1914

He given the rank of Trooper and serial number 38 and was immediately assigned to the 9th Light Horse Regiment's Machine Gun Section under Lieutenant Hutchinson. On December 1st, 1914 he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and then Corporal a month later on New Years Day 1915.
Corporal Ashburner, around January 1915

Lieutenant Arthur Justin Sanford Hutchinson, as a prewar Lance Corporal. He would be the first commander of the 9th L.H.R's M.G Section. He'd later transfer to the Infantry and be Killed in Action at Fromelles as a Major of the 58th Battalion.

Ashburner embarked with his regiment on the H.M.A.T (A10) Karroo from Melbourne on January 11th, 1915 and arrived onto Gallipoli on May 16th, 1915. On June 9th, he was promoted to Sergeant. On June 30th during the Turkish counterattack, his position was charged by some Turks near Turk's Point which led to one of his men bayonetted. Clifford shot one with his rifle and utilized his machine gun to ward them off. He and his men captured 50 Turkish rifles from that encounter. Clifford was present at the disastrous charge of the Light Horse at the Nek in August. On the fateful day, he stationed behind the Australian trenches [near Turk's Point] at a point where he could visibly see what was becoming of the charging men. Using his initiative, he brought his guns into action to fire upon the Turkish positions. He would recount to Charles Bean..
"The first and second lines went out running-charging. The third line bent, with rifles on guard, walking. When they got as far as the knoll they turned, and those who could get back to the trenches did so. Then a long time before the last lot."
Major (Promoted Lieutenant Colonel on August 7th) Carew Reynell (9 L.H.R) gave orders following the third wave to Sergeant Ashburner to stop firing. He ended up using over 10000 rounds of ammunition on enfilading fire on the Turkish trenches. 

Carew Reynell.jpg
Major (later Lt-Col) Carew Reynell, later MiD. He was killed after he charged with his men towards the trenches Hill 60. Half the Regiment were casualties in that action.

For Ashburner's actions at the Nek, he was given a Mention in Despatches on August 26th, 1915 by the commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, Sir Ian Hamilton.
NPG x168090; Sir Ian (Standish Monteith) Hamilton - Portrait - National  Portrait Gallery
Sir Ian Hamilton, GCB, GCMG, DSO, TD

Probably 9th Light Horse Regiment Machine Gun Section in Egypt, 1916. He is seen front row, third from left.
After the Regiment's action to take Hill 60 failed, they merely played a defensive role until the end of the Campaign. He arrived in Alexandria on December 26th, 1915 and went to the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment from June 7th, 1916. His Military Career seemed promising, but it all came to a halt when he was charged on August 2nd, 1916 with stealing goods from a comrade. It reads..
(1) Sect 18 AA. Stealing goods the property of a comrade, in that he on or about February 1916 stole a pair of Binoculars the property of No.249 L/Corpl L S Driscoll, M.G Section, 9th.L.H.Regiment.
It alternatively read that he acquired the property, but it was not proceeded with. He pleaded Not Guilty, but was found Guilty. His punishment was reduced to the ranks and 6 months hard labour, confirmed by Brigadier J M Antill, commanding 3rd Light Horse Brigade on the 3rd August, 1916.
Brigadier John Macquarie Antill, CB, CMG

Funnily enough, Lance Corporal Leonard Seagram Driscoll would be a Lieutenant by wars end, and again a Lieutenant in 1940-43. His sentence was suspended by order of the CiC (Commander in Chief) and was taken onto strength of the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment on October 1st. Following a spell in the 3 L.H.T.R, he went to the Australian Provost Corps, being taken onto strength on November 21st. He went back to his original unit, the 9th Light Horse Regiment on December 10th, then attached to Headquarters ANZAC Training Centre and Details Camp on January 18th, 1917. He'd go back to the 3rd Light Horse Training Regiment on February 13th, 1917 and then onto the 4th Machine Gun Squadron on August 3rd and taken onto strength 2 days later. Nearly 2 months later on September 26th, he'd be charged with..
"Conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline in that he on the morning of Sept. 20th 1917 created a disturbance in the Squadron lines"
For this, he was awarded 6 days Field Punishment No.2. He was in hospital with diarrhoea from December 21st, 1917 until he went to a rest camp on February 20th, 1918. He arrived back to his Squadron on March 29th, and then went back into hospital on August 15th with diarrhoea until September 14th only to go back to hospital on the 19th until he rejoined the unit on November 30th, 1918. Although he missed out on the Battle at Semakh/Samakh, he was said to have had a photo of the grave of Sergeant 'Walker' West who fell at Semakh on September 25th, 1918. On the 27th February, 1919, he was charged again. It reads..
‘At Moascar, 26-2-19. When on Active Service, creating a disturbance in the Sqdn lines.’ The second charge was attacking a Mess orderly in the ‘execution of his duty’. He was awarded 28 days F.P No.2 due to this. He embarked on the 'City of Poona' for repatriation and discharge. He arrived back in Australia at 3rd M.D on May 14th, 1919. He was discharged after 4 years and 319 days in the service on September 1st, 1919 on the grounds of being medically unfit.
His First World War discharge papers.

