The youngest of nine children, Cecil Parker Ashdown was born in Bega in 1897, where his father, Edward Parker Ashdown, was the manager of the Commercial Banking Company of Sydney. In April 1899 Edward was appointed manager of the Orange branch of the bank, a position that he held until his death in March 1909.
Cecil was educated at Mosman Public School and Sydney Grammar School. He played football with Mosman Rugby Club and attended St Clement’s Church in Mosman. He also served four years in the Naval Reserve.
Following his education he undertook an apprenticeship with Chapman and Co Engineers and Shipbuilders in Balmain. He enlisted in November 1915 during the second year of his apprenticeship, aged 18.
Sapper Ashdown embarked HMAT Berrima in Sydney in December 1915 with the 2nd Reinforcements 7th Field Company. He was hospitalised with mumps following his arrival in Suez in January 1916. His was discharged to duty later in the month and was taken on strength with 14th Field Company Engineers at Tel-el-Kebir in March. In June he left Alexandria with the British Expeditionary Force bound for Marseilles.
Cecil served in France for less than a month; he was killed in action at Fleurbaix on 20 July 1916, aged 19. He is buried at the Anzac Cemetery at Sailly-sur-la-Lys.
Three of Cecil’s brothers and one of his sisters also served in WWI: Edmond Arthur Ashdown died of wounds in France in April 1917, Ernest Ewen Ashdown and Clive Ashdown returned to Australia in March 1916 and August 1918 respectively; Staff Nurse Maud Ashdown was discharged from the Australian Army Nursing Service in March 1917.
In 1921 Cecil’s mother, Florence, wrote to Cecil’s commanding officer to thank him for a photograph he had sent her of Cecil’s grave in France. She said:
My boy was very young when he left for the front, being only 19 years of age when he was killed, yet I would not have had it otherwise, as I am proud of him, and of his other three brothers who went to the war. I lost two sons, but I give them gladly for their country to save the dear old Union Jack
Cecil is commemorated on the Holy Trinity Church Orange Honour Roll where his father had been a church warden and the west face of the Mosman War Memorial, as well as the Honour Rolls of Mosman Public School, St Clement’s Church, and the Mosman Rugby Union Football Club. He is also remembered on a commemorative plaque in Orange Cemetery, Church of England, Section A, Grave 88.
Cecil’s name appears on the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph.
In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Sapper CP Ashdown”; it was donated by Stuart Taylor Lamrock. Very few of the trees are still standing today.