Private 41445 Alfred Hurst

Killed in Action on Friday, 22nd March 1918, age 40.
Commemorated on Panel 48 of Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France.

11th Bn., Hampshire Regiment. Pioneer Battalion of 16th Division.
Formerly 176409 Royal Engineers.

Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Chatham, Resident: Wallingford, Oxon.

First landed France & Flanders, post 31st December 1915.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

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/1583137/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Alfred Hurst registered December quarter 1877 at Dudley.

1901 Census
Station Road, Wallingford, Berkshire.
Arthur Hurst (53, Borough Surveyor & Water Works Manager, born Lichfield, Staffs), his wife Isabella (54, born Chester), and their 5 children: George (25, Assistant Water Works Manager, born Tipton), Alfred (23, Assistant Sewage Works Manager, born Tipton), William Henry (21, Elementary School Teacher, born Cannock), Annie Alice (18, Pupil Teacher, born Wolverhampton), and Rose Emma (14, Scholar, born Wallingford).

1911 Census
Waterworks, Wallingford, Berkshire.
Arthur Hurst (62, Water & Sewage Works Manager, born Lemonsley, Staffs), his wife Isabella (64, born Chester), and 5 of their 6 children: Arthur James (37, Carpenter, born Tipton), Frederick George (35, Water & Sewage Works Assistant, born Tipton), Alfred (33, Water & Sewage Works Assistant, born Tipton), Annie Alice (28, Elementary School Teacher, born Penn), and Rose Emma (24, Elementary School Teacher, born Wallingford).

Personal Data

Two Tipton men, Albert Rea and Arthur Hurst, were both killed on 22nd March 1918 whilst serving with the 11th Hampshires. It is unlikely that they knew each other before the war as Albert was 21 years old and lived in Tipton, while Arthur was 40 years old and lived in Oxfordshire. It is of course possible that they 'palled up' during their service due to their common home town.

After Alfred's death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £6/6/5d (6 pounds, 6 shillings and 5 pence); this was paid to his father, Arthur, in September 1919. His War Gratuity was £10/0/0d (10 pounds exactly), this was also paid to his father in September 1919. The value of the War Gratuity suggests that Alfred had enlisted in December 1915.

Action resulting in his death

The 11th Battalion, Hampshire Regiment (11/Hants), was the pioneer battalion for the 16th (Irish) Division. As a pioneer battalion their main task was labouring, but in extreme conditions would be called upon to support the infantry. The 1918 German Spring Offensive was expected, but the precise date unknown. As a contingency, the 11/Hants had been considered in the defensive planning.

On 21st March 1918 over a 5-hour period beginning at 4.40am, the Germans fired over a million high-explosive and gas shells over a 50-mile front. At 9.35 am, 500,000 German soldiers advanced through a mist which reduced visibility to 25 yards in some places. The 16th (Irish) Division were centred around Lemire and Ronssoy, between Peronne and Cambrai and about 20 miles east to the 1916 Somme battlefields. Specifically, the 11/Hants were located in Villers Faucon which itself was heavily shelled.

The 11/Hants were ordered to take up a defensive position at the 3rd line at St. Emilie; by midnight of the 21st March the Germans had taken the first 2 lines and had been temporarily repulsed at the 3rd line.

The 11/Hants War Diary for 22nd March reports: "About 4.30am enemy put down his barrage on Brown (3d) line and St. Emilie with guns of all calibres. Enemy attacked directly after dawn in a heavy mist. After very severe fighting it appeared that the right flank was threatened and orders were received to withdraw in direction of Villers Faucon. Battalion held St. Emilie defences to cover this withdrawal putting up a very fine fight and considerably delaying enemy advance."

For the rest of the morning of 22nd March, the whole Division was forced back until the line held near Tincourt by early afternoon. The War Diary continues: "Remainder of afternoon the enemy contented himself with registering on Green (4th) line, and harassing fire on reserves and communications in rear, and this fire and that from his low-flying aircraft caused many casualties."

During this trying day, 20 men of the 11/Hants who were killed. This number included Tipton men Alfred Hurst and Albert Rea. Like most of the men killed on that day, they have no known grave and are commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial.

The next 10 days saw a fighting withdrawal across the River Somme to the eastern outskirts of Amiens. By the time 16th (Irish) Division was relieved on 3rd April, it had suffered 7,149 killed, wounded, and missing, the highest casualties of any division engaged in the battle. In the words of Captain Staniforth, "The Division has ceased to exist, wiped off the map."

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