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Arnhem veteran Cyril Ashley dies, aged 97

Tributes were today paid to a Midland Second World War veteran who has died.


Tributes were today paid to a Midland Second World War veteran who has died.

Cyril Ashley, from Claverley, regularly gave talks to pupils at Alexandra High School in Tipton about his experiences during the war, including his time as a prisoner of war.

The 97-year-old, who was described as a "little gentleman" by his friends, died on Saturday at a care home in Bridgnorth.

In September 1944 Mr Ashley, who served with the 1st Airborne Division on Horsa gliders, and as an officer in the 7th Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers was involved in the failed Allied Market Garden operation to seize a bridge in the Dutch town of Arnhem.

Mr Ashley led his platoon through a country lane in the German-occupied Netherlands when they were ambushed. He was one of the lucky ones to survive .

Speaking at one of his talks to Alexandra High School pupils he said: "There were a few platoons walking down this lane and we were the one in front, the most dangerous position."

"Every so often we would change, so the platoon in front went to the back and another one took over the most dangerous position.

"We had just got to the back when we were ambushed by the Germans and every single man in the front platoon was killed. It was so nearly us."

Mr Ashley was taken to the prisoner of war camp in Brunswick, Germany.

Mr Ashley, known to his friends as Ash, was called up as a Territorial on the first day of the war.

After the war he married Elsie who he described as "the loveliest Wren in the British Legion". The couple met at their training base in the Isle of Man and went on to have two sons and five grandchildren.

Hilary Brown, organiser of Alexandra High School's veterans club, where he would attend once a month, said: "He was an absolutely lovely man with a fabulous sense of humour, and was very popular with the children.

"He was a wonderful story teller and a very good poet. He could actually recite them from the top of his head."

Mr Ashley regularly returned to Arnhem, and in 2009 he went with Mrs Brown and other veterans for the 65th anniversary of the operation.

Fellow Tipton Veteran Club member Joe Davies, aged 88, from Wolverhampton, said: "He was always a little gentleman. He was a lovely man, very friendly and an excellent speaker."

Mr Ashley also volunteered at RAF Cosford's museum, visiting every Tuesday to talk to visitors.

His funeral will be held at 2.30pm next Thursday, June 16 at All Saints Parish Church, Church Street, Claverley.

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