On November 11th, 1920 when he was living at Farm 368 Springbrook Diary in Yenda, he sent a letter concerning how he had not yet been awarded the 1914-15 Star, only to be told it will be given in due course. It seems he married one 'Eily Mary Coghlan' in 1923, who bore him a daughter named Rosemary Kathleen Ashburner on August 23rd, 1925. Rosemary would later be a Corporal in the Australian Women’s Army Service during the Second World War, serial number VF513795.
His daughter, Rosemary Ashburner

At the age of 50, he was not yet done with service life, as he enlisted into Australian Military Forces a month following the declaration of war on October 6th, 1939, serial number V80914. He went to the 12th Garrison Battalion in early 1940, and then left on July 8th, 1940 to join the Australian Imperial Force.
His third discharge

He joined the A.I.F a day following his discharge on July 9th, 1940 as a Private in the 15th Training Battalion, serial number VX42085. This was only for a month though, as he was discharged again on August 12th, 1940 to enlist into the 17th Garrison Battalion which he saw the war out with until January 21st, 1946.

His fourth discharge

VX129276 Staff Sergeant Clifford William Ernest Ashburner D.C.M appears on his fifth and final discharge. It states on it that he was in the Citizens Military Forces (with 17th Garrison Battalion) from August 15th, 1940 to January 21st, 1946. He then went to the Australian Imperial Force on January 22nd, 1946 until January 14th, 1947 apart of British Commonwealth Occupation Force [BCOF). It says he served 252 days overseas which would've been in Japan.


His actual medals below
[War Medal 39-45, Australian Service Medal]    [Australian Service Medal 1945-75 with Japan Clasp]

Clifford Arundell William Ernest Ashburner died at the age of 76 in Heidelberg Repatriation General Hospital in Victoria on June 25th, 1966 from Bronchopneumonia and Cerebrovascular accident.

As someone might've noticed, it says on his discharge papers 'D.C.M'. I have not once stated that he won a DCM in any war he took part in. In 1946, a letter of confirmation about Clifford's DCM was sent, but it came back saying he won a MiD. 
In 1952, a letter in reply to someone wondering about his DCM was sent, reading..
"I have interviewed Commissionaire Ashburner, who states that he was awarded the decoration while with the 9th Light Horse on Gallipoli in 1915, at the time when the 8th Light Horse was badly cut up at the Nek on 7th August. He was invested with the medal by General Allenby in Palestine in 1917, General Chauvel being amongst those present at the ceremony"
It doesn't seem that unusual for someone to fake an award or decoration, so Ashburner is just another name to someone pretending to be a D.C.M Winner. In my personal opinion though, I think he would deserve an M.M for actions at the Nek, a D.C.M for him might be pushing him but it'd still be a worthy award.



Edited by tankengine888


Recommended Comments


Posted (edited)

He was a odd and interesting one in some aspects FROGSMILE. He faked the DCM but managed to get into the A.I.F [Rather, BCOF] at the age of 57. He was also an unsung hero of the Nek (might be a bit of an overstatement) and had seen the service that only a select few would've seen. I wrote this in an hour or two with some quick references, so I think I did a decent enough job.

Edited by tankengine888
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27 minutes ago, tankengine888 said:

He was a odd and interesting one in some aspects FROGSMILE. He faked the DCM but managed to get into the A.I.F [Rather, BCOF] at the age of 57. He was also an unsung hero of the Nek (might be a bit of an overstatement) and had seen the service that only a select few would've seen. I wrote this in an hour or two with some quick references, so I think I did a decent enough job.

All good practice for your university dissertation one day.

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10 hours ago, FROGSMILE said:

All good practice for your university dissertation one day.

Ah true...


Slight question, any idea why half the images ceased to load as images?

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Posted (edited)

9 hours ago, tankengine888 said:

Ah true...


Slight question, any idea why half the images ceased to load as images?

I don’t know Tank, but it might perhaps be to do with data capacity.  The best person to consult is @spof.

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32 minutes ago, spof said:

Try adding them again. It looks like they may not have saved correctly.

It seems to only happen when I'm on my phone.. I'll try to re-add them.

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Posted (edited)

2 minutes ago, tankengine888 said:

It seems to only happen when I'm on my phone.. I'll try to re-add them.

You have to give them time to fully upload before ‘saving’.

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4 minutes ago, tankengine888 said:

I believe I fixed it by 'click, drag, drop'

Then you’re a better [IT] man than me, Gunga Din!

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