The AIF Project

George Albert ALFORD

Regimental number3116
Place of birthSydney, New South Wales
ReligionChurch of England
OccupationMill hand
AddressHolyoake Post Office, Western Australia
Marital statusMarried
Age at embarkation23.8
Height5' 5"
Weight135 lbs
Next of kinWife, Mrs Mary Catherine Alford, Holyoake Post Office, Western Australia
Previous military serviceNil
Enlistment date7 October 1916
Date of enlistment from Nominal Roll7 October 1916
Place of enlistmentPerth, Western Australia
Unit name48th Battalion, 8th Reinforcement
Embarkation detailsUnit embarked from Fremantle, Western Australia, on board HMAT A35 Berrima on 23 December 1916
Rank from Nominal RollPrivate
Unit from Nominal Roll48th Battalion
Discharge date21 July 1920
Family/military connectionsBrother: 6470 Pte Charles William ALFORD, 11th Bn, killed in action, 20 September 1917.
Other details

War service: Western Front

Embarked Fremantle, 23 December 1916; disembarked Devonport, England, 16 February 1917.

Marched into 12th Training Bn, Codford, 6 March 1917.

Proceeded overseas to France, 19 June 1917; taken on strength, 48th Bn, in the field, 9 July 1917.

Tried by Field General Court Martial, 3 November 1917, charged with deserting His Majesty's Service; found Not Guilty of desertion, but Guilty of being absent without leave from 4 pm, 10 October, to 6.50 pm, 23 October 1917: awarded 90 days' Field Punishment No 1.

Admitted to 53rd Casualty Clearing Station, 8 December 1917 (pyrexia unknown origin); transferred to 57th General Hospital, 10 December 1917; to 7th Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, 16 December 1917; to No 7 Convalescent Depot, 5 February 1918 (trench fever); to No 3 Rest Camp, 15 February 1918; rejoined unit, 4 March 1918.

Court of Enquiry, 23 May 1918, found that he had illegally absented himself, 3 April 1918, and was still so absent.

Father wrote to Minister for Defence, 17 June 1918: 'I am taking the liberty of bringing under your notice a case which has caused me some anxiety ... The treatment [of my son] that I complain of is that after forty-eight hours in the trenches he with others was relieved. They were then given some grog on an empty stomach and on account of the lad not being used to same it had the effect of stupifying him. He states that he remembers nothing for a couple of days and his mates then wrote to me to the effect that he was missing. When he recovered his senses he returned to his Battalion and for his absence he was fined 90 days' field punishment and the loss of £28-0-0 in wages ... You will realise this is a heavy punishment to inflict when there was no wilful intent to dispute military orders ... If it were not for the knowledge of my son's previous conduct and the explanation which he has offered me, I would not be pressing the case so strongly. I, therefore, appeal to your sense of fairness to see that justice is done to this soldier.'

Father wrote to Base Records, 22 September 1918: 'From inside information which I have rec. from France I can inform you that my son has never been more than a few miles behind the firing line and several others who were completely broken down and could not fight on and refused to go any further were sent back in disgrace to do work behind the lines, and all communications stopped with him. Is thisfair to me and his wife & two children to stop him from writing after ten or twelve months hard fighting.'Father's request for remission of son's sentence refused, 10 October 1918.

Father wrote to Base Records, 25 November 1918: 'Some time ago I wrote to you ... informing you that I knew he [my son] was in France, and you informed me that he was illegally absent also asking me for my informant's name. I cannot give you my informant's name as I know too well the treatment the miltary authorities would deal out to him when they got it. I rec. a letter today from one of my son's mates from France and he also tells me my son rec. 6 months' imprisonment for refusing duty after fighting 10 months in the trenches. I am asking why the Military Authorities do not inform me straight out instead of such underhand methods ... '

Undated statement by Lt Colonel S.L. PERRY, CO, 48th Bn: 'The Bn. was in reserve several days and went into Support on the night of the 10th October, moving up to the attack of PASCHENDAELE [sic] RIDGE on the night of the 11/12th, the attack taking place on the morning of the 12th Oct. The Bn. was not relieved until the night of the 14th ... It is noted that on both occasions Pte. ALFORD has practically deserted in the face of the enemy as attacks were launched against the Germans within a very short period after absenting hmself. This man has seen very little service with the unit and his conduct is unsatisfactory. He is still an absentee from this Bn.'

