Rank:


Private

Service No(s):


1702

Regiment:


Australian Infantry, Australian Imperial Force

Unit:

54th Battalion

Returned:

No

Place of birth:

Islington, Middlesex

Occupation:

Labourer in Victoria, Australia

Date of death:

26/04/1918

Cause of death:

Died of wounds (gassed)

Grave or panel reference:

P. XI. F. 6B

Name of father:

William Alford

Name of siblings:

Percival (Percy), Rosie, Delbridge, Albert

Name(s) of children:

Died:

Yes

Date of birth:

30/04/1897

Place of enlistment:

Melbourne, Australia

Event:

Gallipoli and France

Age at death:

21

Cemetery or memorial:

St Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen, France

Other memorial:

Name of mother:

Rosa Jane Alford (née Hutton)

Name of spouse:

Address:

Pre-1913: 14 Mount Pleasant Road, Stroud Green. Post-1913: Australia

Biography:

Alfred Victor Alford was born in Islington on 30 April 1897 and baptised at St Saviour’s Church in Stroud Green on 17 October that year. In childhood he lived in Holloway with his parents, William and Rosa, and his four siblings. At the age of 16, Alfred left his family and went to Australia as a ‘farm boy’ as part of a scheme for poor children, travelling third class on the ‘Marathon’ and arriving on 15 January 1914. By 1915 his parents were living at 14 Mount Pleasant Road (now Mount Pleasant Crescent), Stroud Green.

Alfred enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force in Melbourne on 10 November 1914, giving his occupation as labourer and his religion as Church of England. He became a Private in the 5th Battalion of the Australian Infantry, and was declared fit for service overseas on 3 April 1915. His unit embarked from Melbourne on 14 April on board the ‘Wiltshire’.

The 5th Battalion took part in the Gallipoli campaign, which was a disaster for the Allies, who lost around 58,000 lives. Alfred was taken ill in Egypt, en route to Turkey, in June 1915 and was treated on a hospital ship. In December 1915 the battalion was withdrawn from Gallipoli and returned to Egypt where it was involved in defending the Suez Canal until it was transferred to the Western Front in early 1916. It was now part of the new 54th Battalion and fought in France, including at the Battle of the Somme, and in Flanders. Alfred was ill again in June 1917 and was treated in England, at the 4th Southern General Hospital in Plymouth, before he rejoined his unit in January 1918.

In March 1918 the 54th Battalion was rushed from Flanders to France to be part of countering the German Spring Offensive, and fought in the First Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, sustaining very heavy losses. Alfred was wounded in action on 19 April – poisoned by gas – and died from the effects on 26 April 1918 in the 12th General Hospital at Rouen, four days before his 21st birthday. Unbeknown to Alfred, his brother Percy, who was in the Royal Flying Corps, was in the same hospital convalescing after a gas attack in March. Percy did not find out about his brother’s death until he rejoined his squadron a few weeks later.

The Australian Service Records contain three touching letters written to the authorities in 1916 and 1917 by Miss Lucy Moore of Port Fairy, a coastal town in Victoria, asking for an address for Alfred as he had not written to her. They also contain a letter she wrote in July 1920 with a plea for the authorities to let her know if Alfred has come back to Australia. An officer replied with the sad news that Alfred had died more than two years previously and his next-of-kin in England had been informed. 

Some time after July 1917 Mr and Mrs Alford moved from Stroud Green to New Barnet. Alfred’s mother, Rosa, died in 1920 before probate was settled in Australia and she could receive the money (£12.3s.1d) from Alfred’s Commonwealth Savings Bank account in Australia, which he had left her in his will.

Alfred is buried and commemorated in the St Sever Cemetery Extension at Rouen. His brothers – Delbridge, Albert and Percy – all served, and all three survived the war. Only Percy is to be found on the plaque in St Mellitus Church.

See Also ‘Meet the Soldier: The Alford Brothers’ blog post penned by Alfred’s grandniece.