Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Albert Edward Pearce

Albert Edward Pearce : Photograph of Albert in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: MR1/23/11

Photograph of Albert in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR1/23/11

Albert Edward Pearce : (L to R) Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Military Division); 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Belgian Croix de Guerre/ Oorlogskruis

(L to R) Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (Military Division); 1914 Star with clasp '5th Aug.-22nd Nov. 1914'; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal with 'Mentioned in Despatches' oak leaves; Long Service and Good Conduct Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Belgian Croix de Guerre/ Oorlogskruis

Albert was born on the 19th January 1887 in Aldershot, Hampshire. His father was called George and his mother was Alice. He was one of at least 6 children. His older brothers were Charles, James, George and William Joseph, and his younger brother was Arthur Dudley.

George senior was a soldier in the 96th Regiment of Foot, which later became the 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. He had transferred to the 1st Battalion by the time Albert was born. We believe he died between 1896 and 1898. Alice remarried between January and March 1899 to John Charles Onn, a Corporal in the Royal Engineers. They had at least one child, John Charles junior, on the 7th June 1901.

Albert was educated at the Duke of York's Royal Military School in Chelsea, central London. In 2013 this building is the home of the Saatchi Gallery. This school existed to educate the sons of serving soldiers. It was a boarding school run along military lines, so Albert lived there during term time. We don't know whether any of his brothers also attended this school.

After he left the Duke of York's School Albert followed in his father's footsteps and joined the Manchester Regiment. He enlisted on the 19th January 1901 and was given the service number 6608. He was 14 when he enlisted, and would be classed as a Boy until his 18th birthday.

When Albert enlisted the Boer War was raging in South Africa. Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Manchester Regiment were in this country throughout the war. Albert however never fought there, and was posted to the 4th Battalion after he completed his training. This was based at Portland in Dorset until July, when it moved to Kinsale in County Cork, Ireland.

On the 15th November 1906 Albert was posted to the 2nd Battalion, which was split between the Channel Islands of Alderney and Guernsey. The 4th Battalion had been disbanded by the end of the year. The 2nd Battalion moved to Portsmouth in Hampshire in October 1907 then to Mullingar in Ireland 2 years later.

Albert was promoted to Corporal on the 8th February 1910. He became a Sergeant just over 4 years later, on the 26th March 1914. The First World War broke out 4 months later on the 4th August. At this time the 2nd Battalion was based at the Curragh Camp in County Kildare, Ireland.

With the outbreak of war the 2nd Battalion was ordered to mobilise and proceed overseas. They arrived in Le Havre, France on the 16th August.

The 2nd Battalion first saw action on the 23rd August as the British encountered the Germans and began to fall back. They retreated over the next 3 days until they were back at Le Cateau. The British decided to make a stand here on the 26th. Albert fought with B Company during this battle.

The Battle of Le Cateau was fought against heavy odds against a much larger German force. The 2nd Battalion lost around 350 men killed, wounded or missing, out of a total strength of just over 1000. The battle slowed the German advance, and bought time for the British and French to regroup and stop the German advance at the Battle of the Marne in early September. The battalion spent the rest of 1914 in the trenches around Messines and La Bassee.

During 1915 the 2nd Battalion fought at Neuve Chapelle during March and in the 2nd Battle of Ypres in, Belgium, during April. Between these battles Albert became a Company Quartermaster Sergeant (CQMS), responsible for ensuring the soldiers in his Company were kept properly supplied and equipped.

The battalion spent much of the rest of the year taking their turn in the front lines and the rear areas around Suzanne, near Albert on the Somme. On the 24th November Albert was promoted to Company Sergeant Major (CSM). He was now responsible for discipline, organisation and administration within the Company.

During early 1917 the 2nd Battalion fought around the town of St Quentin. On the 2nd April near Francilly-Selency C Company and part of B Company captured a battery of German 77mm artillery guns after a fierce fight. Albert was CSM of one of these companies, but he did not take part in the attack. He was kept behind the lines in charge of a group of reinforcements for the battalion.

The 2nd Battalion spent the rest of 1917 in Belgium, and then moved south to Ayette near Arras during March 1918. By this time Albert had been sent back to the UK 'for a well earned rest'. He arrived on the 12th February.

In Colchester, Essex, on the 20th February, Albert married Agnes Mary Eleanor Nunn. They would have one child, Gladys May, who was born on the 31st March 1921 in Aldershot.

