Owen Walter Charles Abbiss

14631208, Private, 4th Battalion, Dorset Regiment

Killed In Action on the 2nd August 1944 aged 28.

Hottot-Les-Bagues War Cemetery, Tilly-Sur-Seuilles, France.

Owen was born on the 2nd December 1915, the son of Charles and Ellen Abbiss who lived at 105 Letchmore Road, Stevenage. Before the war he worked as an assembly hand at the ESA Educational Supplies factory and was the captain of the Stevenage Town football club. He had been a member of the Home Guard and joined the Army in June 1943. In September of that year he married local girl, Winifred Clarke.

Owen was killed in action during on the 2nd August 1944, during the Normandy campaign, when the 4th Battalion, Dorset Regiment, led the 130th Brigade in a breakout along the Caumont to Ondefontaine road. It’s objective was the capture of the villages of Jurques, La Bigne and Ondefontaine. At 0115 hours the Battalion moved off at a steady pace heading South-westwards. The summer days were blisteringly hot and many of the troops, mounted on tanks, kept dropping off to sleep. The Battalion was involved in many small actions during their advance and it was during one of these that Owen Abbiss was killed.

He is buried in the Hottot-Les-Bagues War Cemetery, Tilly-Sur-Seuilles, France.

George Abbott

Lieutenant. 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment (Attached to 1st Bedfordshire Regiment)

Killed in Action on the 23 August 1918 aged 35

The Grave of Lieutenant George Abbott at Gommecourt British Cemetery No.2, Hebuterne, Somme, France.

George was the son of Thomas Abbott of  "Oaklands", Hitchin Road, Stevenage. He was commissioned on the 1st July 1917. Although a Service Record does exist at the National Archives for him, it has been heavily “weeded” throughout the years and very little detail can be found concerning his service. What is known is that he was attached to the 1st Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, and had served with them for some time before he was killed.

On 20 August 1918 the Battalion were ordered to move to positions near the village of Buquoy, as they were to take part in the Second Battle of the Somme. Their objective was the village of Achiet Le Grand, which had been occupied by the men of the 7th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, on 17th March 1917, and was used by the 45th and 49th Casualty Clearing Stations due to its position as a railhead. However, it was lost to the Germans on the 25 March 1918, and was well protected by German heavy machine guns. On the 23 August, the Battalion were involved in an assault on a railway cutting near the village and it was during this assault that George was killed.

 

He is buried in Gommecourt British Cemetery No.2, Hebuterne, Somme, France. (4.G.30.)

(Seniority from 17/09/1915)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Cuthbert Victor Way Albone

5949, Private, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.

Missing In Action on the 13th November 1916 aged 20.

Private Cuthbert Victor Way Albone

Cuthbert was born in Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, on the 3rd April 1896, the son of George & Elizabeth Albone. His father, who was originally from Stevenage, was a Carpenter by trade and the family lived in the St. Andrew’s Church in Biggleswade. George Albone later took up work as an Insurance Agent and the family moved to the High Street, Walkern. Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Cuthbert had worked in Stevenage as a Farm Labourer.

He had only been in France for three weeks when he was killed in the Somme sector during the Battle of Ancre. An assault was to be made on a German fortification known as the Schwaben Redoubt. The plan was an attempt by the 5th Army, under General Sir Hubert Gough, to reduce the Beaumont Hamel salient, which had hitherto resisted all assaults. The battalion to which Cuthbert belonged was given the objective of taking some enemy strong-points, which were about 200 yards in front of the redoubt, the so called Hansa Line of trenches. The attack commenced at 05.45am when it was still dark and a heavy mist hung over the battlefield. The going was heavy and the area was honeycombed with shell-holes.

The four companies of the battalion reached the first objective and this was soon taken, with many German soldiers being killed or captured. The No.4 Company, despite much confusion and many difficulties, managed to work up the Hansa Line and, supported by the other companies, succeeded in taking the entire line and some of Mill Trench, the final objective, by 07.20 am. Despite heavy shelling and some determined counter attacks the battalion managed to hold onto and consolidate their position but suffered many casualties in doing so. It is uncertain at what point he was killed but his body was never recovered and is lost on the battlefields of the Somme. His elder brother, Gilbert, was also killed in the Somme sector a few months earlier.

