Life Before the War
Alfred was born in France in 1891, his parents were Henry M Ford and Elisabeth Gracie. Henry was born in 1866 in Rossie Island Forfar. Scotland, Elisabeth was born in 1867 in Dundee Scotland they were married in 1889.
Alfred had 2 sisters Henrietta b1889 and Joan b1898 and 5 brothers John b1893, Philip b1901 all were born in Dundee, Leonard b1905, Stanley b1908 and Ronald b1900 were born in Southampton. It is recorded as 1 sibling having died.
In the census of 1891 Alfred and his father, mother and sister Henrietta were living at 7 Yeoman Shore Dundee with his grandmother Ann b1831 (Henry’s mother) and his aunt Ann who was working as a jute weaver.
In 1901 the Henry and Elisabeth had moved with their children Henrietta, Alfred, Philip, John and Joan to 24 Park Avenue. Dundee Scotland, Henry was working as a tailor. Also living with them was David Fuffe Henry’s nephew he was working as a gracer.
In the census of 1911 the family were living at 277 Northumberland Road. Southampton in 6 rooms where Henry ran a tailoring business. Henry was a coatmaker along with Henrietta and John and Alfred is recorded as being a printer compositor.
Alfred joined the Seaforth Highlanders on 4th May 1916 and rose to Corporal, on 27th March 1918 he was commisioned to 2nd Lieutenant.
The Royal West Kent Regiment became part of 23rd brigade 10th Battalion, in Maidstone on 3 May 1915 , at the request of the Army Council. It was attached in July 1915 to 118th Brigade in 39th Division but transferred in October to 123rd Brigade – 41st Division. It moved to Aldershot in January 1916.
On 4 May 1916 Alfred left for France. In November 1917 the Division moved to Italy but returned to France in March 1918 from where Alfred took part in battles on the Western Front.
From the 23rd July 1918 – 2nd August 1918 The Battle of Soissonnais and The Ourcq commenced, it was considered part of the Second Battle of the Marne which was an allied attack on the East Side of the German area in the Champagne and included a British Attack in the area of Marfaux and Buzancy, south west of Reims.
On 28th July 1918 another general advance was made, the French and British capture Buzancy which became an important mark of the War. A Great Allied counter attack on 27-mile front between Fontenoy (6.5 miles north-west of Soissons) and Belleau (6 miles north-west of Chateau-Thierry) took place. The French reached Monte de Paris (1 mile from Soissons) and 5 miles of Crise Valley, east of Buzancy. The British 15th Division took Buzancy – a village about a quarter of a square mile which was in a slope on the western side of a large flat hill but well above the Allied front line.
In an effort to deceive the enemy, smoke was fired and bombardments of Buzancy and other villages near the front were carried out on 27th July 1918. Zero hour was taken for 30 minutes after midday on the 28th July and it was hope the Germans would be off their guard and careful preparation was made. French companies advanced against the wood south west of Buzancy with grenades being a strongpoint and the Seaforth Highlanders and Gordon Highlanders against Buzancy.
Through a variety of events the some Regiments had not been able to advance from their original line and an SOS signal went up in the south eastern corner of Buzancy. The Highlanders had been outflanked, outnumbered and driven from the village and although getting clear of artillery fire found themselves with enemy machine guns at their rear.
“Apparently it was the French 91st Brigade who were unable to get off the starting blocks which caused a weakness in the attack upon the village. Although by 1.30 Buzancy had been taken, at 4.30pm an SOS was sent out by troops manning the town that the German Army were counter attacking with a much heavier force and in the ensuing battle and retreat my uncle is recorded as missing – possibly caused by the shelling of the British forward position. Six German prisoners were returned (six officers and 200men) and by 6.00pm the British Front line was regained The 15th Division, which had been in the thick of most of the heavy fighting of the war, regarded this action as being the most sever and gruelling of them all.”
Soldiers who had witnessed heavy encounters of the war regarded the action on the 28th July 1918 as the severest and hardest of them all. Sadly Alfred was recorded as missing on the 28th July 1918.
British casualties reported were 115 officers 51st Highland Division and 2,950 other ranks, 118 officers and 3,865 other ranks from 62nd Division (2nd West Riding Division)..
Never had British divisions seen such a number of enemy dead as they found in the woods.
Alfred is remembered on the Soissons Memorial France and the Southampton Cenotaph.
The address of his parents on notification of his death was given as 277 Northumberland Road. Southampton.
Researched by Brenda White August 2014.
The comment in bold italics was kindly given by Peter Ford – Alfred’s nephew who has shown interest and support in Alfred’s story which is greatly appreciated.