Photograph of Alf in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MRP/7B/185
(L to R) 1939-45 Star; France and Germany Star; 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1939-45 War Medal; General Service Medal 1918-62 with clasps 'Palestine', 'Palestine 1945-48', 'Malaya', 'Arabian Peninsula'; 1953 Coronation Medal; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal
Alfred, or Alf as he was known, was born on the 14th March 1916 in Manchester. We don't know anything about his early life or family.
In 1934 Alf joined the Loyal Regiment (North Lancashire). They gave him the service number 3855394. By 1936 he was a member of the 1st Battalion. They were stationed in Haifa, which was then in Palestine. During that year a revolt broke out amongst the Arab population. It began with strikes and protests, but began to turn violent as the year went on.
Alf left the 1st Battalion towards the end of that year and joined the 2nd Battalion in Shanghai, China. They were there to guard the British part of the Shanghai International Settlement. It was administered by the British rather than the Chinese government.
When Alf and the 2nd Battalion arrived the Japanese had recently invaded northern China. This meant that thousands of refugees were arriving in Shanghai. The 2nd Battalion helped to guard the settlement, and helped to deal with the arriving refugees. This continued until early 1938 when the Battalion was sent to Singapore.
Alf returned to the UK in 1939. We don't know whether this was before or after the outbreak of the Second World War in early September. He was assigned to the Loyal Regiment Depot in Preston, Lancashire. This was where new recruits to the regiment were trained. The 2nd Battalion stayed in Singapore and was captured by the Japanese in February 1942.
By February 1940 Alf had been promoted to Corporal and was still serving in Preston, at the renamed Infantry Training Centre, The Loyal Regiment. He returned to the 1st Battalion at some point after they were evacuated from France in June 1940. He served with them as an instructor and was promoted.
At some point Alf transferred to the Commandos. This force had been raised in 1940 in order to carry out raids and small attacks on German positions in occupied Europe. Alf joined Number 3 Commando with the rank of Warrant Officer Class II.
Unfortunately we don't know exactly when Alf joined this commando. They were based in Italy until 1943 and then returned to the UK. Alf's obituary tells us that he took part in 'actions in Europe before D Day'. This was the Allied invasion of France. It began on the 6th June 1944.
Alf and 3 Commando were part of the second wave of British forces to land in France that morning. During the campaign in France the Commandos were used to spearhead attacks and to carry out more difficult or demanding operations. They were sent back to the UK between September 1944 and January 1945.
During 1945 3 Commando fought in Belgium and then took part in the crossing of the River Rhine on the 23rd March. They had advanced to the River Weser by the 5th April and the Elbe by the 29th. They ended the war in Lubeck.
With the end of the war 3 Commando returned to the UK and was disbanded on the 4th January 1946. Alf returned to Palestine and the 1st Battalion of the Loyal Regiment.
Unlike Alf's previous tour in Palestine the main threat to the British in this period came from Jewish fighters. He served as a Company Sergeant Major with the 1st Battalion until they left the territory towards the end of 1946. They were sent to Cyprus, but also spent some time in East Africa, including Eritrea. During May 1948 they were in Mogadishu, Somalia.
In 1949 Alf was promoted to Warrant Officer Class I and appointed Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) in the 1st Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Alf left Cyprus to join them in Wuppertal, West Germany. As his obituary records: 'his first task was to transform a rather unruly Warrant Officer's and Sergeant's Mess into shape, which he achieved very quickly'.
In April 1950 the battalion moved to Berlin. The German capital was surrounded by the Soviet controlled East Germany, and divided into West and East sectors itself, so they were right on the front line of the Cold War.
Miss Marjorie Winifred Evans was the very capable manageress of the NAAFI in Berlin, and unbeknown to the entire battalion, she and Alf had decided to get married. Between October and December 1950 they returned to the UK and were married in Kensington, London.
After a year in Berlin the battalion returned to the UK, but this was only a short visit. On the 30th May 1951 they set sail for Malaya.
A Communist insurgency had been raging in the British colony of Malaya since 1948. The 1st Battalion would join a large number of British soldiers as they attempted to bring it under control. They took part in patrols of the jungle and guarded the civilian population in an attempt to restrict the supplies and the freedom of movement available to the terrorists.
Alf's wartime experience will have served him well in Malaya. Many of the soldiers in the 1st Battalion were young National Servicemen, who had been conscripted into the Army for a short period. Although the RSM's place was not on the front line, Alf would sometimes 'sneak out with the rifle company patrols', and played a key role in training newer soldiers. On one occasion a training patrol found an empty insurgent camp. Sometimes the terrorists would return to places like this, so Alf found himself 'sitting in ambush in the jungle on Penang Island'.
