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Alfred Duckworth was born in Preston on the 17th March 1896 and was the second child born to Thomas William and Mary Ellen Duckworth, their home being at number 6 Salisbury Street which was, and still is, located off Ribbleton Lane in Preston. Thomas William, a mill labourer born in Whalley in 1873 and Mary Ellen Kellet a mill card hand born in Preston in 1874 were married in St. Matthew`s Church in Preston on the 2nd December 1893 and began their married life at the above address.

At the time of the 1901 Census Alfred, his parents, his sister Elizabeth (1894) and brother William Henry (1899) were still in Salisbury Street where his father was employed as a bricklayer`s labourer and his mother was a cardroom hand. Another brother James was born in 1901 but he died later the same year. Records show that Alfred attended St. Matthew`s school, starting on 4th May 1903 and leaving on the 18th March 1909 to go into full time work in a cotton mill.

Ten years later when the 1911 Census was taken most of the Duckworth family with the exception of Alfred`s father had moved to 28 Livesey Street off London Road in Preston and the family had also increased in size, Margaret (1902), Simon (1906) and May (1910). Another child, Thomas had been born in 1907 but he died in 1908. Alfred`s mother is shown on the Census as being a `washerwoman`, Alfred was a weaver at the Hartford Mill on Ribbleton Lane and William Henry was a `tenter` in a mill. For some reason his father was `boarding` with his brother Henry and family at 28 Pollard Street in Preston and was still a brickmaker`s labourer.

Alfred volunteered for 4 years` service with the Territorial Force on the 1st December 1914 and was posted to the 4th Battalion LNL with the original service number 3403 which would later become 201111. He confirmed that he was single and had no previous military experience and that prior to his enlistment he had been working as a weaver. Alfred initially joined the 2/4th Battalion but was later transferred to the 1/4th and sailed to France with them as a member of “D” Coy on the 4th May 1915. A week after landing in France the Battalion became part of the 154th Brigade of 51st (Highland) Division.

According to his service record Alfred suffered shrapnel wounds to his head on the 11th July 1915 when the Battalion was in trenches around Estaires but how long he was out of action for is unclear due to the poor state of his papers. In January 1916 the Battalion left the 154th Brigade and joined the 164th Brigade of 55th (West Lancashire) Division.

It would appear that during the months up to February 1916 Alfred spent time in and out of field ambulances with other complaints including; tonsillitis, myalgia and severe headaches. The myalgia saw him hospitalised towards the end of 1915 in both Etaples and Rouen before he finally re-joined the Battalion on the 10th February 1916. He had only been back with the Battalion for a month when he was given 7 days Field Punishment No. 1 for “not complying with an order”. In June 1916 Alfred found himself in trouble again, this time for returning late from leave for which he was awarded another 7 days F.P. No.1 and the loss of one days` pay.

Between July and the middle of August 1916 Alfred was in and out of field ambulances again with sickness before finally re-joining the Battalion on the 16th August 1916. When he returned he was sent to the 8th Signals School until the last week in December and spent just a week with his Battalion before being despatched to the 55th Divisional Signals School until the 11th February 1917. On the 1st March 1917 Alfred was promoted to Lance Corporal (unpaid) but only managed to hang on to the stripes until the 19th April when he was demoted for insolence to a superior Officer.

June 1917 saw the Battalion in trenches to the East of Ypres and on the 7th June, the Second Army offensive against the Southern frontier of the Salient and the Whytchaete-Messines Ridge commenced. At zero hour 19 mines were blown along the attacked front and an artillery barrage commenced immediately. Late in the day it became apparent that the enemy had not been completely eliminated and were beginning to fight back strongly, directing fire on what had been their own front line trenches. It was during this engagement on the 7th June that Alfred and nine other ranks were wounded, 1 Officer, Lieut. Agostini was also wounded and 2 other ranks killed.

Alfred was transferred to a field ambulance with gun-shot wounds to his right arm, right thigh and his back. He was then moved on to 46 CCS where sadly he died from his wounds on the 8th June 1917.

After his next of kin had been informed they announced his death in the local paper, the Preston Guardian;

Alfred was buried in Belgium at the Mendingham Military Cemetery at West Vlaanderen, 17km outside of Ypres. (Mendingham, Dozinghem and Bandaghem were nicknames given to casualty clearing stations in that area by the Tommies).

Mary Ellen Duckworth received her sons` personal effects on the 27th October 1917 (no further information) and after the war she also took receipt of his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals. She would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Rank: Private
Service No: 201111
Date of Death: 08/06/1917
Age: 21
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘D Coy’ 1st/4th Bn.

Ron Crowe
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