Herbert Thomas Astbury
Corporal Herbert Thomas Astbury of the Plymouth Division, the Royal Marine Light Infantry was born in Chester, Cheshire in 1882, youngest child of Joseph and Mary Astbury (née Cornes)
In 1891 Herbert was living at the Albion Inn, Chester, where his father was the Landlord and his older siblings were assisting him with the business.
Herbert enlisted 20 August 1897 when he was just 15 years old. Ten years later he married Florence Calvert in Earlestown, Lancashire, her home town, on April 4th 1907. They settled in East Stonehouse, Devon where their first child Ronald Edmond was born 5th December 1907. Their daughter Zoe was born 8th February 1915. When the census was taken in 1911 Herbert was a Lance Corporal in the Royal Marine Light Infantry, stationed on the HMS Hannibal in Devonport. Florence was at home in Stonehouse with their four year old son Robert Edmond.
When the war began, a Marine Brigade of four infantry battalions was formed from men of the Royal Marine Light Infantry and Royal marine Artillery; each battalion was drawn from one of the big naval depot ports—Chatham, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Deal—and named accordingly. Herbert was in the Plymouth Battalion. Shortly afterwards, it became apparent that there was still a large surplus of manpower in the Navy itself, and Winston Churchill decided to form eight battalions in two Naval Brigades, to join with the Marine Brigade producing a composite Royal Naval Division. Herbert was with The Royal Marine Brigade when it moved to Ostende in August 1914 before being sent to Dunkirk in September with orders to assist in the defence of the Belgian city of Antwerp.
In 1915 Herbert’s division was shipped to Egypt prior to serving in the Battle of Gallipoli, one of the Allies greatest disasters in World War One. The campaign began with a failed naval attack and continued with a major land invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Allied forces, having suffered heavy casualties began evacuation in December 1915. 480,000 Allied forces took part in the Gallipoli Campaign, at a cost of more than 250,000 casualties, including 46,000 dead. Herbert was one of these casualties. He sustained a bullet wound to the right side of his chest but he made it home, surviving one of the bloodiest conflicts of World War One only to die in what must have seemed the relative safety of the Donegal coast.
He was the recipient of a number of awards including the China Medal; (A British campaign medal issued to British and Indian land and sea troops who served during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900); the Royal Navy Long Service and Good Conduct Medal in 1912 and the 1914 Star issued to his widow in 1919.
Florence moved back north with her children after Herbert’s death, settling in Ellesmere Port, close to where Herbert grew up.
He is among the men whose bodies were recovered and is buried in Upper Fahan Churchyard, Donegal.
1911 Census HMS Hannibal, Devonport.
1891 UK census; 1911 UK census; General Records Office; devonheritage.org;
Khaki Jack: The Royal Naval Division in the First World War E.C. Coleman, Published 2014, Amberley Publishing;
Great Britain, Royal Naval Division Casualties of The Great War, 1914-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008.
British Army and Navy Birth, Marriage and Death Records, 1730-1960 [database on-line]. Povo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2016.
Battle of Gallipoli – history.com