In late 1953 Alf was appointed RSM of the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ladysmith Barracks, Ashton-under-Lyne. On the 26th September the WO's and Sergeant's Mess held their monthly dinner in Penang. 'Practically the whole Mess' was there to drink a toast to Alf on his departure.
Alf and Marjorie left the battalion on the 19th October. They began their journey from Bayan Lepas Airport (in 2013 Penang International Airport). The Corps of Drums provided a musical send-off, and 'RSM and Mrs Lomas took their last walk on this 'Magic Island' accompanied by the strains of 'Auld Lang Syne'. Marjorie arrived in Liverpool aboard the SS Lancashire on the 19th November. She gave her occupation as 'housewife'.
When Alf arrived in Ashton the Depot was under the command of Henry Crozier. His medals are also in the Museum of the Manchester Regiment collection.
During 1954 Alf was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. This recognised his 18 years of service to the Army. The WO's and Sergeant's Mess enthusiastically congratulated Alf on his medal; it was 'wetted' with all the old time fervour'.
On the 12th November 1954 Alf left the Depot. He was commissioned as an officer and promoted to Lieutenant. His new job was Quartermaster to the 1st Battalion. They were based in Berlin when he rejoined them. The Quartermaster was responsible for the storage, supply and issue of all items of equipment used by the battalion. It was a very responsible job, and usually went to someone like Alf; an experienced senior soldier who had been commissioned.
Later Alf was assigned to Middle East Land Forces as a Staff Captain. This job took him to Egypt and Bahrain. A Staff Captain helped to plan operations and keep track of administration for a unit or headquarters. We don't know which units Alf served with. We know he was stationed in the Middle East until at least the 1st January 1957. He had to spend 30 days or more in the area after this date to qualify for the 'Arabian Peninsula' clasp for the General Service Medal 1918-62.
Alf was promoted to Captain (Quartermaster) on the 19th April 1958. The Manchester Regiment amalgamated with the King's Regiment (Liverpool) on the 31st July of that year, and Alf spent some time with the new King's Regiment (Manchester and Liverpool) after the amalgamation.
In late 1958 or early 1959 Alf spent a short time assigned to the 8th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. This was a Territorial Army (TA) unit based in Ardwick, Manchester. He served as Deputy Adjutant, but by the middle of 1959 he had left for Malaya.
In Malaya Alf served as Quartermaster at the Headquarters of the Central Malayan Sub-District. He was based in Kuala Lumpur. He lived in Batu Cantonment on the outskirts of the city. After 3 years he returned to the UK and the 8th Battalion, becoming their Quartermaster. He was promoted to Major (Quartermaster) on the 19th October 1964.
In 1967 the TA was radically reorganised and reduced in size. The 8th Battalion became part of the Lancastrian Volunteers. Alf continued as Quartermaster, which meant moving to this unit's Headquarters in Warrington, Cheshire. In 1968 he became Regimental Secretary at the King's Regiment Headquarters (Increment) at the old 8th Battalion headquarters in Ardwick.
Alf's time in the Army came to an end in 1970. After going on a Pre-Release Course he retired on the 14th July. He could now devote his attention to his work in Ardwick. As Regimental Secretary Alf's job was to support members of the Regiment, past and present, and to 'maintain the Regimental ethos'. As part of this job he set up a small shop to sell items such as brooches and ties, allowing former members to show their connection to both the King's Regiment and the pre-amalgamation Manchesters.
Alf held this position for 10 years. He retired in 1981. He was thanked for 'all the sterling work he had carried out...Knowing Alf shuns publicity of any kind, this praise must have been somewhat of an ordeal for him, but it was praise well deserved'. Marjorie was presented with 'a nice bouquet of flowers as an expression of thanks' for her support.
In retirement Alf stayed close to his former comrades. He had been a member of the Manchester Regiment Officer's Association since before he retired and also attended many Old Comrade's Association reunions. He was a member of the Manchester Regiment Chapel Committee from 1968 onwards, and was especially proud to be elected Life President of the Malayan Veteran's Association.
By the early 1990s Alf and Marjorie lived at 36 St Leonard's Drive in Timperley, Altrincham. He died there in May 1993 aged 77. His sudden death was 'a great shock to his many friends'. Alf had been 'an immaculate Warrant Officer' and 'a perfect Regimental Sergeant Major' - 'completely impartial, always on duty, with nothing and nobody being missed by his eagle eye'. He was 'remembered by all who served with him with great affection'.
Alf and Marjorie had no children and she died in August 1996 at the age of 85. Two years earlier, in a ceremony at the Regimental Chapel in Manchester Cathedral, she had presented Alf's medals to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment.