Harold was born in Campden and was the eldest son of James Henry and Keziah Ashwin. When James married Keziah Merriman at St. James’s Church on 7 August 1897 his occupation was recorded as a groom and Keziah was a domestic cook and in 1901the family were living in Watery Lane.
After leaving school Harold found employment as an indoor servant but when he was 18 years old he enlisted into the South Lancashire Regiment at Buttevant, County Cork in Ireland on 4 December 1911. He was admitted to hospital on 8 March 1912 with myalgia, muscle pain, but was discharged after three days. A further spell in hospital came in May 1913 when he was suffering from scarlet fever. Several weeks were spent in hospital before he was discharged on 2 July 1913 and appointed to a new position as an officer’s servant. During this period, leading up to the outbreak of war, he was awarded his third class education certificate.
When the war started in 1914 Harold was with the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment at Tidworth in England. They made their way to Southampton and embarked for France on SS Lapwing, arriving at Le Havre on 14 August 1914. The battalion saw action in the Battle of Mons on 24 August and then had to endure the long march during the retreat to the River Marne. The battalion diary records that they “suffered severely” during their first engagement with the enemy. On 6 September they began the advance north to the River Aisne via the Forest of Crecy. The War Diary notes that there were several casualties during “wood fighting”.
The advance north continued into October and on 16 October they were at Neuve Chapelle where heavy casualties were sustained during German attacks during the next few days. On 27 October the battalion took part in an unsuccessful attack on German positions.
In November the battalion moved further north to Ypres in Belgium and took over reserve trenches near Hooge. They moved forward to the firing line, near the village of Zandvoorde, on 7 November before being relieved two days later. It was during their next spell in the front line that Harold lost his life. He was killed in action near Zandvoorde, during the First Battle of Ypres, on 14 November 1914 when he was 21 years old. His body was not recovered at the end of the war and, as he has no known grave, his name is recorded on The Menin Gate Memorial in the centre of Ypres. The Evesham Journal published a letter received by Mrs. Ashwin:
“Harold was shot and succumbed to his wounds in a very few minutes. He was buried near the place where he fell by men of his own regiment, although much firing was in progress. He was very well liked by all his comrades and everyone was very sorry to hear of Harold’s untimely death”.
After he was killed in action his personal effects (a rosary, a letter and a purse) were returned to his mother in Campden and in the years following the war his mother received Harold’s memorial plaque and three campaign medals. His name is recorded on three memorials in Campden: St. James’s Church, St. Catharine’s Church and in the High Street.