Brigade-Surgeon Robert Vacy Ash

Robert Vacy Ash was a surgeon and he is entitled to medals South Africa medal 1877-79 (no clasp), Egypt medal (clasp Tel-El-Kebir), India general Service medal clasp Burma 1885-86 and the Khedive’s star 1882

Born on July 17th 1845 in Stratton Cornwall       Father : Robert K. Ash    Occupation : Inn Keeper

House where Robert Vacy Ash was raised in his early years

He was the third son and fourth child of Robert Knott and Mary Ann Vacy.  He was the third born son of the marriage, his elder brothers were Thomas and William,  and he also had an older sister Mary Ann.

1851 census United Kingdom : aged five Robert was living at 62, The High Street, Stratton along with his parents, his two older brothers and an older sister. His father’s occupation is listed as Hotel Keeper

1857 : His sister Mary Ann died.

1861 census : He is living in Paddington, London with an uncle and his brother William.  William and Robert’s occupations are both listed as Medical Students.  Meanwhile his mother Mary Ann Ash is now listed as a widow and continues to live in Stratton, Cornwall.  Her occupation is listed as Inn Keeper in keeping with her carrying on the family business after the death of his father.

March 15th, 1866 : He passed his examination at St-Mary’s Hospital (Medical Times and gazette p. 324 March 24, 1866)

July 24th: He was admitted as a member of Royal College of Surgeons in London at a meeting of the Court of Examiners on the 24th Jul 1866, stated in the British Medical Journal of the 11th Aug 1866.  He was also a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries, Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and had an M.B. from the University of Aberdeen

1867 : His medical registration with the General Medical Council of the UK for 1867 states that he was living at Stratton, Cornwall

April 2nd : Listed as an Assistant-Surgeon with the Royal South Lincoln Regiment since (Hart’s List 1868)

1868 : M.A. at Aberdeen university

February : Wrote an article in the British medical journal. At the time he was practising in the town of Grantham

1871 census United Kingdom : Boarder at Sarah Richardson home, she was a surgeon widow

It is presumed that he started the year in Truro.  His medical registration with the General Medical Council of the UK states that in 1871 he was living in Truro which is in Cornwall.

September 30th 1871: He joined the Army. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon (London Gazette 8th Mar 1872) and stationed at Cape of Good Hope (Hart’s List of 1871)

1872 : Service in Dover, Kent

July 6th : Posted to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

November 18th, 1872 : Back in England

early 1873 : Service in Newhaven March 1st : Appointed surgeon

April 15th :  Posted to the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa until 1875

March 29th 1875 to June 4th : Went back to UK on leave

June 5th : Posted back to Cape of Good Hope South Africa

1879 : Served in the Zulu war against the Seknkuni. He stayed on the Natal side of the Tugela river and did not cross into fighting territory

March 15th, 1880 : Returned to England. Service at Netley Hospital

1881 census United Kingdom : Unmarried and living in Quarters in the men block at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley, Hampshire. His rank is listed as Surgeon

September 2nd 1882 Excerpt from the British journal of medicine “On Friday, August 11th, No. 2 Bearer Company embarked on board the City of Paris, en route to Egypt. with Surgeons Vacy Ash and 143 rank and file of the Army Hospital Corps. Officers of the No. 2 Bearer company then moved to Kassassin on the ship Carthage according to the book History of the medical department Tome II. Before the battle of Tel-el-Kebir (September 13th), the No. 2 Bearer company was attached to the 2nd Division. They would later occupy the city on Benha and Tanta with the 2nd Division.

The No. 2 Bearer company was mentioned as having poor discipline amongst its staff

He also served with the Dragoon Guards

December 16th 1882 Excerpt from the British Journal of Medicine “We learn from Cairo that under the Gazette of November 17th, containing the lists of honours and promotions among the army medical officers who had been serving during the campaign, reached that city one omission gave rise to considerable comment. The promotions in the army medical ranks included two of each grade on service in Egypt, and generally the two seniors were selected for advancement. In the rank of surgeon, however, the senior, Dr. Vacy Ash, was passed over by two surgeons junior to him in the list. We are informed that Dr. Ash is a surgeon who has always had a high reputation during his eleven years’ service in the department, and that he was particularly noticed for his zeal and activity in the Zulu campaign in South Africa. When sent to Egypt, he was attached to one of the bearer companies, but was removed from this service to be placed in medical charge of the 7th Dragoon Guards, who were then suffering from enteric fever to an alarming extent. Dr. Ash still remains with this regiment, and as he has secured the good feeling and gratitude of both the officers and men of the corps, and at the same time has received an expression of approbation for his professional services from the head of his own department in Egypt, his supercession by his juniors has attracted all the more attention. What the explanation of, the occurrence may be, remains to be seen.

