JOHN ASHLEY KILVERT(1833-1920)MAYOR OF WEDNESBURY, UK.
John Ashley Kilvert was born at High Ercall, Shropshire, England(near Shrewsbury) on the 29th September 1833. He was the son of George Ashley and Jane Kilvert, also of High Ercall.
He was educated locally at High Ercall Grammer School and at the age of 14, he moved to Birmingham to take up a business career with Messrs. Clements, wine and spirit merchants. However after three years office work he became restless and in 1850 he decided to accept the "Queens shilling" and join the 11th Hussars Regiment at Northhampton, where he acquired a thorough training in his new profession.
In 1851, the 11th Hussars were ordered to Bulgaria, where stirring events were expected from the Russian Army in the Crimea and surrounding areas. Kilvert had now attained the rank of corporal.
The Russian Army was encamped on the banks of the Danube River and corporal Kilvert had his first experience of active service, being included in a search party which had to open up communications with a missing recognisance expedition.
In September that year, the 11th Hussers embarked for the Crimea. Only days after landing, he took part in the battle of Alma. Although not bearing the brunt of the fighting, the cavalry regiments materially assisted in winning victory.
The most stirring event in Kilverts Army career followed close upon the battle of Alma. this was at Balaclava and was later known as the "Charge of the Light Brigade". The following is a quote from Kilvert, about that fateful day.
"I was in the second line and as we careered down the valley and shot and shell were flying about like hailstones, it was only the pace of the horses, that carried us through at all. I don't think if it had been a body of infantry, that a single man could have reached the bottom of the valley.
As we advanced, there was a hot fire from the Russian batteries on either side and we survived, rode over the prostrate bodies of those who preceded us. Horses were killed, others galloped about riderless and before long, order was abandoned and it was a desperate attempt to cut our way back through as best we could, as the Russians closed in on us. The Russian gunners were cut down and we started back to our own lines, but I do not know what would have happened had not one of the Russian flanking batteries been attacked and forced to retire.
Of 110 men forming my regiment, only 25 returned and of 14 comrades sharing my tent, only one was spared besides myself. As to my injuries, I was shot by a musket ball through my right leg and also received a slight cut on the head. My horse was shot under me, but although frightfully injured, bore me back to safety. All day long neither horses nor men tasted food or water. I lay in a ditch waiting to be removed on an ambulance and had practically given up hope of ever being attended to, as darkness was setting in and I was nearly frozen. However, by-and-by, I heard an ambulance coming and, as the boys say, I hollowed with all my might and very thankful, I was picked up and taken aboard the steamer".
He was transported across the Black Sea to Soutari, Turkey, where Florence Nightingale had her hedquarters and administered to the sick and wounded. He was moved to Malta and later to England to convalesce at Chatham Hospital. He was awarded the Crimean Medal by Queen Victoria and also received a Turkish Crimea medal. He subsequently returned to his regiment in 1856 and was appointed troop sergeant major in 1857. He retired four years later.
He settled in Wednesbury, West Midlands, England, in 1861 and named his house "Balaclava House" in memory of his military activities. He took himself a wife, Elisabeth, and also opened a Pawnbrokers business in Union Street, Wednesbury. He entered public life serving on the Town Board and was elected to the Town Council on 1st November 1886 when the Town received Corporation status. He was a Justice of the Peace, served on the School Board for 17 years and was a member of the Board, then elected Vice-President of the Wednesbury Building Society for some 38 years. For many years he was Vice-President of the Wednesbury Liberal Association and a member of the Art Gallery and Technical School Institute Committees. He was Chairman for many years, of the Burial Board, member of the Finance, Gas and Water, Isolation Hospital and Sewerage and Outfall Works Committees.
In 1905 Alderman Kilvert reached the highest point of honour in the Borough and filled the mayoral chair with dignity and tact. By this point his wife had died, so he chose his niece as Mayoress during his term of office. She was the elder daughter of his brother, Cpt. Charles Kilvert of Shrewsbury. He was the Mayor for two years before he retired from public life.
His cheery disposition, probably to some extent, accounted for his remaining hale and hearty to an advanced age. The military spirit remaining strong within him until the last. He died on the 17th October 1920 following a short illness. He was 87 years old.
His only son was born in 1860. He was baptised George Ashley after his grandfather and in 1888, George married Lizzie Holland, daughter of Superintendent Holland, at St. John, Wednesbury. There were no children from this marriage.
(Material produced by Muriel Kilvert and Bob Kilvert via Matt Kilvert and B.S.Cory Kilvert).... Bill Kilvert.
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