Cuthbert has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

His name appears on both the Stevenage and Walkern war memorials.

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Gilbert Way Albone

8622, Sergeant, 6th Battalion. Bedfordshire Regiment.

Killed In Action on the 15th July 1916 aged 28.

Sergeant Gilbert Way Albone

Gilbert was born in Maulden, Bedfordshire, on the 14th October 1887, the son of George & Elizabeth Albone. His father, who was originally from Stevenage, was a Carpenter by trade and the family lived in the St. Andrew’s Church in Biggleswade. George Albone later took up work as an Insurance Agent and the family moved to the High Street, Walkern. Gilbert became a professional solider serving with the 2nd Bedfordshire Regiment in Bermuda and had been an Army instructor at both Bedford and Aldershot. After leaving the Army he lived in Southgate, London where he worked as a Bus Conductor and where he met Harriett Edwards. The couple were married on the 11th April 1914 in the St.Michael at Bowes Church in Southgate and a few months later Gilbert was called back to Army service.

He left England on the 30th July 1915 and served continually on the Western Front. He was killed when his battalion attacked the village of Pozieres during the Somme offensive. The attack was headed by the 8th East Lancashire Regiment and supported by the both the 6th Bedfordshire Regiment and the 11th Warwickshire Regiment. Initially, the advance went unopposed but as the two forward battalions went over the crest of the Chalk Pitt they were held up by heavy and accurate machine gun fire. The Bedford’s were forced to dig in about 100 yards from Liniere.

Later, it was found that their attack had failed and they had suffered some 244 casualties with 3 Officers and 32 Other Ranks being killed and a further 25 Other Ranks Missing.His younger brother, Cuthbert, was also killed in the Somme sector a few months later.

Gilbert was amongst those killed and is buried in the Pozieres British Cemetery, Ovillers-la-Boisselle, France. (3.G.21.)

Gilbert's name appears on both the Stevenage and Walkern war memorials. 

Medal Entitlement: 1914/15 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal

John Perry Alcock

127192, Flying Officer (Pilot), 161 Squadron (Special Operations). Royal Air Force

Killed In Action on the 4th August 1944 aged 30.

Flying Officer John Perry Alcock

John Alcock initially served in a Guards regiment during the early stages of the Second World War. He was eager to get into action and was disappointed and somewhat frustrated when his unit was held at home. Eventually he decided to join the RAF and after completing his transfer began to train as a pilot. Ironically, after his transfer the Guards regiment he was originally serving with was sent into action in North Africa.

On the 19th January 1944, after completing his training, John was posted to 631 Squadron, which performed the rather inglorious task of target towing, and he was soon looking to move to a Squadron where he could see some action. In March 1944 John was to get his hearts desire when he joined 161 Squadron. This was a special operations unit, which had been flying secret agents and SOE operatives in and out of occupied Europe since it’s formation in February 1942.

In the months leading up to the D-Day invasion the SOE activity from the little airfield at Tempsford in Bedfordshire was intense and on 30th April 1944 John Alcock flew his first operation. This was known as a " Double" mission with John and Flight Lieutenant Bob Large both landing at the same secret airfield to recover some SOE agents. Operation " Organist" , as it was known, was detailed to send two Lysander aircraft to Chateauroux in order to drop three agents and pick up two who had been performing a reconnaissance of the Rouen area. There had been a high number of arrests in the region due to intense Gestapo activity.

The agents to be collected were Philippe Liewer and Violette Szabo, two of the SOE's most famous operators. Liewer, whose face was on many  " Wanted" posters and had left Rouen for his own safety, flew with John Alcock whilst Szabo flew with Bob Large. John was said to be absolutely delighted that he had managed to find the landing ground by his own navigation and could hardly contain his excitement.

