No. 17116, Private, Albert BUTCHER
Aged 32

"D" Company, 7th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Killed in Action on Wednesday, 27th March 1918

Albert Butcher was born in 1886 in Burnt Fen (Mildenhall Q4-1886 4A:702), son of Jacob and Mary Ragan BUTCHER (née GOTOBED).

1891 census...Aged 5, he was at Seabers Drove, Mildenhall with his father Jacob BUTCHER [39] farm labourer born Mildenhall; his mother Mary Regan [38] born Ely; brothers Abraham [15], Henry [12] (both farm labourers)and William[5]; sisters Sarah [7] and Emma [1]. All the children were born in Mildenhall.

1901 census...Aged 14, a groom, he was at Whistle Drove, West Row with his parents (father now horse keeper on farm); brothers Abraham (carpenter), Henry (horsekeeper), John [9] and Claude [4]; sisters Sarah and Emma.

1911 census...Aged 25, a farm labourer, he was at Burnt Fen with his widowed mother and brother William, John and Claude, all were farm labourers. His mother Mary had borne 19 children but sadly had lost 11 of them already. His father had died in 1904 as had his brother Jacob, aged 1.

His mother later moved from Kenny Hill Cottages to Friesland Farm, Burnt Fen.

Albert enlisted in Bury St.Edmunds, he served first in the 8th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
On the 26th March 1918 the 7th Suffolks were taking up defensive positions in the Albert bridgehead that they had themselves prepared 2 years earlier. With their backs to the wall, they were striving, without artillery support, bombs, rifle grenades or trench mortars, to stem the onrush of the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. They had left billets in Albert and by 15:00 had dug themselves in along the railway, their left resting on Albert station and the right 300 yards south of the Albert-Amiens road. At 16:30 they saw waves of Germans advancing towards Albert and around 17:30 the enemy were seen marching along the Albert-Millencourt road. Here the Suffolks, with a Lewis gun, inflicted heavy casualties but the gun was soon put out of action. Attacks along the railway line were twice driven off .
At 22.20 the Germans attacked in great strength and the bridgehead was lost.. At 23:15 a counter attack was attempted by the remnants of 2 Platoon together with some from the 5th Northants. Shortage of ammunition doomed this to failure. The line was then withdrawn 300 yards and stabilised. By the time the battalion was relieved on the 28th and the roll taken, they had suffered 256 casualties, one platoon had been reduced to three men.

Unusually for a war diary, all the other rank casualties, killed and wounded, are named in each Company, hence we know Albert was in "D" Coy

Of the 72 men recorded as killed on 27th, only 9 have identified graves.

photo: Roy Beardsworth

Albert Butcher is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial, panel 25
and was originally on the Mildenhall memorial

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