TURNER, Alfred William

No.G/71818, Private, Alfred William TURNER
Aged 22

11th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge's Middlesex Regiment
Killed in Action on Saturday, 12th May 1917

Alfred William Turner was born on 23rd December 1894 in Thorpe Morieux (Cosford Q1-1895 4A:794), son of Frederick and Anna Maria TURNER(née HORREX).
Anna had 5 children with Frederick but 2 died before 1911. His father had been previously married to Amelia CRICK and had 3 sons, Harry A, John D and Walter A.
Amelia died in 1892 and Frederick re-married in 1894.

1901 census...Aged 6, he was in Barnham with his father Frederick TURNER [45] farm labourer born Felsham; his mother Anna [38] born Felsham; half brother Henry [17], John D. [15], Walter A. [12] and brother Archie [4]; sister Edith M [2]. All the children were born in Thorpe Morieux.

1911 census...Aged 16 (William) a farm labourer, he was in Barnham with his parents, brothers John (railway labourer), Walter and Archie (both farm labourers) and sister Edith

He enlisted in Bury St Edmunds on 28th February 1916, Suffolk Regiment No.31460, giving his date of birth as 23rd December 1894, place Thorpe Morieux. Resident Mill Lane, Barnham, father Frederick.
A shepherd, he was 5 feet 4 inches (162.6 cm) tall, weighed 96 lbs (43.55 kg) , chest 31" to 33.5" (78.74 to 85.1 cm)
Posted to Reserves on 29th February, he was mobilised into Suffolk Regiment on 5th June 1916 and transferred to the Middlesex Regiment No. 71818 on 28th October. Joining 5th Battalion Middlesex Regiment on 24th November 1916, he was posted to the 11th Battalion in France on 1st February 1917. Posted missing on 12th May 1917, his death was officially presumed of that date.
The living family form completed by his father after the war gave both parents at Mill Lane, Barnham with brother Walter Ainsworth [30]. Brothers Archie [23] was in the Rifle Brigade in India, Harry Arthur [37] was with G E Railway in London, John Daniel [34] was in Canada and sister Edith May [27] was at Fornham House, Bury St Edmunds.

By 2.30am on the 12th May the battalion had taken up positions to the north of Monchy-le-Preux looking down towards the Scarpe River and the Pelves/Roeux area. Near Rifle Farm, the 11th Middlesex were the most southerly element of 37th Brigade.

War Diary :-
12/5 - Relief complete 2:30 am, there were no casualties. Our dispositions were as follows:- "A" Coy on right in CHAIN Trench, from BIT LANE to the junction of HALBERD and RIFLE trench. "B" Coy in RIFLE trench from the junction to HARNESS lane. "C" Coy on HALBERD trench and in the forward piece of RIFLE trench. "D" Coy in trench between MUSKET trench and ORANGE lane, also on each side of the junction CURB lane and RIFLE trench. On our left the 6th Queens, 37th Brigade,on our right Kings Own Liverpool Rgt, 3rd Division.

During the night a man of the Royal West Kents was brought in by "C" Coy., having been in 'No Mans Land' since May 3rd. 2nd Lt AA Keogh and 2 O Ranks killed, 2 wounded (shell fire) at 7:30 am, just to the right of the junction CURB lane and RIFLE trench. Coys laid low and rested all day. Enemy very quiet. At 6pm the attack was carried out as per attachedOperation Orders, a similar operation being carried out on our left and right. The attack failed to reach its objective, being held up by heavy machine gun and rifle fire from DEVILS trench. The situation for a long time was obscure and when eventually cleared up at about 7:30 pm it was discovered that we were occupying ARROW Trench on our right and a line of shell holes level with it on our left, both our flanks being in the air. Information obtained at this point stated that the Queens had gained their objective but no information could be obtained from our right.
Immediately 2nd Lt WILKINS was sent out with his platoon and an extra Lewis gun to form a defensive flank on our right parallel to and 50 yards from BIT lane. This was successfully carried out with a few casualties, at about 8 pm. Information was now obtained that the Kings Own Liverpools had gained their objective, so it was determined to carry DEVILS Trench at all costs. Our casualties in officers up to this point were 2nd Lt GODFREY, 2nd Lt MORRISON, 2nd Lt TOWGOOD killed and 2nd Lt GARDENER wounded.
At this period Lt PROCTER, who had already gained very valuable information, was sent forward with orders to OC "B" Coy for him to reinforce with 2 platoons on the left, take DEVILS Trench and get in touch with the Queens. He found that 2nd Lt REGAN had already decided with the forward artillery observation officers to reinforce Capt ANDERSON on the right with 2 platoons, after a preliminary bombardment at 9:30 pm.
Lieut PROCTER arranged with 2nd Lt REGAN and the FAOO that the attack should take place at 9:45 pm, the two platoons reinforcing on the left as ordered. The attack was held up, meeting the same resistance as before after getting within 40 yards of the trench. Arrangements were being made with the Kings Own Liverpool to get in touch with our own right, by bombing down DEVILS trench, when definite information was received that both our left and right had failed to reach their objective. "C" Coy was ordered to withdraw, Lieut PROCTER being put in command together with the 2 platoons of "B" Coy.
Capt ANDERSON held on to his position in ARROW trench ordering 2nd Lt WILKINS with his platoon to withdraw just before dawn, but kept his Lewis guns. Capt MAYNARD MC with his Coy was now established in CHAIN trench, "C" and "B" Coys being very weak. Rations for the day were sent out to Capt ANDERSON by "D" Coy. During the operations the enemy's barrage was particularly strong on the trenches in the vicinity of Bn HQ, especially MONCHY trench and CURB Lane, on this account the work of the orderlies, which had always been good during the recent fighting, was worthy of the highest praise. In the second attack on DEVILS trench "B" Coy lost 2 officers 2nd Lt BARTLETT and 2nd LT CARTER, our total casualties being 6 officers killed and 1 wounded, and 26 O Ranks killed, 66 wounded and 20 missing, believed killed. The dispositions of Coys were as follows:- Capt ANDERSON in ARROW trench with about 40 O ranks at about 32.c.0.5., "B" Coy in RIFLE trench, "C" Coy in HALBERD trench and forward piece of RIFLE trench."D" Coy in CHAIN trench.Green flares were lit and flags etc waved for contact patrol aeroplanes at 5:30 am. The enemy was quiet for the rest of the day, except for occasional shelling of Bn HQ.

CWGC records 2 officer killed on 12th and 41 other ranks, and 4 officer and 1 other rank on 13th.

marker is junction of DEVILS trench with BIT Lane and ARROW Trench
Arrow - Bit running west to east and Devils trench going NE

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Alfred Turner is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, bay 7

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details