Lance Sergeant Frank Rowland Victor Asplin
Reg. No. 10507 (3rd Battalion Grenadier Guards)
Killed In Action: 5 September 1917
Buried: Canada Farm Cemetery, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Grave III. B. 3.
Frank Asplin's name appears on the Thurleigh War Memorial, situated just outside the gates of St Peter's Churchyard. His family roots are entirely based in Thurleigh where he, and his ancestors before him, were Agricultural Labourers.
George Asplin (1807 - 1871)
We have to rely very much on statutory and parish records to find any detail of the Asplin family. George, Frank's grandfather, was born in 1807 and baptised on 22 November 1807 by the Rev. Robert Moore.
George was married in 1840, at the age of 33, to Sarah Stapleton (b. 1805).Their names appear on the 1841 census for Thurleigh, where their ages are given as 30 and 35 respectively. This was the first national census and ages were invariably rounded up/down to the nearest 5. George's occupation is listed as Ag Lab.
Their daughter, Eliza, was born in about 1843 followed by a son, William (Frank's father), in 1848. It is possible that Sarah died in childbirth or when William was very young. There are two entries in the records for the death of Sarah Asplin, one in 1848 and the other in 1850. Whichever the case, the burial will have been conducted by Rev. Benjamin Trapp.
In the 1851 census, George is listed as a widower, with two young children of 8 and 2 living on Bolnhurst Road. In the 1861 census, George remains unmarried, living in Cross End but with a housekeeper. The housekeeper is Sarah Stapleton (23), presumably some relation to his wife, and her son Frank (aged 1).
George died in the early part of 1871, prior to the census of that year.
William Asplin (1848 - 1928)
Frank's father, William, was born in July 1848, his mother dying while he was very young, possibly in childbirth. He married Leah Elizabeth Swales (b. July 1852) from Clapham in 1871. They had 12 children over a period of 22 years, the majority of whom were given three Christian names and all of whom would have been christened by Rev. Benjamin Trapp in St Peter's Church. The 1911 census confirms the number of children and that three of them had died by that time. Apart from Edith Lillie May, the names of the two other children who died are missing from the list.
It is possible to trace 10 of them, most of whom went on to live long lives:
Sarah Eliza (1871 - 1957)
William himself died on 16 February 1929, probate being granted to his son, George Ernest William on 24 November to the sum of £160. George's occupation is listed as 'roadman'. Leah Elizabeth lived until 1938.
Frank Rowland Victor Asplin (1885 - 1917)
Frank was born on 1885 and baptised on 17 May. The 1891 census shows him living with his family on Bolnhurst Road, Thurleigh. There were still five of his siblings living with him, plus a niece, Margery Jessie Eleanor Asplin (1890), daughter of Constance. Being just 5 years old he is recorded as a being a Scholar.
The 1901 census shows him living at the house of Mary Roberts, a grocer, in Keysoe Road. He is categorised as being a servant, with his detailed occupation referring to him being a labourer and grocer, living above the premises.
In 1907, he married Annie King (b 1884) in Wilden and, by 1911, they were living on Tythe Farm, nr Wyboston, where he was a 'Horseman on the Farm'. They had two children at this stage: Doris (1907 - 1983) and Nellie Lily Elizabeth (1909 - 1994).
It appears from his war records that Frank enlisted in the army on 6 November 1915, joining the 3rd Battalion of the Grenadier Guards. The record suggests that he was a corporal, but his grave inscription and name on the war memorial state that he was a Lance Sergeant. The Regimental diary (WO95/1219) shows that the 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards, were bombed by aircraft whilst camped near the railway at Dewippe Cabaret on the 4th of September 1917 where they suffered 40 casualties. Asplin died the next day and is buried at the Canada Farm Cemetery. Then cemetery took its name from a farmhouse used as a dressing station during the 1917 Allied offensive on this front. Most of the burials are of men who died at the dressing station between June and October 1917.There are now 907 First World War burials in the cemetery.
He was awarded, posthumously, the three most common medals, affectionately known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred: the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Allied Victory Medal.
Both his daughters married and records suggest that Annie remarried in 1919 to Samuel Spencer, but it is difficult to ascertain the year in which she might have died.