Wednesday, December 8, 2010

“The London Free Press” And William Norman Ashplant

Since Major Ashplant was city engineer at the beginning of the war the local paper showed considerable interest in his career.


Lieut. W.N. Ashplant, of London, city engineer and all-around good fellow of this good old English school, is suffering from a badly swollen arm as the result of his inoculation against typhoid by the military doctors. He is an officer of the 18th. Battalion(1), and is just itching to get into active service against the empire’s enemies.

Lieut. Ashplant has seen much service as a soldier and an engineer. When he was a mere lad he wnt out to South Africa. In 1896 with a number of the famous Jameson raiders, who were then out of a job, to take part against the Matabeles(2), who were on one of their periodical rampages. After a time Mr. Ashplant went into the city engineer’s office at Capetown, where he secured much valuable experience. He joined the Cape Artillery as a volunteer, every Englishman going into the army in Africa, as it is necessary and proper to be prepared.

Everybody in 1896 knew the Boer war was coming and, in common with other Britishers, the lieutenant joined the Cape Peninsular Regiment, after having been in the artillery for some time. He did garrison duty during the Boer war and was at Johannesburg, Victoria Capetown, and Port Elizabeth.


Later, when the war was ended, and Britain had won. Mr. Ashplant was employed in drawing the plans for the Pretoria drainage system, and during that tibe(time) be boarded in the buildings know as the Presidency, which were formerly the home of President Kruger. When Oom Paul died a Dutch lawyer rushed to the woman who kept the boarding house and notified her to get out inside of 21 hours and the remains of the former president were to be brought back to South Africa and were to lie in state in his former home.

Mr. Ashplant occupied the bedroom which had formally been used by Kruger, and he did not propose to give it up unceremoniously. In going over the lease with the woman who conducted the place it was observed that a clause had been scratched out which forbade any person wearing the British uniform to be harboured in the place. This so angered the Britishers that they engaged a lawyer to fight the Dutch claims to the residence, with the result that the boarding lady was offered 500 pounds to vacate and she asked 1,000. The friends of Kruger would not pay this amount and the lady clung to her four year lease. Then the body of Kruger was laid in the old Dutch church, where friends of the late president were able to view his remains.

Altogether Mr. Ashplant is a most interesting man. He has been a splendid city engineer and now that war has broken out he is going to the front to fight side by side with Englishmen, Irishmen and Scotchmen to preserve British liberties. He was on a leave of absence from Nigeria when told that the city engineer’s position in London was vacant and he left England on a few hours’ notice to come to this city.”

“The London Free Press”, December 7, 1914.

1. Actually he enlisted with the 33rd. Battalion, and is found in the 33rd. Battalion’s nominal rolls as a Major. The 33rd. Battalion embarked for Great Britain April 6, 1916 where it was broken up for reinforcements. In July 1916 it was absorbed by the 36th. “Overseas Battalion”, and disbanded July 17, 1917.

2. The link will give you a better understanding of theses events. The newspaper is not at all accurate. Journalists with the “Free Press” at that time rarely let facts get in the way of a good story. Go figure !

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