Claude Ashton

ASHTON ACTING SQUADRON LEADER CLAUDE THESIGER, the triple Cambridge Blue and England Association football international, was killed on active service on October 31 in a disaster which also caused the death of Squadron Leader R. de W. K. Winlaw, another Old Wykehamist and double Light Blue.

The youngest of three sons of Mr. H. S. Ashton, President of the Essex County Club from 1936, who in turn captained Cambridge cricket elevens and were together in the 1921 team, Claude became the best known. By a strange change of fortune Gilbert and Hubert each led his side to victory over Oxford by an innings, but Claude experienced extreme ill-luck in 1923. Oxford batted all the first day, and during the night a severe thunderstorm with a deluge of rain completely altered the conditions at Lord's, with the result that Cambridge were dismissed twice and beaten on the Tuesday by an innings and 227 runs, the most overwhelming defeat in the whole series of University matches and the three most decisive results to occur consecutively. In this exasperating engagement Claude Ashton, with 15, alone got double figures in the first innings of 59, while in the follow-on his 21 came next best to G. O. Allens's 28. G. T. S. Stevens and R. H. B. Bettington, the Australian Oxford captain, in turn found the drying turf exactly suited to their spin bowling. So, after two great victories under his brothers, Claude Ashton finished his University career in dismal circumstances. This was all the more regrettable because for Cambridge that season he scored 678 runs, average 28.25, and took 30 wickets. In 1921 he made 557 runs, average 46.41, with 98 against M.C.C. at Lord's and 101 not out off the Surrey bowlers at the Oval as his best scores. His 48 against Oxford showed his form on the big occasion; next year, when rain interfered with many matches, his aggregate fell to 285, average 20.25, and he did not bat against Oxford, his brother Hubert, with his own score 90, declaring at 403 for four wickets, though less consideration for his side's prospect of victory would have allowed him the opportunity to make a second century in successive matches and so establish a record which fell to H. J. Enthoven in 1924 and 1925, only to be surpassed by A. T. Ratcliffe seven years later.

At Winchester, Claude Ashton was captain of cricket, football, racquets and fives. His best score against Harrow was 92 in 1918 and against Eton 49 in 1920. Business prevented him from giving much time to County cricket, but he played some superb innings for Essex, notably in 1934. In an astonishing match at Brentwood with Kent, who scored 803 for four wickets--Ashdown putting together the Kent record of 332-- Claude Ashton, not out 71, showed that he retained his batting form. What a return to the Essex team after five years absence from county cricket--fielding out 803 runs--but two of the wickets fell to him at a cost of 185 runs. Following immediately on this he made 118 against Surrey at Brentwood, helping O'Connor put on 287 for the fifth wicket, an Essex record, in a total of 570, which brought victory by an innings and 192. The stand occupied only two hours twenty minutes, and the fourth hundred of the innings came in 38 minutes. In those first two County Championship matches at Brentwood 2,362 runs were scored and the results were identical, Essex winning by the same margin by which they lost to Kent. In six games for Essex Claude Ashton scored 416 runs that season and headed the averages with 59.42. Altogether in first-class cricket from 1921 to 1938 he was credited with an aggregate of about 5,000 runs at an average of 25, took 139 wickets with his medium-pace bowling, and held 117 catches--he always fielded brilliantly.

Claude Ashton gained perhaps higher fame at Association football than at cricket. He could not lead his side against Oxford when captain at Cambridge in his third year in the eleven, but was a grand player, and for Corinthians in Cup ties he occupied every position in the forward and half-back lines. He also appeared at full-back and kept goal for The Casuals. A prominent figure in many matches he went through some terrific Cup-tie struggles against the best professional teams, and he earned international honours as centre-forward in October 1925 against Ireland at Belfast, where he captained England. He played in thirteen amateur internationals.

For Cambridge he twice played hockey against Oxford. The three brothers occupied the inside-forward positions for Old Wykehamists in Arthur Dunn Cup ties. Born on February 19, 1901, Claude Ashton died at the age of 41, leaving a widow and three children.

© John Wisden & Co
 
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