Surgeon Vacy Ash, Army Medical Department, has been specially detailed to enquire into this matter; (the epidemic of enteric fever at the Base Hospital at Abbassayah)and his reports, which are now in the hands of the General Officer Commanding, may lead to a clearing up of this mystery.

July 1883 : His findings on epidemic of the enteric fever are published in the British Medical Journal. He also publish his findings on sea-sickness in the July British Medical Journal

March 11th, 1883 : Returned home to England. Service in Portland, Dorset

April 11th : His Egypt medal was issued to him on that date

September 30th : Appointed surgeon-major

November 11th, 1884 : Married Eliza Maxwell in St-Barnabas Church, Kensington, Middlesex. She was born in 1863,  21 years old the daughter of Thomas Maxwell, a gentleman.  Robert gives his occupation as physician. At the time of the marriage Robert and Eliza were living at separate addresses in Warwick Gardens, Kensington

February 18th, 1885 : Service in Bengal and Burma. During that campaign comments made by his superior officer DSS Turner PMO Burma ‘’he was an officer of great ability and zeal, who has done most excellent service.  Is highly qualified for the duties he has been called upon to perform’’

November 20th 1886 Excerpt from the British Journal of Medicine “Surgeon-Major R. VACY ASH, M.D., has been ordered to Mandalay for service in Upper Burmah. He is appointed Assistant Medical Officer and Sanitary Officer to the Barmah Field Force, and will also take medical charge of the Headquarters Etaff.

1887 : Served in the Burmanese expedition

September 2nd: Mentioned in dispatches London Gazette

1888 : Service in Brighton until 1891

January 4th, 1889 : Birth of his second child Roland Colin Vacy Ash, born February at 38 Stanford Avenue, Brighton, Sussex.- died September) from the British Medical Journal of the 12th Jan 1889. As Robert was stationed in India and Robert and Eliza’s second child was born in England, Eliza must have been with Robert in India and returned to England to give birth to their child.

28th April : He returned home to England and from that date until the 17th Nov 1891 he is listed as being sick.  The death of his child and marital difficulties which resulted in divorce may go some way to explain why Robert was listed as sick.

1891 census United Kingdom census taken in Hove Sussex county  Wife: Eliza born 1865 in Spratton South Africa,

Son: William Maxwell Vacy born July 6th, 1885 in Ayra Burgal, India

July : His wife petitioned for her divorce. She accused him of adultery and verbal abuse. He was found not guilty of those charges.

September 30th : Appointed lieutenant-colonel (brigade surgeon) .(from the British British Medical Journal October 17th, 1891), … who shortly retires from the service, was entertained at a farewell dinner at the Hotel Metropole on October 12th by the officers of the Medical Staff serving at Brighton

November 18th : Retiring from service

August 9th, 1898 : Lieutenant colonel under London Gazette notification

September 25th 1899 : Transfer of mortgage of Leworthy Robert Vacy Ash of Fleetwood, co. Lancs, surgeon lieut. col. (retired) and Arthur John Kingdon of 30 Milk Street, Cheapside, London, gent. (co-executors of Ann Fry) To Francis John Oliver of 44 Cleveland Road, Stanford Avenue, Brighton, gent.

His medical registration with the General Medical Council for the UK for 1899 states he was living at 10 The Esplanade, Fleetwood, Lancashire

March 31st, 1901 (census) : He was a surgeon physician at his own account living at 10 Esplanade, Fleetwod. He was living with his cousin Thomas Hyler (physician). They had two domestic servant, Sarah Foster and Margaret Connelly. His son William was a student at Magdalen College

– His wife was visiting Mary Hooley (probably her sister) at 69th Belmont road, Portswood.

July 1901 : He petitioned for his divorce accusing his wife of adultery. She was found guilty and condemned to pay him a sum of money 1750

Picture of Dr Ash (1901)

March 1902 (first semester) : Married for the 2nd time in St George Hanover Square with Florence May Bratt.

September 18th, 1903 : Died suddenly at Morecambe, Lancashire. He was still employed on the retired List at Fleetwood.

September 21st, 1910 : His second wife remarried to a William Bottomley at St John’s Church Hartford, Cheshire, United Kingdom.

If you know more information on this gentleman, please leave me message so I can add it to his small biography.

Thanks to Dianne Bartlam who gave me information on Dr Ash. She can be reached at Solent Genealogy

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  • dianne  On 2011/12/30 at 12:01

    very interesting indeed, this man was at Netley and I have a blog dedicated to Netley

  • Medic  On 2011/12/30 at 12:54

    Indeed Dr Ash does have an interesting ……. the only missing part from his story is his bitter divorce.

    If you want to put his story on your blog feel free to do so

  • dianne  On 2011/12/30 at 16:56

    Thank you, I would love to add his story to my blog. I have also tried to find something on his divorce. He would have been in India in 1886 so wonder if it took place there, they certainly managed to keep it out of the British papers by the looks of things. I wonder if it might be worth looking at the UK archives!

