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Albert Emblen

Private TF/201565 Albert Emblen, 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment


Albert was born in Ardington in 1884 the only child of George Emblen, a farmer, and his wife Harriet née Shepherd. His parents had married in 1882, relatively late in life – Harriet was 40 and George 42 – so it is not surprising that they only had the one child.

St Osyth, Buckingham Road

Oxford Road, the Emblen shop far left.

Prior to his wedding George was working as a carrier but marriage changed his life, and he took on Totterdown Farm in Snelsmore a couple of miles north of Newbury. By 1901 he was retired and ‘living on his own means’ in nearby Oare. George died in 1909, which was also the year that Albert moved to Newbury to take over a confectioner’s shop at 17 Oxford Street - perhaps he inherited enough from his father to buy the business?

His mother Harriet and Aunt, Sarah Emblen, moved in with him and business appears to have been going well until 1914, when Albert’s life took another turn. What exactly happened is a total mystery – Albert moved from Newbury to Hove in Sussex, probably in 1914 (this is the last year his name was listed in the local directory as proprietor of the confectioner’s shop). Did he move because of a business opportunity? Did he move to take part in some form of war work?

As his record did not survive the fire that destroyed around 70% of such documents in 1941 it is not possible to be sure when he joined the army. There are a couple of techniques that can be used to estimate the date – one is to look at the enlistment date of men with regimental numbers close to Albert's – which suggests a date of early to mid November 1915; the second is to use the gross amount awarded as a war gratuity (in Albert’s case £10 10s), which is based on length of service – this suggests a date in December 1915 / January 1916.  Neither is perfectly accurate, but they do show that he was a volunteer rather than a conscript.

On 15 July 1916, Albert married Emma Isabel Green at St John’s Church, Southall, Middlesex. The groom gave his occupation as ‘soldier’, this would have been around the time he completed his basic training and could well indicate when he went to France since men were given embarkation leave, which Albert may well have used as an opportunity to marry his sweetheart.

Royal Sussex Regiment badge

The regimental badge of the

Royal Sussex Regiment.


He was posted to the 11th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment, in France but was later transferred to the 7th Battalion. This may well indicate that he was hospitalised and repatriated to the UK wounded or sick since this was the typical break in service that could lead to a change of battalion.

By November 1917 he was in France with the 7th Battalion, part of 36th Brigade in the 12th (Eastern) Division. The men of the battalion spent some time in ‘tank training’ – learning the tactics to be used when fighting alongside the new tanks. This was a sure sign that they were going to be spearheading an attack in the near future.  The Battle of Cambrai was launched on 20 November. Aided by 300 tanks the British swept through the German defences until the tanks were halted in their tracks by German field guns over open sights as the tanks were silhouetted against the sky as they came over a ridge.

A few days a later Albert’s battalion was called forward to do their bit:

War Diary, 7th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment – 25 November 1917
SUPPORT             1.30am Left support Trenches & relieved 8th R F in Front Line. Attacked PELICAN & BITCH Trenches at 7am. All objectives gained, but Bn was driven out owing to lack of bombs & mud in rifles at LGS. Capt Ballard MC killed. 2Lts Bingen & Hill wounded. Attached PELICAN Trench at 10.50pm, & made slight progress. 2Lt Frewen wounded. Total casualties 116 OR.

After the huge successes of the opening day the battle settled down into the all too familiar form of small scale attack and counter-attack. Actions such as this attack by the 7th Sussex may have contributed some small part to the attritional wearing down of the German army – but its failure was down to the same old problems of supporting the first wave with supplies and reinforcement. This would usually mean that the German artillery were able to drop a curtain of fire between the British line and the captured German line (and on the captured line). In such circumstances it was impossible to move men forward carrying supplies – the key to success was the suppression of the German artillery – the so called counter-battery work of the British artillery.

Albert was reported missing – leaving some hope that he was alive, captured by the Germans. However, such hopes were rarely fulfilled, all too often the missing man was declared dead sometimes within days (when a comrade was found who saw the man die) or after many months (after enquiries via the Red Cross confirmed that the man was not a prisoner). Nevertheless the man’s family always hoped.  Albert’s wife was no exception:

Newbury Weekly News, 24 January 1918 – Local War Notes
Mrs Emblen of 38, Lyndhurst-road, Hove, has received the sad news that her husband, Pte Emblen, Royal Sussex Regt, and son of the late George and Mrs Emblem of Hermitage and formerly of Newbury, is reported missing since the 25th of November, 1917. Mrs Emlen still hopes that news may be received in regard to her missing husband.

Almost ten months after he went missing the War Office officially declared him dead:

Newbury Weekly News, 26 September 1918 – Killed in Action
Reported missing, 25th of November, 1917, now reported killed on that day, Pte A Emblen Royal Sussex Regt, beloved husband of Emma Isabel Emblen, of 38, Lyndhurst-road, Hove, and only son of the late George and Mrs Emblen, of Hermitage and Newbury age 33 years.
“Out of the warfare of the world into the peace of God.”

Albert’s body was never identified (perhaps it lies beneath one of the thousands of headstones inscribed ‘A Soldier of the Great War – Know unto God’) so his name is remembered on the Cambrai Memorial to the Missing, panel 7.

Name on Newbury War Memorial

Albert's name on Newbury War Memorial


Locally he is remembered on the Newbury Town War Memorial (tablet 8).

His name also appears on the Roll of Honour compiled by Hove librarian John William Lister soon after the end of the war and held in Hove Library (the Hove War Memorial does not include the names of the fallen).


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 Died this day:
28 November 1917
S W Mathews

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