Discharged from the AIF, 21 July 1920, in consequence of being illegally absent from 3 April 1918 to 21 July 1920.

Medals: not eligible.

3129B Pte T.E. BATES stated in statutory declaration, 21 August 1919, that Alford was 'killed at Villers Bretonneux on 2nd or 3rd of April, 1918, whilst in company with Corporal Paul Joseph and W. Russell working a machine gun. The three were killed and missing. Subsequently Joseph was found dead on 8th August near Monument Wood unburied, and only Russell's head was found, the assumption being that a shell exploded on the gun and the three were blown to pieces.'

Letter, Tom Moore MLC, Western Australia, to Base Records, Melbourne, 16 January 1922: 'I have always felt sure that a great mistake has been made my the Military Authorities in this case ... Alford left Australia with the same unit as I did, and was one of my companions during the whole time which intervened from the time we sailed until we, some six months later, joined the 48th Batt. in France, Alford going into a different company from myself. In October of 1917, Alford certainly was sent to a detention camp for three months for being illegally absent. This happened, I know, through drink, for Alford told me of the incident at the time. He being of a manly disposition pleaded guilty to the charge and refused to advance drunkenness as a defence. I can vouch for the fact that this was the first time he was ever drunk. He was very temperate. He rejoined us some time later, and was with us until the time mentioned by you as the date on which he was illegally absent - 3/4/18. The facts are these: On 26/3/18 we had orders to advance and locate the enemy who were advancing in force on the Amiens front, driving the remnants of the 5th British Army in front of them. We met them and took up a position in the outskirts of the town of Albert on 28/3/18. For the following three days we repelled successfully repeated attacks until relief on the night of 31/3/18 by the 46th Battalion. We then took up a position in close reserve about a mile and a half behind the line. There we remained for three days, and during the first two days I visited the Company to which Alford was attached. I heard many eulogistic references to the valour shown by him during the three hard days we had just been through. Next day, on 3/4/18, the day on which he is reported as "illegally absent" we were subjected to intermittent shell-fire, and I am of the opinion that one of those shells accounted for him. In view of the fact that every road and track in our rear was being closely watched, and that in this way the remnants of the 5th British Army were being gathered together, it was almost an impossibility for any man to desert if he felt inclined to do so, without being pickd up. Also, remembering that things were looking their worst from the French standpoint and that no deserter would be harboured by those people on that account, it was highly improbable that any man could remain hidden. In view of these facts I am of the opinion that a grave injustice has been done to the Alford family by posting George as a deserter, and I trust that the mistake may be rectified.'

Pte N.S. TURNER wrote to Base Records, 24 February 1922: 'About the middle of June 1919 I was spending my last leave in Bristol when I met G.A. Alford. I met him whilst I was in company of a lady. And the member also had a lady with him. I passed him & said "Good day George when are you going home". His reply was "Next Quota". And that is all I know of him. He was in Civvies when I met him.'

Officer-in-Charge, Base Records, wrote to Secretary, Department of Defence, 28 November 1922: 'From a summary of the information held, I am of the opinion that the statement by the Hon. T. Moore and the Statutory Declaration by Bates cannot be accepted as of any real value, in view of the soldier having been seen in England in June, 1919, and also the fact that he deserted previously under similar circumstances, and it is considered that the action taken in posting him as an "Illegal Absentee" is quite in order.'
SourcesNAA: B2455, ALFORD George Albert

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