ABLE SEAMAN GEORGE WILLIAM ASKEW - COLLINGWOOD BATTALION & MEMORIAL
Following their 2011 article, Collingwood Memorial & Service, on the Branch website, Katherine Seymour and Robert Scott-Puttock were surprised and delighted to receive an email, in September 2013, from Able Seaman Askew's niece, Rose Mary Robson, who had just read the article. She was pleased, and moved, to learn more about the annual service at the Collingwood Memorial during which a wreath is always laid, by Robert, in memory of her uncle. She, in her turn, has now provided more details about the relative she always knew as "Uncle Bill who died in the Dardanelles".
Able Seaman George William Askew was born in Dunston, County Durham. He was the eldest son of Mr Matthew & Mrs Mary Jane Askew and was one of a family of eleven. Rose Mary's mother was his sister Elizabeth Isabella Askew, named in the 1911 census as Lizzy, born 8th Dec 1907.
When George William Askew was a small boy his father moved to Tanfield, County Durham, to work a signal box crossing, and this was where "Uncle Bill" grew up. He went to Tanfield village school and attended St Margaret's Parish Church, where, when he was old enough, he became a bell ringer. He went from schoolboy to working down the mine at an early age.
When World War One started it must have seemed like a great adventure to a young boy from a small village. A photo in the local newspaper shows George William Askew with four friends, who all joined up. None came home.
George William Askew's Service Record shows that he joined the Royal Naval Division on November 24th 1914, being posted to D Company, Collingwood Battalion on April 30th 1915. One personal link with "Uncle Bill" remains from his time in the RND, a postcard which he sent to his sister Dora before he embarked for Turkey. Written from the RND Camp, Blandford, Dorset, whilst he was in training, it reads: "Just a line for I am alright so far for I have been enoculated [sic] and I have got over it alright. We are to go away very shortly but we are all well and ready to go. Love Bill".
He was reported as missing in action on June 4th 1915. His parents, however, were initially given the hope that he was a prisoner of war in a communication which they received from the British Red Cross Society. Following further enquiries by the Admiralty, including a request, via the American Embassy, for information from the Turkish Foreign Office which received the reply that nothing was known about Able Seaman Askew's fate, it was not until July 1916 that his parents finally received notification that it was accepted he had died in action.
George William Askew's parents would not believe "Bill" had been killed and always said he was in Turkey "somewhere". His belongings were returned to them and his sister Elizabeth, Rose Mary's mother, wore his jersey to keep her warm and often said that without his pension they would not have survived, as they had very little money and a large family.
Able Seaman Askew is remembered on the Helles Memorial in Turkey, the Collingwood Memorial in Dorset and, particularly fittingly, at St Margaret's Parish Church in the village where he grew up, Tanfield in County Durham, which has a plaque, on an internal wall, to the memory of the men of the village who died in WW1 & WW2 and a clock in the bell tower in memory of those who did not come home from WW1, placed there by the people of the parish.
With thanks to Rose Mary Robson.
[Photos of Helles Memorial by Martin Willoughby]