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Alfred George Cruse

5349 Private Alfred George Cruse, 2/4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment.


Alfred was the tenth child of Edward John Cruse, a coach painter, and his wife Alice (née Bosley). Born in Newbury in 1896 he was brought up in the family home at 35 Shaw Crescent. In 1911, at the age of 15, he was working as a grocer’s lad, no doubt delivering goods to customers and generally fetching and carrying around the shop.  His father had died in 1904 aged 51 though the family had been able to stay at the house in Shaw Cresent.


The War had already begun when, in late 1914, Albert’s uncle, Walter Levey, landlord of The Robin Hood, a beerhouse in London Road (very close to the current pub of the same name) also died. Alice and her younger children, including Albert and his two closest siblings, Sydney Tom and Charles William, moved into the beerhouse, no doubt to share costs and help out Alice’s newly widowed sister, Dorcas who took over the license from her deceased husband.


Albert signed up for service in the Royal Berkshire Regiment in mid 1915 and was allocated to the2nd/4th (Territorial) Battalion rather than one of the Service Battalions.


The 2nd/4th Battalion was initially allocated home duties; the terms of enlistment of territorials allowed soldiers to opt out of overseas service, all those so choosing were allocated to the 2nd/4th Battalion, formed in September 1914, while the 1st/4th Battalion consisted entirely of men who volunteered for foreign service. However, many in the 2nd/4th would have been new recruits like Albert who would not be accepted unless the signed up foreign service. Following the Military Service Act in January 1916 servicemen no longer had any choice, all could be sent overseas.


The 2nd/4th Battalion were sent to France in May 1916 as the British army was strengthened in preparation for the attack on the Somme front.  The high command did not fully trust the new, untested troops many of which were sent to relieve regular units in other parts of the line. The 2nd/4th Battalion being sent to Laventie, just south of the Belgian border where it arrived on the 10th June.  For the rest of the month the Battalion saw little action apart from small forays into no-man’s land that resulted in the loss of one officer, the wounding of two more and one ‘other rank’.  This latter wounding took place on 26th June, the date of Albert’s death.  There is nothing in the Battalion War Diary to suggest that it was Albert who was wounded. Indeed the story of his death, relayed to the family by the Battalion Chaplain and Albert’s platoon commander told a very different tale:


Newbury Weekly News, 6 July 1916.
Mrs Cruse, of the Robin Hood, London-road, has received confirmation  of the death of her son, Pte Alfred George Cruse of the 2/4th Royal Berkshire Regiment. The Chaplain of the Battalion, the Rev A P Tucker, in breaking the news, explained that the deceased soldier met his death by accident, by letting his gun fall in his eagerness to peruse news from home which he had just received. From Second-Lieut Charles Cecil, an officer of the platoon in which deceased served, the following has been received: “Dear Mrs Cruse: It is my sorrowful duty to tell you that your son has died in the service of his King and Country. He was struck by a bullet in the left side, just below the heart. I heard his cry, and was in time to catch him and lay him down until the stretcher bearers came. We did what we could for him, but the end came swiftly from internal bleeding... He had fine soldierly qualities, and we, his comrades, mourn his loss as a loyal comrade and true man. He was out with me on patrol work last night under trying conditions, and on account of his steadiness, I place him in a responsible position on the left of our line. He fully justified my confidence ... I know how little words can do at such a time, but I have faith that those who gave their lives freely at duty’s call, as your boy has done, go to some higher and nobler service. Yet the heartache remains for those who have loved and live on. May the Father of us all comfort you and yours.”


Pte Cruse was a bright young fellow, 20 years of age, and he had been on service about seven months when he met his death in this unfortunate manner. He had seen a month’s fighting, and had been in the trenches on several occasions, and, indeed, only came out on the day the accident happened. Much sympathy has been shown the widowed mother in her loss. By the same post as the news of his death was received, Mrs Cruse had a very cheerful letter from her son, telling her there was no need to worry as he was quite safe and happy, having just left the trenches. He told of a cat and family of kittens which had made their home in one of the parapets of the trenches, where they remained quite undisturbed by gun and rifle fire, and in fact played about as if quite safe from harm. He expressed his intention of bringing one of the kittens home with him, if possible. Mrs Cruse has two other sons on service. Sidney has been out at the front a few weeks, while Fred is shortly leaving for active service. Another son is awaiting his call to the Colours under the group system.


Albert is buried in grave II. A. 2. at Laventie Military Cemetery, La Gorgue.


In 1922 his name was included (on tablet 3) when the Newbury Town War Memorial was unveiled; he is also remembered on the Speenhamland Shrine and was once remembered on the long lost Speenhamland School Memorial.

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 Died this day:
03 December 1918
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