James Ashworth’s dad to be Gathering chief

Duane Ashworth
Duane Ashworth

The father of Corby’s Victoria Cross hero, Lance Corporal James Ashworth, has agreed to be a patron of a charity which cares for war graves.

Duane Ashworth will be an ambassador for the Victoria Cross Trust which cares for the graves of recipients of the top military honour which are not protected by either their families or the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Former guardsman Mr Ashworth has also agreed to be the chieftain of this year’s Highland Gathering in Corby, being held on Sunday, July 14, at the Charter Field in the town.

L/Cpl Ashworth, 23, a former pupil of Lodge Park School in Corby, was killed last June as he stormed an insurgent position in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.

He put himself in the line of fire to protect his comrades and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery, the first to be bestowed since 2006.

Mr Ashworth said: “I received a telephone call asking me to be a patron of the Victoria Cross Trust and I accepted. It is an honour to bring the work of the trust and the graves that need tending to the forefront.

“The majority of VC recipients don’t have any surviving family and it needs to be brought to the public’s eye that we need to get these graves back to the way they should be.”

Recipients of the Victoria Cross who were killed in the First and Second World Wars, and more recent conflicts such as the Falklands and Afghanistan, are looked after by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

But many other burial plots have fallen into disrepair and suffer from neglect as the families and relatives of VC recipients have died out, or can’t afford to maintain them.

In some cases the burial rights have expired, meaning families do not have a legal right to replace headstones.

Mr Ashworth will promote the work of the Victoria Cross Trust and help raise funds for projects to restore graves.

The 44-year-old former Grenadier Guard, who now works as a holiday complex manager, said he was immensely proud when he learned his son was to be awarded the Victoria Cross. He said: “There is pride for his family and for the regiment. He will never be forgotten.”

Mark Pengelly, chairman of Corby Highland Gathering committee, said: “We are very pleased and proud that Mr Ashworth has agreed to be this year’s chieftain of the games and that we can show our respect for James.”