SELF, Alfred Ernest

No.G/18061, Private, Alfred Ernest SELF
Aged 20

7th Battalion, Queen's Own (Royal West Kent Regiment)
formerly No 3453, Suffolk Yeomanry
Killed in Action on Saturday, 18th November 1916

Alfred Ernest Self was born in Monks Eleigh (Cosford Q1-1896 4A:762), son of Stephen and Annie Rebecca SELF (née HOOD)

1901 census... Aged 5 he was at High Street, Monks Eleigh with his father Stephen SELF [33] police officer born Wickham Market;his mother Annie R[30] born Mildenhall; brothers Bertie C.S. [6] born Little Thurlow; Frederick J.[3] born Monks Eleigh and sister Elsie V.M. [9 months] born Monks Eleigh.

1911 census...Aged 16 a backhouse boy, he was at Approach Cottages, Withersfield with his parents; brothers Bert C.S. (journeyman baker), Frederick J (milk vendor), Albert E [8] born Sudbury, Sidney A [6] and Stanley G [3] both born in Cockfield; sister Elsie V.M. All seven siblings survived.

His parents are buried in Kedington Churchyard (His father died in 1921) and their tombstone also commemorates Alfred. His mother went on to live at 4 Clock House Way, Braintree, Essex.

He enlisted in Haverhill when resident in Withersfield. The battalion landed in Le Havre on 27th July 1915

The 7th were the first of the Queen's Own into the Battle of the Somme in July 1916 but suffered badly when fighting at the Schwaben Redoubt. After a spell in Reserve they formed up on 17th November ready for the attack on Desire and Grandcourt Trenches between Twenty Three Road and Stump Road. 7th RWK were in the right centre of the line, between the E Surreys and The Buffs with B and D Coys in front, A in support and C Coy in reserve. The weather had been bad for a month and had changed now to snow and frozen ground. Despite standing out against the white of the snow the attack went over at 6:10 am, they made progress and a determined push saw B Coy into DESIRE TRENCH and established there. The left was however "in the air", D Coy having lost direction and going off to the left. Very few of them got back; the company had gone on over its 1st objective and come under very heavy machine gun fire, the survivors being surrounded and killed or captured.
The Buffs and Queens further left suffered in the same way, taking their objective, but going on were cut off by the Germans Major Glare of the E Surreys seeing the precarious position of B Coy sent up all available reinforcements with a Stokes mortar and a bombing party. Assisted in this way B Coy held its ground and even extended and cleared DESIRE TRENCH as far as SIXTEEN STREET. The next morning patrols advancing along DESIRE TRENCH found it had been abandoned.

CWGC figures show 45 of the 7th Queen's Own killed in this operation, 20 having no known grave.

rough position of trenches November 1916

Commemorated in Kedington Churchyard with his parents

Alfred Self is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial, pier and face 11C

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

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