(L to R) Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Relief of Ladysmith', 'Belfast'; King's South Africa Medal with clasps 'South Africa 1901', 'South Africa 1902'
Alfred was born in County Londonderry in Ireland on the 20th February 1873. His father's name was John and his mother was Jane. Alfred had 3 older siblings; Robert, Jane and Mary. By April 1881 the family had moved to England and were living at 11 Walker Street in Openshaw, Lancashire. In 1890, when Alfred was 17, he was living near Stretford Road in Manchester and was working as a Labourer. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church.
Alfred's military career began on the 24th February 1890 when he enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a unit of the Militia. He was 5 feet 4 1/8 inches tall and weighed 112 pounds. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and reddish hair. Alfred had a tattoo of an 'N and Anchor' on his left forearm. He was given the service number 3187.
After two months service in the Militia Alfred joined the Regular Army. Alfred gave his age as 17 years and 9 months when he joined the Militia. We don't know why he did this.
Alfred gave his age as 18 years and 2 months when he enlisted in the Regular Army on the 25th April 1890. He joined the Manchester Regiment at Ashton-under-Lyne. After training he was sent to join the 1st Battalion in July. Alfred stayed with them until February 1892 when he was posted to India to join the 2nd Battalion at Dinapore, now Danapur. His service number was 2879.
We don't know what Alfred did during his time in India. The 2nd Battalion stayed in Dinapore during his entire service there. He was awarded Good Conduct Pay in September 1893, but forfeited it in December. He earned Good Conduct Pay again in June 1894, this time he kept it until September 1896. During his time in India Alfred contracted syphilis, he was treated for it several times during 1894 and 1895.
The 2nd Battalion returned to the UK on the 21st January 1898. Alfred had served his 7 year enlistment so he was released to the Army Reserve. This meant he was a civilian, free to find a home and a job, but he could be called back to the Army in an emergency at any point during the next 5 years.
On the 12th November 1899 an emergency arose and Alfred was recalled. The emergency was the British defeats and casualties in the opening weeks of the Boer War, which had begun in October 1899. After two weeks at the Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne training and receiving equipment Alfred was sent to South Africa. The 1st Battalion of The Manchester Regiment had taken casualties during the early fighting and were now under siege in Ladysmith.
Alfred could not get to the 1st Battalion, so he joined other reinforcements in the 4th Provisional Battalion. This took part in the Relief of Ladysmith that broke the siege on the 28th February 1900.
Alfred joined the 1st Battalion and fought with them during the rest of the war. He was wounded during fighting at Van Wyk's Vlei on the 22nd August 1900. Alfred returned to the UK on the 7th July 1902 and was released from the Army one month later.
On the 27th December of that year Alfred married Emily Jane Chattle in Haslingden, Lancashire. They had five children. Arthur was born on the 24th November 1903, James William on the 4th June 1905, Herbert on the 21st January 1907, Jack on the 5th April 1910 and finally a girl, Emily, on the 8th March 1915. The family lived in the Haslingden and Rawtenstall area, and by 1911 they were living at 'Bullen Trees' on Lynch Road in Waterfoot. Alfred was a labourer for a Municipal Corporation; we don't know which one.
The First World War broke out in August 1914 and like many thousands of men Alfred wanted to do his part. The family were now living at 33 Brandwood Road in Bacup, Lancashire. This may be why Alfred did not apply to join the Manchester Regiment; instead he enlisted in the East Lancashire Regiment.
Despite being 42 years old Alfred was accepted as a Special Reservist on the 14th September 1914. He was given the service number 7109. He had put on weight since the last time he enlisted and now weighed 154 pounds.
Alfred was sent to France on the 11th December 1914 and joined the 1st Battalion of the East Lancashire Regiment. He served on the Western Front until the 9th May 1915 when he was shot and wounded. Although we don't know the details of where Alfred was wounded, the 1st Battalion was involved in the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium during this time.
Alfred's wound was serious enough that he was returned to the UK on the 15th May. He never went back to France. In October or November 1916 Alfred was transferred to the Class W Army Reserve. This meant that although he was still a soldier the Army felt that he would be 'more valuable to the country in civil rather than military employment'.
We don't know what civil employment Alfred took, but he remained in the Class W Reserve until the 11th January 1919 when he was discharged. As well as his South Africa medals, Alfred was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal for his service in the First World War.
The rest of Alfred's life is a mystery. He died between October and December 1948 in the Haslingden area. He was 75 years old. Emily died in Bury between April and June 1954.