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Alfred Pye was christened at St. John`s Parish Church in Preston on the 14 July, 1895 the son of Alfred and Alice Pye (nee Harrison). Alfred`s parents married in the same parish church on Christmas Day 1875. He had three brothers and five sisters; George (1874), John (1876), Jane (1879), Margaret (1886), Henry (1889), Elizabeth Alice (1890), Lilly (1893) and Mary (1898).

Alfred`s parents started their married life living in North Road in Preston before moving with their family to Great George Street and by 1911 they had moved again this time to 18 Cromwell Street where they remained for a number of years. Alfred was working in a cotton mill as a spinner along with his father and his older brothers and sisters.

As well as working in a cotton mill it seems Alfred had also taken up the sport of boxing when he was about 18 years old. Apparently between 1913/14 he engaged in 22 professional fights and appears to have been quite successful. During his boxing career he travelled the country and was known as `Battling Pye` from Preston.

The following newspaper cutting dated 22 May, 1914 appeared in a local paper announcing one of his victories.

pye-alfred

The next newspaper cutting was dated 28 July, 1914 again recording another win for `Battling Pye`.

pye-alfred2

After war was declared Alfred put his boxing ambitions to one side and on the 15th September 1914 he went to the recruiting office in Preston to enlist. He confirmed that he had no previous military experience and was unmarried. He was allotted the service number 2577 and posted to the 1/4th Battalion. At his medical inspection the Medical Officer noted that Alfred was in good physical condition and stood at five feet three and a half inches tall.

Alfred sailed to France with the 1/4th Battalion on the 4 May, 1915 and just over a month later on the 15th June, 1915 he took part in the battalion actions around Festubert. Unfortunately Alfred sustained serious wounds in the battle resulting in his death in hospital in Rouen on the 17th June, 1915.

A photograph of Alfred `Battling` Pye appeared later in the local paper after news of his death reached Preston.

pye-alfred3

Another article appeared later in the Preston Daily Herald newspaper;

DEATH OF `BATTLING` PYE – Promising Preston Pugilist Succumbs to Wounds

“The modern boxing ring has suffered a severe loss by the death from wounds in action of `Battling` Pye, the well known Preston fly-weight. In a surprisingly short space of time Pye made his mark in the modern ring, and from Preston his fame as a boxer spread through the length and breadth of the North lands, so far as Scotland on one side and down to the Midland centres on the other. Private Alfred Pye, to give him his Army title, resided with his parents at 18 Cromwell Street, Preston, and was only in his 19th year when in November last be answered the call to service and joined the 4th Loyal North Lancs (Territorials). He had been in France about a couple of months when he received the wounds which subsequently proved fatal.

`Battling` Pye`s connection with the ring goes back to the days of the Adelphi, and he was one of the most brilliant of the youngsters whom Mr. Sharples discovered at his hall, and cultivated. His rise when once he had mastered the use of the gloves was rapid and he was in demand all over the country for exhibition bouts. When he enlisted he had four engagements awaiting fulfilment at Newcastle, Middlesbrough, Darlington and Glasgow. Mr Sharples has received letters from sporting authorities in all parts of the country in praise of the talents displayed by the dead fly-weight”

Alfred`s service papers note that his identity disc was the only personal possession returned to his parents in Preston.

He was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals which his parents later signed for.

Alfred was buried with honour in Lillers Communal Cemetery in France. He is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Library and Museum in Preston.

Rank: Private
Service No: 2577
Date of Death: 17/06/1915
Age: 20
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Cemetery: LILLERS COMMUNAL CEMETERY

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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