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I LAST READ THESE MEMOIRS MORE THAN FIFTEEN YEARS AGO SO MY MEMORY OF THEM IS AT BEST, RATHER VAGUE. I INTEND TO TYPE A SECTION AT A TIME AND PUBLISH IMMEDIATELY WITH THE HOPE THAT MY REACTION TO THE TEXT IS AS FRESH AS WHOEVER READS AND WISHES TO COMMENT THEMSELVES.
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Football Battalions JUNE 25, 2014
Reminiscences of two world wars by Captain H.J. Alderson, R.A.S.C
My Younger days
My father died middle aged in 1909, leaving my mother with four young children and an elder brother who was at sea. He had the fortune of a life before him, being apprenticed to navigation and having attained officer’s rank by the time of the death of my father.
My father, who was a Master-Rope Maker, left mother fairly comfortable financially, having arranged for her and us children in his will by investment of a sum of money by which my mother could draw interest to maintain herself and her family, excepting my elder brother, for a short period only.
I was eleven years of age when my father died. I had an elder sister, who was twelve years, a younger brother eight years and a younger sister six years.
My brother was away at sea for considerable periods and was unable to help towards the keep of his mother and younger brothers and sisters owing to the fact that he had to finance himself in future education for his promotion.
My mother, with the aid of good friends, managed magnificently until the outbreak of the Great War, August 1914, when the cost of living etc., dragged on her small income immensely. (research)
I commenced just prior to the 1914 War, doing part-time work, earning a few shillings delivering orders for a local shop after school hours and weekends.
I stuck this until I was sixteen and a half years of age, when I was offered a job as a Despatch Clerk at “Rylands” of Wood Street, Cheapside. (research)
At the time I was friends with two older fellows than myself, who after the outbreak of war volunteered their services.
Approximately twelve months after the outbreak of war I was fed up with having my mates in uniform and I still a civilian, and although my age still exempted me from service, I enlisted in the 23rd Middlesex (researched) Regiment on the 28th August 1915 as nineteen years of age, I being at the time just turned seventeen years.
I was sent with others to Holmbury in Surrey (research) for training and after approximately six weeks there, volunteers were called for to proceed to the 17th Battalion who were due to go overseas.
One of my old friends (who by the way enlisted me and got the 1/-) (research) stood before me in the ranks of volunteers [who] were selected.
He put his hand up to volunteer, and I did likewise. We proceeded to Perham Downs, Lugershall, Salisbury Plain (researched) and joined the 17th Bn. Middlesex Regt. After approximately four weeks we were drafted overseas in early November 1915.
We arrived at Boulgne late at night; it was snowing hard at the time. We were marched to a rest camp for the night. This camp was under canvas and one blanket was issued to each man.
The following day we were entrained at Boulogne and eventually arrived at Bethune (research).
I was just seventeen years six months by this time.
From my perspective, I see the writing as very matter of fact. I guess as this was written some 10 to 20 years after WWII perhaps it is difficult to put any emotive value to what has been typed so long after the event. Perhaps this was really just reflecting the kind of person my Great Grandfather was, I really don’t know.
What is rather telling for me is that at the age of seventeen, I certainly couldn’t imagine enlisting for the army during a war when I myself was so immature at that age. Perhaps his father passing when he was so young was a contributing factor. Perhaps by joining the war effort and potentially ending it as soon as possible, maybe he thought he could help his mother and siblings with their financial problems? After all, he was the next man in line as his eldest brother was away at sea. Maybe it was as simple as he claims, his mates were in the forces and his wasn’t. In any which case, I wouldn’t want to be camping outside in November snow with just a blanket!