Attempts are being made to trace any living relatives of a St Helens man believed to have been murdered by the Nazis during World War Two.
University of Cambridge academic Dr Gilly Carr is trying to contact anyone related to Sidney Ashcroft or his father James ahead of the unveiling of a new resistance memorial in the Channel Islands.
Dr Carr has been researching the extraordinary stories of the eight people from Guernsey who were deported from the island during the years of the Nazi occupation and suffered the full horrors of the Third Reich.
Captured in 1942 for resisting the rule of the island’s occupying forces, he was sent by train across the continent to a succession of prisons from where he simply disappeared in 1945, never to be seen again.
Sidney was born in 1921 after James Ashcroft, who lived in Ashcroft Street in St Helens, married Charlotte Reeves from Tunbridge Wells. According to the newborn child’s birth certificate James worked as a gas maker at the sheet glass works, burning coal to produce the gas for fuel.
Charlotte and Sidney moved to the Channel Islands some time before World War Two broke out, although it is not know why James did not accompany them. Possible explanations include them moving to Guernsey for work, to escape potential bombing raids or event to help Sidney, who turned 19 in 1940, to avoid military service.
The life of the family, together with all the other residents of the island, changed forever in 1940 when the Nazi forces invaded and successfully occupied the island.
After working in greenhouses to produce food for the islanders, Sidney came to the German authorities’ notice in May 1942 when he was arrested for “serious theft and resistance to officials”. A military court tribunal found him guilty.
Although the details of the charges are hazy, friends testified later than Sidney had stolen food from a German kitchen and had returned a blow to an occupying soldier after he had been struck first. This led to him being sentenced to two years and nine months of hard labour, just a few days short of his 21st birthday.
He was deported to the continent and spent time in Frankfurt prison before being transported by railway to another jail in Straubing. Another Guernsey man was also in prison in the south-east German city and wrote his testimony of what happened.
He wrote: “On the morning of April 24 1945 about 4,800 civil political and criminal prisoners were lined up in the prison yard and the director of the prison picked out the worst cases of illness, weak, or most wretched-looking persons. Sidney Ashcroft was put with them.
“Although his condition was poor, had he been given the same food we had to eat … as far as I can judge he would have lived at least a week. Should he be dead then it is possible he was murdered in some brutal manner such as being gassed or shot.”
He did not return to Guernsey following the war and no trace of him was ever found, even though his mother and friends wrote to the British government and the Red Cross.
Sidney’s will become one of eight names on a new memorial to be erected on Guernsey in April 2015 marking Channel Islanders who were deported and died in Nazi prisons and camps. The unveiling ceremony will be followed by a reception.
lAny relatives of Sidney or James Ashcroft who would like to attend can contact Dr Gilly Carr at the University of Cambridge by writing to St Catharine’s College, Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RL or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org