Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Alfred E. Ball

Alfred E. Ball :

Alfred E. Ball : (L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Queen's South Africa Medal with clasp 'Defence of Ladysmith'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

(L to R) Distinguished Conduct Medal; Queen's South Africa Medal with clasp 'Defence of Ladysmith'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal

We don't know anything about Alfred's early life.

He joined the Manchester Regiment in Manchester in around January 1896 and was given the service number 4815.

Alfred was serving as a Drummer with the 1st Battalion by 1899. Tensions between British and Boer settlers in South Africa were rising, and in August 1899 the British Government decided to send the 1st Battalion to South Africa in case war broke out. Alfred sailed to Durban and was stationed in the small town of Ladysmith in Natal when war was declared on the 11th October. The war began badly for the British and by the 30th Ladysmith was under siege.

Alfred and the 1st Battalion fought hard to stop Boer attempts to take the town, and would attack Boer artillery to stop it from shelling their positions. By the end of the siege food was in short supply and disease was widespread. The British relief force reached Ladysmith on the 28th February 1900.

By August 1901 he had been invalided and left the 1st Battalion. We don't have any details of what happened to Alfred, or exactly when he left.

Whatever had happened to Alfred was not permanent, as he stayed in the Army and by 1913 held the rank of Sergeant. In this year he was serving with the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. The soldiers in this unit were Reservists, who lived as civilians for most of the year. Regular soldiers such as Alfred were responsible for training them at the Regimental Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne.

The Manchester Regiment also had a 4th Battalion with the same role as the 3rd, and in mid 1914 Alfred was promoted to Colour Sergeant and transferred to it. He was now the most senior soldier in one of the Battalion's Companies. He went with the Battalion on its annual training camp in June and was a member of the Sergeant's Mess rifle shooting team. They lost to the Officers. Alfred was also a keen bayonet fighter, and took on Colour Sergeant Mahoney in a display fight to raise money for the Boy Scouts.

The First World War broke out in August 1914, which meant that all Reservists were called back to the Army to be trained, equipped and sent to France. As well as being responsible for hundreds of Reservists Alfred also had to deal with the 4th Battalion moving to the Humber Estuary area in late August and then to Riby, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire in October.

Once the Reservists had been sent to join the Army in France Alfred and the 4th Battalion could turn their attention to training new recruits, who were joining the Army in huge numbers.

One of these recruits, Walter Crane, remembered that Alfred (who he called Alf) had the position of Company Sergeant Major (CSM) in C Company during the winter of 1914-15. This was a job title, and he still held the rank of Colour Sergeant. In this job Alfred was not responsible for training brand new recruits, as Walter began his service in G Company 'until I was trained and transferred to C Company'.

We don't know how long Alfred stayed with the 4th Battalion. At some point he was transferred to the 12th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment as an Acting CSM. This unit was fighting in France. Alfred stayed with them until the end of the war.

The last three months of the First World War were marked by constant British advances against the Germans. During one of these Alfred carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in the London Gazette of the 12th March 1919. This is the citation:

For conspicuous gallantry on the 4th November 1918, in the Forest of Mormal. He, single handed, rushed an enemy machine gun and killed all the team at a very critical moment. By his splendid example and leadership, he set an excellent example to the men of his company and proved himself a magnificent soldier and leader of men. His conduct is most highly spoken of on all sides.

The Forest of Mormal is near the border between France and Belgium.

Once the war was over Alfred returned to the UK and joined the 3rd Battalion at Blackdown, near Aldershot. On the 10th July the 3rd Battalion headquarters staff returned to the Depot at Ashton-under-Lyne and was disbanded. The staff was made up of just 8 men; Alfred was one, and Robert Scott, whose medals are also in the Museum of The Manchester Regiment collection, was another.

We don't know what happened to Alfred after this. His medals were presented to the Museum of The Manchester Regiment in mid 1971.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Tameside Metropolitan Borough logo
Esmee Fairbairn Collections Fund logo
Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council