Friday, 9 October 2015

10069 Cpl Alf Webb, 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment

In March 2009 I wrote about Corporal Alf Webb on my Army Service Numbers 1881-1918 blog. I'd bought a postcard which had been sent by Alf to his sister as he was preparing to embark for France. A relative contacted me some while later and now, today, the same relative has sent me photos of Alf. It seems like a good opportunity to update his story.

Alfred appears on the 1901 census living with his parents and six siblings at Wicken Road, Newport in Essex. His parents, Joseph and Susan, were both aged 41, and the children ranged in age between 16 and two years. Alfred was the youngest boy, aged seven, with two older sisters - Lily (11) and Elsie (eight) - and two younger sisters: Ethel (four) and Dorothy (two). Joseph and his two eldest sons, Arthur (16) and Charles (14) are all recorded as agricultural labourers, with Joseph specifically recorded as a "yardman on farm".

By the time the 1911 census was taken the family was still living at Wicken Road, with Joseph recorded as a stockman (labourer), Arthur as a farm labourer and Charles as a nurseryman (labourer). Alfred is recorded as a grocer's assistant while 14-year-old Ethel was a nursemaid and the two youngest daughters, 12-year-old Dorothy and nine-year-old Daisy, were both at school. The census also notes that Joseph and Susan had had twelve children in all, of whom two had died.

Lily Webb, born in 1890, married Albert Edward Hulatt the same year the 1911 census was taken and Alf can be seen in the wedding photo, sitting with his arms folded, far left. Their marriage was recorded in the second quarter of 1911. The following year, Alf would join the army.

Alfred Webb joined the Bedfordshire Regiment in July 1912, probably around the 29th of July because this was the date that the man with the number 10070 joined the regiment. He would initially have been posted to the regimental depot to undergo a period of 10 weeks' training before being posted to the home battalion, which was the 1st Battalion, stationed at Aldershot. It was normal for soldiers to then spend up to eighteen months training with the home battalion in readiness for posting to the overseas' battalion which, in the case of the Bedfordshire Regiment, was the 2nd Battalion. However, I think that Alf was probably posted a little earlier than this. The man with the number 10070 was posted to join the 2nd Battalion in South Africa in November 1913 and I think it likely that Alfred, who had joined at the same time, would have been part of that same draft. As I wrote in my original post,
"The 2nd Bedfords had been in South Africa when Britain went to war with Germany. The battalion was mobilized on the 10th August and embarked for England aboard HMT Kenilworth Castle at Cape Town on the 22nd August. It put into Table Bay the following day and sailed for England on the 27th.

After a short stop at St Helena, the battalion arrived in at Southampton on the 19th September and then moved to Lyndhurst where it joined the 21st Brigade in the 7th Division. As Alf wrote to his sister, the battalion moved in two trains to Southampton on the 4th October, half of the battalion then sailing to France the same day, the other half sailing the following day."
Alfred was a lance-corporal when he landed in France and may well also have had a chevron on his lower left sleeve indicating two years' good conduct. At some point over the next 12 months he would be promoted to corporal.

Alfred's great-niece writes, "When he left school he worked as an errand and stable boy until he enlisted. He was hospitalised in October 1914 (which was very shortly after his arrival) with shrapnel in his hand. He was discharged from hospital in December 1914 when he fought in the First Battle of Ypres. His battalion were then involved in the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, The Battle of Festubert and Givenchy. He was shot by a sniper on 20th September 1915 as he patrolled between the lines at Vermelles." His death was recorded in the Biggleswade Chronicle on the 22nd October 1915.

The Soldiers Effects Register notes that the sum of £16, 9 shillings and 8 pence was sent to Alfred's on the 3rd January 1916 mother and she subsequently received a further sum of £7 as a war gratuity on the 26th August 1919.
Alfred Webb is buried in Vermelles British Cemetery. He is also commemorated on the Newport war memorial and, of course, through my blogs. Earlier this year, to mark the 100th anniversary of his death, his family laid poppies at Vermelles. Rest in Peace.
My thanks to Alfred Webb's family for sending me the photos that appear on this post, and also for additional information which has come to light since we last corresponded. Newspaper clipping courtesy of the British Newspaper Archive.

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