Photograph of Alf in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: MR4/17/351
(L to R) Military Medal; British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Alf, as he was known, was born on the 7th March 1895 in Newton, Manchester. He was named after his father and his mother was Margaret Jane. Eastwood was her maiden name. Alf was their oldest child; his siblings were Mary Gladys, Frederick, Margaret Doris, Edna and Muriel Eastwood. All 6 children were baptised in Albert Memorial Church in nearby Collyhurst. The family lived at a different address at each baptism, and at two others when the 1901 and 1911 Censuses were taken.
Alfred senior was self employed as an interior painter and decorator. When Alfred Eastwood was born the family lived at 7 Wood Street. By 1901 they had moved to 29 Charles Street in Blackley, and 10 years after that they were at 256 Moston Lane in nearby Moston. Alf had found a job by then; he was an assistant in a goods warehouse. The family had moved the short distance to number 274 by January 1914.
The First World War broke out in early August 1914 and Alf joined the Army on the 11th September. We believe he originally joined one of the Manchester Regiment's Territorial Force battalions, although we don't know which.
Whichever battalion he joined, Alf did not serve overseas with it. He left the UK after he was posted to the 22nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in mid September 1916. They had been involved in fighting on the Somme, and had taken casualties. He held the rank of Corporal when he was sent overseas, and was given the service number 43571.
We don't know whether Alf joined them before they moved north to the area around Ypres in Belgium. This also happened in the middle of the month. The battalion was based in Belgium until mid November, when they returned to the Somme area. The Somme Offensive ended in November, and the battalion spent the winter around Beaumont Hamel.
The 22nd Battalion spent the first half of 1917 involved in fighting at Bucquoy, Croiselles and Bullecourt. That autumn they returned to Belgium and joined the Passchendaele Offensive that was fought around Ypres. They took part in 2 large attacks, from Polygon Wood towards Noordemdhoek on the 4th October and towards Gheluvelt on the 26th.
The 22nd Battalion served in their third country from November 1917 onwards, when they were sent to Italy. On the 24th October at Caporetto the Italians had suffered a serious defeat in their fight against Austria Hungary, so the British and French sent several units to help them. The 22nd Battalion stayed in Italy until the end of the war and played a major role in the final defeat of the Austrians.
Italy was a far quieter and safer theatre of war than France and Belgium. The 22nd Battalion was stationed around 4000 feet above sea level along the Piave River. They took part in the successful attack across this river in late October.
During his time in Italy Alf carried out an act of great bravery. He was awarded the Military Medal in the London Gazette of the 29th March 1919. Unfortunately Alf's citation has not survived, so we don't know exactly what he did or when this brave act took place.
The war in Italy ended on the 4th November. In February 1919 the 22nd Battalion moved into Austria on occupation duty. We don't know whether Alf was with them. At some point he had either been wounded or fallen ill. He did not recover and on the 16th April 1919 he was discharged as 'no longer physically fit for war service'. Alf was awarded a Silver War Badge, with serial number B341842, to show that his discharge was honourable.
Frederick also served in the Army during the First World War, although we don't know which unit he fought with. He survived the war and died in 1978 at the age of 80.
After the war Alf returned to Manchester. He went to back to his family at 274 Moston Lane. He married Ellen Barnacott at St John's Church in Moston on the 3rd June 1922. She was always known as Ella. This was a double wedding; Ella's sister Violet married Samuel Lomas at the same time.
Alf and Ella had one child, Alan Alfred, between July and September 1928.
When he married Alf worked as a shipping clerk. He later went to work for the Unemployment Assistance Board, and retired as an Executive Officer. This was a government body that provided unemployment benefits to people who did not qualify for assistance based on their National Insurance payments.
Outside of work we know that Alf enjoyed painting and gardening. He used a child's paint box for his watercolour paints. He gardened as a hobby both whilst he was at work and after he retired. Alf also smoked a pipe throughout his life, which his niece Margaret 'always thought suited him'.
In the early 1960's Alf's great-niece Janet remembers telling Alf he had 'missed a bit' on the window whilst he was doing some decorating for Ella's unmarried sisters. She 'ended up with a 10 shilling note' for her trouble. Ella had worked as a 'tailoress', and hoped Janet would take up ballroom dancing, 'so she could make me a big dress...I took up ice skating instead'.
Towards the end of his life Alf and Ella lived at 12 Huntley Road in Crumpsall, Manchester. Alf died from coronary thrombosis on the 11th February 1976. He was 81 years old. Ella died in Bury General Hospital on the 23rd November 1986. She was 90. At this time Alan lived in Icklesham, East Sussex.
Alf's medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in February 2011.