Tragedy struck John Alcock and his wife, Dosie, on the 17th July 1944 when their four-month-old baby daughter, Carolyn, died suddenly.  In August 1944 the Lysander flight of 161 Squadron continued it’s dangerous work from Tempsford airfield. The night of the 4th/5th August was to be John Alcock's second and, tragically, last operation. He was, once again, on a " Doubles" flight, code named Operation " Pirouge" , this time with Flying Officer Peter Arkell who was on his first operation. They were destined for Vallon, south of the Loire. The flight was a long and lonely one and John may have had time to reflect on the loss of his Daughter. The mission was made even more dangerous by the fact that the Allies, now strengthening their position in Normandy, were performing Intruder flights into the area to harass the enemy and destroy any opportune targets. Peter Arkell saw his companions Lysander, V948, go down in flames ahead of him having blown up in mid-air after being attacked by what was thought to be a night fighter. The Canadian pilot of a Mosquito intruder of 410 squadron later reported the destruction of a Henschel HS126, which has similar characteristics to the Lysander, and it is now known that this was in fact John Alcock’s aircraft.

His grave, the only British serviceman to be buried in the cemetery, lays 20 miles Southwest of Rennes in Messsac, France.

Although John Alcock is not remembered on the Stevenage War Memorial his Daughter is buried in St.Nicholas Church and he is commemorated on her headstone, a double blow for a young wife and mother.

 

Frederick John Aldridge

J/39013, Ordinary Seaman, HMS Vanguard, Royal Navy

Died at Sea on the 9th July 1917 aged 18

Frederick Aldridge (Standing) with an unknown crewman of HMS Vanguard.

Frederick Aldridge was born on 17th January 1899, the eldest son of John & Ellen Aldridge, who lived at 2 Huntingdon Road, Stevenage. His father was a Porter for the Great Northern Railway and, at the time of his son's death, had spent 21 years serving at Stevenage station.

After leaving school, Frederick first worked as a News Lad for W.H.Smith & Son, following which he went to work at the workshops of Educational Supply Association in Stevenage as a factory hand.  On the 17th March 1915 Frederick answered the call of the sea and joined the Royal Navy as a Boy entrant. After the completion of his training on the 25th August 1915 he was posted to HMS Vanguard. Frederick served with his ship at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916 and the following short description is given in official records of the ships involvement in the action;

At about 2.30pm on 31st May 1916 HMS Vanguard was steaming in a Southerly direction as hard as she could. Then she received the signal from the Commander-in-Chief, "Be prepared to meet the enemy in every respect." The crew waited anxiously as the cruisers of the fleet engaged the German ships. Then Vanguard fired her first round from the 12" guns. Eventually she fired a total of 63 rounds altogether. Soon after she had opened fire, the news was circulated that a German light cruiser had been sunk and that the British destroyers were attacking the Germans. When she came up to the sinking cruiser, which she passed close enough read her name by the unaided eye, she was found to be the " Invincible" one of our own battle cruisers which was, or appeared to have been broken in two parts, the amidships portion. A destroyer was standing by the wreck. She continued firing for 20 minutes during which time she was under fire, and assisted in repulsing a destroyer attack. Many shots passed over her and fell ahead, some of these passed sufficiently close to the Fore Top to make those there duck their heads. She was not hit so suffered no casualties. At about 6.30 pm Vanguard had reduced her speed to 14 knots. It was getting dark and there were no enemy ships in sight. At 9 pm the buzzers went, and the crew returned in haste to their stations expecting a destroyer attack, as it then was dark enough to make such an attack likely. Firing was heard going on astern, which seemed to get louder and louder. At about 10 pm an action was seen to be in progress between a Light Cruiser or Flotilla leader and some destroyers, which took place quite close to the Vanguard and was witnessed by those on watch and then men stationed at her guns.. The cruiser was seen to sink, on fire, the shells as they struck her lighting up her interior, the men on board being clearly visible. The following morning at about 11am two submarines were reported in the vicinity of Vanguard and she returned to base.”

At 11.20 pm on Monday 9th July 1917, HMS Vanguard was at anchor in Scapa Flow. The mighty warship suddenly blew up, taking 804 of her crew down with her. The explosion had taken place in one of the two magazines which served turrets 'P' and 'Q'.  It is believed that the cause of the explosion was the spontaneous detonation of cordite, which had become unstable. Although there is no specific evidence, it is thought that a fire in an adjacent compartment smouldered, undetected, long enough for some of the cordite near the adjoining bulkhead to overheat to dangerous levels.  Just three of her crew survived the detonation. Frederick has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Chatham Naval Memorial.

