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

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

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

Leonard George Allen

55491, Private, 10th Battalion, The Welsh Regiment

Killed in Action on the 31st July 1917 aged 21

Private Leonard George Allen

Leonard was born on the 7th November 1895 the son of James & Mary Allen of 73 Walkern Road, Stevenage. After leaving school he worked as a Hairdressers Assistant and later lived at 105 High Street with his wife Constance, whom he had married in June 1917. His younger brother, Walter Cecil Allen, served with the Royal Artillery but did not see service overseas.

Leonard first enlisted in the Army as Private 52794 of the Somerset Light Infantry and after being transferred to the 10th Welsh Regiment was to eventually lose his life on the first day of a major British offensive, The Battle of Passchendaele. The offensive was launched on the 31st July 1917 and continued until the fall of Passchendaele village on 6th November.  Although it resulted in gains for the Allies it was by no means the breakthrough General Haig intended, and such gains as were made came at great cost in human terms. A heavy preliminary artillery bombardment began which lasted for the ten days prior to the launch of the attack. The bombardment was made by 3,000 guns which expended four and a quarter million shells into the surrounding ground.  Given such an onslaught the German Fourth Army fully expected the attack and the element of surprise was entirely lost. Added to this was the fact that the area was suffering the heaviest rains it had seen for 30 years and this, combined with the shelling, turned the ground into a hellish morass.

On the 31st July 1917 his Battalion advanced at 03.50am and initially lost direction in the darkness. Despite this initial setback they managed to capture two German trenches. The heavy rain had created indescribable ground conditions and the going was extremely difficult for the troops. In addition, they came under very heavy artillery shelling from the Germans whilst attempting to bring rations up to the men of the Battalion. Further supplies had to be carried forward and at least ten men of the Battalion died under the weight of their load. It is not known at what point Leonard was killed but it was almost certainly under very trying conditions. Leonard is buried in the Welsh Cemetery (Caesars Nose), Boesinghe, Belgium. (1.B.14.)

A Memorial headstone in St Nicholas church is inscribed:

 “He marches away so bravely his young head proudly held. His footsteps never faltered his courage never failed. Then on the field of battle he calmly took his place.  He died for home and Britain and the honour of his race.”

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Thomas Allen

36231, Private, 6th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment. (Formerly 5950 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment)

Killed in Action on the 4th October 1916 aged 23

Private Thomas Allen

Thomas was the son of Joseph & Eliza Allen who lived at 7 Church Lane 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 Bedfordshire Regiment, and George who was serving in the Royal Navy. His brother, Joseph, went missing on the 25th September 1915 whilst serving with the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in Belgium, and was never seen again. Like many local lads Tom Allen had originally joined the Territorial Army and served with the Hertfordshire Regiment but was later transferred to the Royal Berkshire Regiment.

On the 4th October 1916, as the Battle of the Somme drew to a close, his Battalion was held in reserve at Authuille Wood and consisted almost entirely of men who had recently joined, as the heavy and bitter fighting of the summer battles had cost the Battalion dearly. That morning the Germans attacked the British Trenches near a fortification known as the Schwaben Redoubt, close to the village of Thiepval. It was a fearsome assault with grenades and flamethrowers being heavily employed. Although there was very intense fighting as the British troops battled to regain their positions, which they managed to achieve, the Battalion suffered only two wounded men. Later in the day the area was very heavily shelled by German artillery and a letter from a friend states that Thomas was killed by shellfire whilst on sentry duty. If this is true, then it can be assumed that he was killed after the earlier action of the day. Thomas is buried in the Villers-Bretonneux Military Cemetery, Somme, France. (3A.F.12.)

Medal Entitlement: British War Medal & Victory Medal

Frederick Ansell

2584, Sergeant, 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment

Missing In Action on the 18th May 1915 aged 27

Le Touret Memorial and Cemetery

Frederick was born on the 14th March 1887, the son of William and Emma Ansell, of 41 Alleyns Road, Stevenage. On the 3rd October 1904 Fred, now 17 years-old, gave up his job as a Baker and travelled to London where he joined the Royal Navy, serving in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. He served a number of ships including HMS Attentive, HMS Sapphire and HMS Hogue. The 1911 Census records Fred as being a member of the crew of HMS Juno, moored of off the coast at Margate, Kent. He remained in the service of the Royal Marines until his discharge on the 10th December 1912.

The training provided by the Royal Marines would have made Fred a suitable candidate for the Territorial Army and he soon joined the Hertfordshire Regiment.  He was first posted to France on the 6th November 1914 and served continually on the Western Front until his death.

On the 18th May 1915, No.1 Company of the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment, supported an attack by the Irish Guards on a farm between Festubert and Richebourg L’Avoue known as Ferme Cour d'Avoué. They had only moved about 200 yards when they were held up by very heavy machine gun and rifle fire from a location known as Adalbert Alley. The battalion had to eventually relieve the Guards because they had suffered heavy losses and it is not known at what stage Frederick lost his life. A comrade wrote and told his parents that Fred's last words were, "a piece of dirt has hit me on the head".

It was reported at the time that he was buried between Richebourg and Festubert. However, his grave was lost due to the heavy fighting in the area and he now has no known grave. His name is recorded on the Le Touret Memorial, Pas De Calais, France. (Panel 47.)

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