Albert spent the rest of the war with the 4th Battalion in Riby, near Grimsby in Lincolnshire. Unlike the 4th Battalion he had served with 15 years earlier, this was not a frontline unit. It existed to train recruits and men who had recovered from injuries before they were sent overseas.

Despite being involved in fierce fighting Albert was never wounded during the First World War. His conduct was recognised when he was Mentioned in Despatches in the London Gazette of the 21st December 1917, and when he was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre on the 9th July 1918.

With the return of peace the Army began to reduce in size. The 4th Battalion was disbanded in April 1919 and Albert rejoined the 2nd Battalion in May. After 2 months he was posted to the 1st Battalion. They were both based in the Aldershot area during the second half of 1919.

On the 11th February 1921 Albert was awarded the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal to recognise 18 years of Army service.

In April 1920 Albert and the 1st Battalion were sent to Ireland. They found themselves fighting in the Irish War of Independence. The Battalion faced determined Irish Republican Army fighters who fought as guerrillas in small groups. They mounted ambushes and hit-and-run attacks, never standing and fighting the British.

The battalion was based in several small bases in Kilworth and Ballincollig. When martial law was introduced they became responsible for an area of around 240 square miles in County Cork.

The 1st Battalion continued patrols and searches of the countryside, occasionally engaging in combat with IRA fighters, until a ceasefire was signed on the 11th July. This led to the Anglo-Irish Treaty on the 6th December 1921, and the establishment of the Irish Free State the next year.

The 1st Battalion left Ireland for the Channel Islands on the 3rd February 1922. They were soon sent back to Northern Ireland because of the threat of an attack on this British territory by the Free State. After some minor skirmishes in June they left again in December 1922.

Albert was promoted to Warrant Officer Class I and became Regimental Sergeant Major of the 1st Battalion on the 24th March 1923. He was now responsible for discipline and standards amongst all the soldiers in the battalion. He held this job for the rest of his time in the Army. He was given a new service number during the early 1920s: 3512613.

In October 1924 Albert and the 1st Battalion moved to Cologne in Germany to form part of the British Army of the Rhine. They moved to Konigstein at the end of 1925. On the 29th May 1926 Albert attended the unveiling of a Memorial at Le Cateau, along with 7 other Manchester Regiment veterans of the battle who were still serving. The 1st Battalion moved to Shorncliffe in the UK during November 1927.

In 1930 Albert was made a Member of the Military Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). This recognised his devoted service to the Army over the past 30 years. He would be awarded the Meritorious Service Medal between 1937 and 1953.

No soldier can stay in the Army forever. Albert's service had been extended for 1 year annually since 1928. On the 14th October 1933 he finally left the Army after 32 years 269 days. His discharge was 'a cause of much regret' to his comrades. He was 'a worthy soldier and good friend to us all'. A farewell smoking concert was held in his honour, and attended by all his fellow Sergeants and Warrant Officers. Albert was 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall when he was discharged.

Although he had left the Army, Albert did not lose touch with his friends and comrades. He had joined the Manchester Regiment Old Comrade's Association (OCA) in 1927, and became a regular attender at reunions during the 1930s.

In retirement Albert, Agnes and Gladys went to live at 48 Lisle Road in Colchester. Agnes died here on the 26th January 1938. She was 47. Albert and Gladys later moved to 94 D'Arcy Gardens in Harrow, North West London. He lived here for the rest of his life. When Gladys married John Duke in 1944 they continued to live there with Albert.

The reunions had to stop during the Second World War of 1939-45, but when peace returned Albert was there to see his friends again. He served as the OCA London Branch Chairman during 1950.

In 1953 Albert was involved in a serious accident, we believe on the London Underground. He 'fell under an electric train and was only extricated with difficulty and had to have nearly three dozen stitches'. This accident 'curtailed his activities' and made it much harder for him to attend OCA events.

Albert never fully recovered from his injuries and died on the 23rd December 1958 in Edgware General Hospital. He was 71 years old. His friends remembered 'Tibby' as a 'dear old friend and comrade', 'extremely popular with all ranks and respected by all'.

Arthur, Charles, James and William also followed their father into the Manchester Regiment. We believe they all enlisted as Boys, like Albert. Three of the brothers died on active service. Charles died on the 24th January 1901 in South Africa during the Boer War. William died on the 13th June 1916 in Mesopotamia, now called Iraq and Arthur died on the 23rd April 1917 during fighting near Arras in France.

James survived both wars and went on to have a long career with the Regiment. He died on the 7th October 1948. John Charles junior died in August 1996.

The medals of all 5 brothers and their father were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment on the 16th April 1960.

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
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council