Wednesday, 1 July 2009

50167 Pte Alfred Leonard Wade, 11th Middlesex Regiment

Alfred Wade was the first Great War veteran I interviewed. I’d seen a small article in The Chelmsford & Essex Chronicle in August 1981 which noted that he and his wife Frances had just celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. The article mentioned that Alfred had served during WW1 and that he’d been wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans. I wrote to Alfred via the Essex Chronicle and asked if I could some and talk to him about the First World War. Two weeks later, I met them both at their home in Kelvedon, Essex.

Alfred was one of four brothers who served their King and Country during the 1914-1918 war . He was born on 25th January 1893 at Tolleshunt D’Arcy, Essex and worked as a groom and gardener before he attested, probably under the Derby Scheme, in October 1915. He was initially posted to the Royal Fusiliers but was then obviously transferred to the Middlesex Regiment. He was given the number 50167 and it is this detail which appears on his medal index card.

I didn’t have my tape recorder with me when I visited Alfred, and my notes are sketchy. On 29th July 1916 he was certainly allowed 24 hours’ leave to marry his fiancée and he probably went to France shortly after that.

On 12th May 1917, a party of men from the 11th Middlesex took part in an attack on DEVILS trench near Arras, and a little under two weeks later, 2nd Lieutenant Percy Chipperfield wrote to Frances Wade in Essex:



Dear Madam

I deeply regret to inform you that your husband, 50167 Pte. Wade. A. was killed in action during an attack on a German trench at 6pm on 12.5.17. He was struck by a bullet and killed instantly.

It is my grievous duty to inform you of these facts and I only hope that your sorrow will be in a degree lessened by the fact that he died like many other men, that England may live. A good soldier and a good comrade.

His body will be properly interred as soon as conditions permit, under the direction of the Graves Registration, The War Office.

My deepest sympathy to you and yours.

Yours sincerely

Percy Chipperfield
2nd Lt. 11th MIDX

The following month Frances received another letter from 29731 Private Arthur J Wall.

Pte A Wall 29731

Dear Mrs Wade

I will now try and write just a line to you – I now by now you have heard officially of your dear husband’s death, and believe me you have my sincerest sympathy. We promised each other months ago to write to each other’s wife should anything befall us.

He was on the same gun team as myself until May 12th, when he was suddenly transferred to another; sorry to say I never saw him again and when he didn’t return to the Company I was in hopes he was wounded and gone to the dressing station but unfortunately no news came of him.

I wouldn’t write before as he told me of a little event he was expecting to take place next month. I do hope you are well and that the little chap will cheer and comfort you in your sadness.

Your husband was my best chum, and I miss him sadly – he was brave and never seemed to fear anything, and I have been by his side under very trying circumstances, and he was calm as if nothing was happening.

If there is anything you would like to know and I am able to tell you, I shall be only too pleased to do so.

Believe me,

Yours sincerely

(Pte) A Wall

But of course, Alfred was not dead. He’d been hit in the thigh by machine gun bullets, had tumbled into a shell-hole and had then lain there for two days until he was picked up by a German patrol. Shortly afterwards, he was transferred to a hospital in Belgium.

In July 1917, two months after he had been reported killed, Frances Wade received a postcard from her deceased husband telling her that he was recovering well. He spent the rest of the war in a German labour camp in Posen, Poland.

Alfred Wade died in April 1986 at the age of 93.

Also see my blog post which includes the 11th Middlesex War Diary entry for 12th May 1917.

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