Thursday, 10 November 2011

Lest we forget ... Alfred Edward Newport 1878-1918

Alfred Edward Newport died of wounds received in action on 27 August 1918

Alfred Edward's story is not an unusual one, he was a warehouse porter, living in Enfield, at the start of the war.  He had been married 12 years; his wife was Louisa Ricketts, they had met and married at St Andrew's Church, Kensington on 21 September 1902.


They were a lovely little family, Louisa Annie was born on 31 March 1903, Annie on 24 September 1904, Rose Doreen on 18 November 1906 and after a little gap, a longed for son, also Alfred Edward born on the 18 July 1909.  But war was looming and even though Alfred was in his mid thirties, in 1915 he enlisted at Mill Hill and was attested on 8 December 1915 and initially put into the reserve.  However on 10 November 1916 he was mobilized and left Enfield to join the 21st Battalion of the Notts and Derby Regiment on 11 November 1916 Service number 7206 - to think, two years in the future would be Armistice Day, but Alfred Edward was never to see that.

He was an every day man - 5' 8 3/4" tall, weighing 160 lbs, with a girth of 40".  He had slight flat feet, but hopefully that didn't cause him problems.

Whilst in London on leave in 1917, it is noted he overstayed his pass from 11 p.m. on 24 April to 10.30 p.m. on 30th April, for that he was "admonished" and forfeited 2 days pay - was he desperate to spend more time with Louisa and the children?

Throughout his war, Alfred Edward was a simple Private, like so many - however on 15 February 1918 he became a Rifleman transferring to the 25th Reserve Garrison Battalion Rifle Brigade and then on to the 1/23 London Regiment of the East Surreys changing his service number to 39462.

On 6 April 1918 Alfred Edward was under orders to go overseas yet again.  Did he need to see Louisa and the children, did he feel that it would be for the last time?  He broke out of camp, after tatoo roll call and "remained absent 'till surrendering himself to the Railway Transport Officer at Paddington Station" on 8 April.  For that he was given 14 days detention on 11 April 1918 and had to forfeit 3 days pay.  Interestingly his senior officer at the time was Colonel F Kayser, who was the first shareholder in the Austin Motor Company!

On the 22 April he was part of the BEF. The final months of the war were underway but sadly Alfred Edward  was wounded  in action on 22 August - he had gun shot wounds in his back and left leg.  On the 21 August the 1/23 London Regiment had been East of Heilly, it is reported that they bathed in the River Ancre.  On the 22nd, Zero Hour was 4.45a.m.  Battalion HQ was established in Happy Valley.  Fighting continued and "casualties were moderately heavy":12 officers and 261 other ranks (including Alfred Edward).  He was taken on the long journey, to a hospital at Rouen, but died of his wounds on 27 August, aged 40 years. 


In memory of all the soldiers buried at St Sever

The story almost ends there, except for a few poignant points.  On 11 January 1919 Louisa received Alfred Edward's few personal belongings: photos, 3 knives, a note book, mirror, belt, ring and pencil case - bless her, on the form she had to sign accepting receipt, she wrote: "Thanks for prompt attention".  Then in September 1921 she also received his Victory Medal and British War Medal.

Louisa brought up the four children alone, the young Alf being just 9 years old when his father died.  She became quite a formidable women in her old age, but then all the war widows had such a lot  with which to cope!

(The young Alfred Edward joined the RAF, as a Sergeant, serving both before, during and after the Second World War, including service at RAF Cranwell and RAF Riyan, Aden.  He had two sons and three daughters, one sadly dying at 14 months, the rest living today in Watford, Bath and Worcester.)

1 comment:

  1. A very sad story - and one that no doubt can be told by thousands of families. It is so understandable that many of those men desperately did not want to return to the front and broke the rules for just a little bit more time with their loved ones.