Rank:


Private

Service No(s):


7070 & 9422

Regiment:


Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex) Regiment 1914-15; Royal Flying Corps 1915-19

Unit:

6th Battalion

Returned:

Yes

Place of birth:

Holloway N4

Occupation:

Junior Clerk in a firm of packing case manufacturers

Date of death:

Cause of death:

Grave or panel reference:

Name of father:

William Peter Delbridge Alford

Name of siblings:

Delbridge, Rosie, Albert, Alfred

Name(s) of children:

John, Michael, Julie

Died:

No

Date of birth:

10/07/1898

Place of enlistment:

Mill Hill

Event:

England (Army); France (Royal Flying Corps)

Age at death:

Cemetery or memorial:

Other memorial:

Name of mother:

Rosa Jane Alford (nee Hutton)

Name of spouse:

Ethel May Alford (nee Grant)

Address:

1911: 14 Mount Pleasant Road, Stroud Green

Biography:

Percival Alford, known as Percy, was one of four Stroud Green brothers who served in the First World War, three of whom returned but one of whom, Alfred, was killed in 1918.

Born in 1898, Percy was working as a Junior Clerk in a firm of packing case manufacturers when war broke out on 4 August 1914. He was quick to enlist, at Mill Hill on 17 August when he said he was 17 years and 245 days old, but he was actually only 16. He became a Private in the 6th Battalion/Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex) Regiment, Army Reserve. Percy was assessed and mobilised and sent to training camps, including Chatham and Woodlands Camp at Gillingham, Kent. Later in life he wrote that it was a shock to be among ‘a rough lot of men. Many of them could not read or write.’

In June 1915 Percy’s father wrote to the Army saying Percy had enlisted without parental approval, which was necessary for those under 17, and asking for his discharge as he was entitled to do. In the letter William Alford says that he has four sons in the Army: one in France, one in the Dardanelles, one training in England and Percy, who is the youngest. He doesn’t want to lose him at the front. Percy was discharged from the Army on 1 July 1915.

On 5 October 1915 Percy enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps. In contrast to the Army, the RFC was, he wrote later, ‘full of mostly nice young men, chaps about my age’, and he was paid double the rate of the Army – 14 Shillings a week. Percy began training as a wireless operator, stationed at Farnborough and in London.

Percy was home on leave for Christmas 1916 when his brother Alf, who had emigrated to Australia and was serving in the Australian Infantry, visited after being in Gallipoli and Egypt. Their brothers Delbridge (known as Reg) and Bert were away in the Army in France. After Christmas Alf saw Percy off at Waterloo on his return to training; that was the last time Percy saw his brother.

Once qualified, Percy was sent to France in February 1917. He served at the front throughout 1917 and suffered a gas attack in March 1918. After hospital treatment and convalescence in the south of France he was sent to a hospital behind the lines at Rouen. Unbeknown to Percy, Alf was seriously ill in the same hospital, having also been gassed. Sadly Alf died on 26 April, just short of his 21st birthday. Percy only found out weeks later when he returned to his squadron.

Percy recovered from the gas poisoning and was sent back to the front. In June 1918 he was granted home leave to visit his sick mother, but then went back to the front until November. After the Armistice Percy remained in France until the beginning of 1919 when he came back to England because his mother was now very ill. He was transferred to Hendon Aerodrome and was eventually discharged in October 1919.

Percy and Alfred’s brother Reg served in the London Regiment, and was awarded the Military Medal in 1916 for an act of gallantry under fire. Their brother Albert was a Gunner in the Artillery, and like Percy and Reg he survived the war. However, only Percy is named on the plaque to Returning Soldiers put up in New Court Chapel, now St Mellitus Church.

Also see ‘Meet the Soldier: The Alford Brothers’ blog post, penned by Percy’s granddaughter Prue.