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Alfred Westwick was born in the village of Hetton le Hole just outside Houghton le Spring in the County of Durham, his birth being registered in the second quarter of 1897. Alfred was the son of butcher William Fotheringill Westwick and Sarah Jane Richardson, his parents married in Houghton le Spring in the September quarter of 1879. Later information states that Alfred`s parents had nine children altogether only six of whom survived; Frederick (1880), John (1882), Annie (1886), George (1891), Herbert (1893) and Alfred (1897)*.

In 1901 Alfred and his family lived in Front Street, Hetton le Hole where his father was a butcher by trade. His two eldest brothers both had jobs, Frederick was a grocer`s assistant and John a bricklayer`s labourer. The family also had an eighteen year old general domestic servant working for them by the name of Elizabeth Craig. The address for the family in the 1911 Census states 51 Four Lane Ends which was in Lyons Lane, Hetton le Hole. Alfred had secured a job working as a stable boy, his brother John was a fruiterer, George was a cartwright and Herbert was an assistant fruiterer. The family`s domestic servant Elizabeth Craig was also still resident with the family in 1911. Alfred`s father is not listed as being at home in this Census and his brother Frederick had married Annie Edith Eggleston in 1910 and was with his wife and baby son Fred in Lily White Terrace in Hetton le Hole.

Sadly, Alfred`s parents both died within a few weeks of each other, William on the 22nd June 1913 and Sarah Jane on the 10th July 1913.

On the 10th December 1915, aged 18 years and 8 months, Alfred joined the Army Reserve, signing his papers at Houghton le Spring. He confirmed that he was unmarried and had no previous military experience. His home address was given as 51 Lyons Lane, Hetton le Hole and he named his brother John of the same address as his next of kin. Alfred was quite a tall lad standing at 5`8” and he gave his occupation as a fruiterer. He passed his medical and was posted to the Reserve with the service number 4970.

Alfred re-joined from the Reserve on the 29th March 1916 and then on the 19th July 1916 he sailed for France. On arrival he was originally posted to the 1/8th Durham Light Infantry but by the 5th September 1916 he had been transferred to the 4th Reserve Battalion LNL and then on to the 1st Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, joining them in the field on the 8th September. His new service number was now 26678.

The 1st Battalion had suffered some heavy losses on the Somme and after an attack on High Wood in mid- August 1916 the Battalion War History notes; “The strength of the Battalion was reduced to no more than seven Officers and 310 other ranks”. As a result of this on the 2nd September whilst at Mametz Wood, 6 Officers from the Sherwood Forresters arrived and also a small draft of 29 other ranks. Over the next few days more reinforcements arrived including Alfred Westwick and another 193 men from the Durham Light Infantry.

On the 9th September another attack on High Wood went ahead although the 1st Battalion, for the most part, was in Brigade Reserve. This attack, however, was only partially successful and two days later the 23rd Battalion London Regiment relieved the 1st Battalion who then went back into billets in Albert. The Battalion spent a few days fitting and reorganising but on the 25th September 1916 they went back again into the Mametz Wood area.

The order then came through for an attack to take place on the German trench running from FLERS LINE to the CRESCENT in front of EAUCOURT L`ABBAYE, the attack was timed for 11 pm on the night of the 26th September and would be done in conjunction with the 2nd Royal Sussex and with the 50th Division on its left. However, the night was extremely dark and as a result direction was lost and the attack failed. Two days later at approximately 2pm a patrol left the British trenches, their orders being to ascertain if the trench attacked previously was still being occupied by the enemy. However, the patrol had only managed to go a few yards before it was stopped by rifle and machine-gun fire from FLERS LINE. At 6.30pm orders came through for the Battalion to attack this trench. B Company went over the top in two lines followed by two platoons of A Company, having got near to the trench the enemy fired a few rounds but then fell back and the Battalion managed to get into the trench and form a block 200 yards from the FLERS LINE.

At about 1.30am on the morning of the 29th the Battalion was once again relieved by a London Regiment. During the four days they had spent in the line between 25th-28th September 1916 the Battalion had again suffered heavy losses amounting to 11 Officers and 201 other ranks killed, wounded or missing.

Sadly, Private Alfred Westwick was killed in action during the failed attack on the 26th September.

Alfred`s papers noted that any personal effects should be returned to his brother George of Durham Road in Houghton le Spring, unfortunately none of Alfred`s personal possessions were retrieved.

After the war Alfred`s eldest brother Fred of Hetton le Hole, County Durham took receipt of his youngest brother`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals. The family would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

Alfred Westwick was buried in Ovillers Military Cemetery on the Somme.

Photo taken in July 2016

Photo taken in July 2016

Rank: Private
Service No: 26678
Date of Death: 26/09/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Cemetery: OVILLERS MILITARY 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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