  • Medic  On 2011/12/30 at 17:34

    Dr Ash divorced in 1901, I have all his divorce papers. I do not want to put those information in the public domain because it could tarnish his image a little if one of his family members would stumble on this website. I just want to make sure his great-grand-father image of a good person is still intact.

  • Humphrey  On 2012/05/20 at 12:22

    I believe Robert Vacy-Ash’s second marriage may have been to Florence Mary BRATT of Northwich, Cheshire as a Florence M.Vacy-Ash (widow – nee Bratt) remarries to a William Bottomley at St John’s Church Hartford, Cheshire 21 SEP 1910. Can Medic confirm this?

  • Medic  On 2012/05/21 at 09:43

    The reason why I have two possible names for his second wife is that the “Marriage registry” does not tell the name of the spouse. You have guessed the name with those who married in the same district during the same semester.
    In the case of Robert V Ash there are two possibilities. With this new information you are telling me, Violet Schlippenbach has to be ruled out and Florence May Bratt must be his second wife. Can you please tell the source of your information as I always like to keep that for my records?

  • Humphrey  On 2012/05/21 at 10:00

    I found an announcement in the Times newspaper for the birth of a son……..
    Times Newspaper Saturday DEC 19th 1903.
    Vacy-Ash – on the 6th inst at Woodland Villa, Hartford, Northwich, Cheshire, the wife of the late Lieut-Col. Vacy-Ash, of a son.

    Woodlands, Hartford, Cheshire was the family home of Henry Bratt, father of Florence Ma(r)y. The above child appears to have been baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Castle, Northwich as follows:
    Robert Gilbert son of Robert Vacy & Florence May Ash of Woodland Villa, Chester Road, Lt.Colonel Army Medical Corps.
    If you look at the 1911 CR you will find Robert Gilbert Vacy Ash and an older sister, Mary Vacy Ash (born Fleetwodd, Lancs) living with William Bottomley and wife Florence and recorded as step-children to the head of the household.

    note: although Florence Bratt appears on the GRO births as Florence Mary, her baptism records her as Florence May.

  • Medic  On 2012/05/21 at 22:06

    Thanks for the information

  • Julian Whybra  On 2016/04/26 at 02:50

    Two comments:
    1. His name was not hyphenated or even double-barrelled. Vacy was his middle name.
    2. Why do you think he did not cross the Zulu border in 1879??????

  • Humphrey  On 2016/04/27 at 04:15

    If you are referring to my comments of 21 MAY 2012, then it is quite simple, when transcribing from any document it is a matter of course to take down the text as seen, thus giving a true historical source reference.

  • Nelson  On 2016/04/27 at 09:39

    Julian – Only those who crossed in fighting territory received the clasp to the South Africa medal 1877-79, he did not receive it

  • Julian Whybra  On 2016/04/27 at 11:34

    I have no idea, Humphrey, why you should assume that I was referring to your post (which makes no mention of the Zulu War).
    I was referring to the information at the very top of this website regarding Surgeon Robert Vacy Ash. The Army List (1879) and Mackinnon & Shadbolt’s South African Campaign 1879 (publ. 1880) both list him under Ash and N. Newnham Davis’s The Transvaal under the Queen (publ 1883) mentions him several times, each time as Ash. Vacy seems to have been an inherited middle name from the maternal side of the family.
    Nelson, you are incorrect. His medals have on the bar 1877-8-9 which according to the Army Order Sanctioning the South Africa Medal 1877-8-9, General Order by H.R.H. The Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief 1/8/1880 No.103 indicates that he did cross the border into Zululand (which my own researches into the campaign endorse). No dates on the bar would indicate he did not.

  • Nelson  On 2016/04/27 at 18:50

    I have several electronic documents that list him as Robert Vacy Ash like British Medical Journal (14), Army List (2), Census (3), London Gazette (2) Birth, Wedding and Death certificate even his divorce paper, on all the documents the name is Robert Vacy Ash or Robert V Ash. If you look at the Medal Roll for the South Africa War he is listed as Surgeon Ash R V and he is not entitled to the clasp according to the roll and his medal does have the clasp.
    If you say his medal does have the clasp, can you tell me the naming on the rim of the medal? Is it R Ash? I think it’s a matter of having two gentlemen with almost the same name. If I remember correctly when I researched him a few years ago, I stumble on someone named Robert Ash, also officer but do not remember which Corps or Regiment.

  • Julian Whybra  On 2016/04/28 at 04:48

    R.V. Ash A.M.D.
    All the docs you have list him as Ash. Not hyphenated. Not double-barrelled.
    The dates appear on the bar.
    There were no clasps issued for the Zulu War.

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