Private 10773 Alfred Cole

Cole Alfred 96 434x600

Died France & Flanders on Monday, 24th June 1918, age 32.
Buried in Grave P. 1. at Sissonne British Cemetery, Aisne, France.

'A' Company of 6th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment. 110th Brigade of 21st Division.

Born: Princes End, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Bilston.

First landed France & Flanders, 29th July 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/3071104/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Alfred John Cole registered June quarter 1886 in Dudley.

1901 Census
5 Hill Street, Bilston, Staffs.
George Cole (36, Steel Worker, born Glasgow), his wife Clara (37, born Tipton), and their 5 children: Alfred (15, born Sedgley), Edgar (8, Galvaniser, born Sedgley), Beatrice M. (3, School, born Sedgley), Clara E. (2, born Bilston), and Hubert (4 months, born Bradley).

1911 Census
76 Wellington Road, Bilston, Staffs.
George Cole (46, Steel Worker, born Scotland), his wife Clara (48, born Tipton), and their 6 surviving children of 12: Alfred (25, Labourer, born Princes End), George (18, Galvaniser, born Princes End), Beatrice (13, School, born Princes End), Evelyn (11, School, born Bradley), William (9, School, born Bradley), and Walter (3, born Bradley).

Marriage of Alfred J. Cole and Rhoda Tonks registered December quarter 1914 in Wolverhampton. The birth of a daughter, Roseannah, was registered March quarter 1915 in Wolverhampton.

Personal Data

Alfred Cole enlisted with the Leicestershire Regiment on 24th August 1914 at Wolverhampton. He was 28 years and 161 days old, 5 feet 5 inches tall with a 37-inch chest, and weighed 140 pounds. His physical development was described as 'good', but he had burns scars on his left shoulder, and his teeth were 'rather bad'. He had a fresh complexion, blue eyes and light brown hair, was Church of England, and employed as a Labourer.

Before going abroad Alfred put personal matters in order by marrying Rhoda Tonks on 15th November 1914, their daughter Rosannah was born just 7 weeks later on 2nd January 1915. Rhoda and Rosannah were living with Alfred's parents (George and Clara) at 76 Wellington Road, Bilston. By 1920 Rhoda was living at 24 Broad Street, Bilston.

Alfred's teeth caused him problems, on 12th March 1917 he received dental treatment at No. 4 Stationary Hospital, Arcques. Just 2 weeks later he was treated for 'septic right arm and fingers' at No. 10 Stationary Hospital, St. Omer. For further treatment he was sent back to England and treated at Graylingwell War Hospital in Chichester from 8th April to 11th May 1917.

On 10th June 1917, presumably after a period of leave, he departed Folkestone for France to join the 9th Leicesters. He re-joined 'A' Company in his original battalion, the 6th Leicesters, on 10th February 1918.

After Alfred's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £5/12/8d (5 pounds, 12 shillings and 8 pence); this was paid to his widow and sole legatee, Rhoda, in March 1920. His War Gratuity was £22/10/0d (22 pounds and 10 shillings), this was also paid to Rhoda in March 1920. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Alfred had enlisted in August 1914.

Action resulting in his death

From July 1916 the 'Leicesters Tigers Brigade', the 110th, had served in the 21st Division. The 21st Division had seen severe action on the Somme (at Bazentin, Flers, and Morval), at Arras, at Third Ypres, and in the 1918 German 'Spring Offensive'.

At the end of April 1918, five divisions of Commonwealth forces (IX Corps) were posted to the French 6th Army in the Soissons area to rest and refit following the German offensives on the Somme and Lys. Here, at the end of May, they found themselves facing the overwhelming German attack which, despite fierce opposition, pushed the Allies back across the Aisne to the Marne.

The Battle of the Aisne began with a German attack in the early morning mist of 27th May. Their superior numbers forced the British into retreat, albeit with some heroic stands to slow the German advance. By the evening, the British line had been forced back over 3,000 yards. The Battle of the Aisne continued until 6th June. The Germans succeeded in pushing the Allies across the Aisne and down as far as the Marne at Chateau Thierry.

Albert's 'Soldiers Papers' record that he "Died in Germany". This is not true, but he did die in German hands on 24th June. Presumably he was wounded at some stage during the Battle of the Aisne and taken prisoner. Most of the 6th Leicesters casualties during the Battle of the Aisne were from 27th to 29th May 1918.

Alfred is buried in Sissonne British Cemetery; Sissonne was in German hands for the entirety of the war. The cemetery was created after the war from battlefield burials, a number of smaller burial grounds, and German military cemeteries.

Alfred was initially buried in Asfeld Communal Cemetery (Grave 14) but the men buried there were exhumed on 24th March 1925 and re-buried at Sissonne.

Newspaper Cuttings