Thomas Aldridge

G/44028, Private, 17th Middlesex Regiment (1st Football), (6th Brigade. 2nd Division).

Died Of Wounds on the 26th June 1917 aged 31.

Thomas was the son of Edward & Isabella Aldridge. Prior to joining the Army he worked as a Horsekepper on a local farm.

He was taken prisoner by the Germans and held in the Niederzwehren camp where conditions were almost intolerable. Many prisoners were only given very rudimentary treatment for any wounds they had received and it is believed that Thomas died due to inappropriate treatment of his injuries.

Thomas is buried in the Niederzwehren Cemetery, Germany. (4.B.1.) 

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

 

Fred Allen

28647, Lance Corporal, 4th Grenadier Guards, (4th Guards Brigade. 31st Division).

Missing In Action on the 12th April 1918.

Lance Corporal Fred Allen

Fred was posted to France in July 1917 and served continuously on the Western Front.

At dawn on the 12th April 1918 the Battalion arrived at the village of L’Epinette. Due to the fact that there were insufficient tools the companies were not well dug in and were highly vulnerable to German machine gun and light artillery fire. A devastating barrage rained down on the troops and there was heavy fighting in the area. As a result the Battalion suffered a 90% casualty rate.

 

He has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Comines-Warneton, Belgium. (Panel 1.) 

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Jack Stanley Allen

948874, Bombardier, 499 Battery.  135th (Hertfordshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment, Royal Artillery.

Died Of Wounds on the 11th February 1942 aged 22.

The grave of Bombardier Jack Stanley Allen in Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore

Before joining the Army Jack had worked at the Shelford and Crowe garage in Stevenage and was later employed at De Havillands. At the outbreak of war the men of the Territorial forces were called to arms and Jack’s unit spent the early war years serving in various locations around the UK.

The Regiment sailed from Liverpool on the 28th October 1941, it’s original destination being the Middle East. On route orders were received diverting the Regiment to the Far East. After a long, arduous, eight-week journey that had taken them via Halifax, Cape Town & Bombay the Regiment arrived in Ahmednagar on the 27th December. After three weeks of intensive acclimatisation and training the Regiment embarked on the USS West Point for Singapore where they arrived at dawn on the 29th January 1942, just two weeks before the island fortress would capitulate to the forces of the Japanese Imperial Army.  On the 9th February the Japanese landed on the northwestern side of the island and began what was to be the greatest defeat the British army had ever suffered. The Battery, with no combat experience, was called to defend the British colony and was involved in a series of bitter engagements with the enemy. Although no official records have survived it is believed that Jack was wounded during one of these actions and was amongst the many casualties taken to the Singapore Hospital where he later died.

He is buried in the Kranji War Cemetery although his original grave has been lost. His headstone is marked, " buried near this spot" .

Joseph Allen

11919, Private, 5th Battalion, Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry

Missing In Action on the 25th September 1915 aged 24

Private Joseph Allen

Joseph was the son of Joseph & Eliza Allen who lived at 7 Church Lane, Stevenage, and was one of ten brothers and sisters.  Before enlisting in the Army he worked at the Central Stores in the High Street as a Shop Assistant. At the time of his death, he had two brothers serving in the forces. Jesse, who was in the 3rd Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment, and George who was serving in the Royal Navy. His brother, Thomas, was killed on the 4th October 1916 whilst serving with the Royal Berkshire Regiment in France.

Joseph was posted to the Western Front on the 20th May 1915 and was reported as missing just eight weeks later on the 25th September. He is believed to have been killed during a major action when the Brigade was tasked with seizing Bellewarde Farm, Hooge, Belgium. The Battalion War Diary reports that the attack commenced at 04.20 hours and that “B” Company and part of “A” Company were almost totally destroyed by German shell and machine gun fire during the assault. 270 men were reported as either killed or missing with another 184 being wounded.

Joseph has no known grave and his name is recorded on the Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres, Belgium.

Medal Entitlement: 1915 Star, British War Medal & Victory Medal