5 November 1991
A magnificent D.C.M. group of six for the battle of the 'Bou' awarded to Sergeant Anthony Ashton, Irish Guards, who died of wounds after being taken prisoner during the bitter fighting at Anzio.
DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL, G.VI.R. (2721511 L.Sjt., 1 Gds.); 1939-45 STAR; AFRICA STAR, clasp, lst Army; ITALY STAR; DEFENCE and WAR MEDALS, the last five unnamed as issued, the group mounted for display with an Irish Guards cap badge, and accompanied by several original documents and two regimental histories, extremely fine (6)
D.C.M., London Gazette, 8 July 1943: 2721511 L. Sgt. Anthony Ashton, Irish Guards. The following citation was taken from official records: 'This L/Sgt. took part in the attack on Pt. 212 on 27th April 1943 and was a leading figure in the defence of Pt. 214 throughout the whole period till the Battalion was relieved 0300 1st May. As the Senior Sergeant left in No 3 Coy. he took over command when Lt. Kennard was wounded on the morning of 30th April, and proved a worthy successor. But before this he also displayed the highest courage and devotion to duty and was an example of all that an excellent soldier should be. He was with Lt. Kennard in the attack on the machine-guns and it was he who turned one gun on the retreating Germans, and then brought it back to our positions, having destroyed the other. After the Armoured Car, which had got up onto the Ring Contour north of Pt. 214 had been halted, it was he who prevented the crew from dismounting their guns by his skilful and accurate LMG fire, and having got them pinned, handed over the gun, crawled forward with a small party and eliminated the crew, who had either gone to ground or were hiding inside the car. In this way, he removed a serious threat to the Battalion's position, and no other Armoured Cars attempted to come up that way again. During the attacks and counterattacks he was always to the forefront, and probably has the largest total individual score of Germans to his credit. I strongly recommend this N.C.O. for his numerous acts of bravery and initiatives, of which only two have been mentioned.'
Anthony Ashton was born in Burnley, Lancashire, on 19 February, 1920, and enlisted in the Irish Guards at Caterham on 4 July, 1940. He proceeded to North Africa in November, 1942, as part of the First Army and took part in the campaign in Tunisia. In the final stages of the campaign it became of vital importance to General Alexander, in his bid to capture Tunis, to seize control of the mountain known as Bou Aoukaz.
‘The Battle of the 'Bou’'
On the scorchingly hot afternoon of 27th April, 1943, the 1st Battalion of the Irish Guards were part of the general attack on the Bou, which included the Scots and the Grenadier Guards, and was launched in broad daylight. Three days earlier Captain Lord Lyell, Scots Guards, had died winning the Victoria Cross in an attempt to capture the 'Bou.' The Irish Guards attacked at four o'clock under an intense blinding sun. Their attack on the 'Bou' had to be made across open country which was under direct observation from the Germans. The only possible cover in sight was an olive grove which could be reached through stretches of peacefully waving corn. There was nothing for it but to launch a straight forward advance through an inevitable hail of fire, and hope that the Irish Guards would not be wiped out before they reached the olive-grove. A German prisoner later said that they had not believed that anyone could cross the plain and live. Not a great proportion of 'the Micks' did. The Scots Guards had been given the summit of the Bou Point 226 as their objective. The Irish Guards had the task of securing Points 212, 214 and 181. By the night of the 27th the Irish were established on Point 212, but they had only 173 bartleworn survivors and five officers remaining. As the fighting progressed Colonel Scot had decided that Point 212 was the key point for him to hold and consolidated what remained of his men there. At first light on the morning of the 28th, the 173 Irish Guardsmen discovered that, instead of Scots Guards holding the summit of the Bou, it was in fact again held by the enemy. They were now in great danger of being cut off and wiped out. The 'Micks' were armed with Brens, rifles and each man had two grenades and it soon became clear that all available German forces were being concentrated for use against the 173 Guardsmen on Point 212. The Guards were short of water, short of ammunition and, after days of gruelling fighting, they were very tired. All these facts were known to British Higher Command in the rear and they formed a gloomy picture. If the Irish Guards failed to hold, the success of Alexander's ambitious plan for North Africa, and a re-entry into Europe, would be prejudiced. By Friday night, 30th April, the Germans had launched fire attacks on the Irish Guards, and of the 173 Guardsmen who had held the ridge on that Wednesday morning only 80 remained. Lance Corporal Patrick Kenneally was subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross for his two suicidal attacks against the Germans, alone accounting for many of their casualties. One week later Tunis fell to General Alexander and the campaign for Tunisia was over.
Sergeant Ashton landed with his regiment at Anzio and took a prominent part in the heavy fighting at Carroceto. He was severely wounded on the morning of 30th January, 1944 and taken prisoner, dying of his wounds shortly afterwards.