Monday 28 December 2015

Albert George White 1895-1915

Albert George White
February 1895-December 1915

Albert George White was a second cousin on my mother’s side of the family. Albert’s grandfather David was the younger brother of my 3x grandfather James Underwood. His parents were Frederick White and Hilda Ellen Underwood. Frederick and Hilda were married at St Lawrence’s Church in Seale, Surrey on 4 February 1895.

Albert George was their first child, born later that year and baptised on October 6th at Witley parish church. Two years later a daughter, Emily, was also baptised at Witley and in 1899 a son Frederick arrived. The family then moved to Eashing where John was born on 24 Aug 1900, the family being recorded on the 1901 census at Lower Eashing. Another son, Samuel, was born there on April 9th 1902. By 1904 when Harriet was born, they had moved to Binstead, near Alton. Harriet was joined by Charles in 1907, Harry in 1910, Hilda in 1912 and Edith in 1914. All of the children but John survived into adulthood.

When the census was taken in 1911, Albert was living at home with his parents and six siblings at Binstead Street near Alton. He was a farm labourer.

At some point in the next couple of years, Albert joined the army. When war broke out in 1914, he was stationed abroad, although it is not recorded exactly where. However, it is known that Albert and his colleagues who formed the 29th division were regular soldiers brought back to Britain in the winter of 1914 to prepare for overseas duty. Albert was a driver in the army service corps, working with horses, so probably involved with transporting men and goods in support of the front line. Driver in this case was a rank; equivalent to private.

The 29th division sailed for Gallipoli in April 2015 but over the spring and summer all attempts to enter Turkey via the Gallipoli peninsula failed. In early autumn the Mediterranean commander-in-chief Sir Ian Hamilton requested 95,000 reinforcements from London. Only 25,000 were deemed to be available and the French commanders insisted on keeping their focus on the western front so would not spare any men to support the cause. Hamilton was relieved of his position and General Sir Charles Monro took over. Monro advised London that the situation was hopeless and a complete withdrawal from Gallipoli would be the best way forward, although he estimated that the evacuation would have a casualty rate of 30-40%. Kitchener’s response was to dismiss Monro and appoint Lieutenant-General Sir William Birdwood in his place and to visit Gallipoli himself. What Kitchener saw there changed his mind and he agreed that all 93,000 men, 200 guns and over 5000 animals should be taken out. The decision was strengthened by the appalling weather in the area, with rain, storms and heavy snow which caused the deaths of nearly 300 men.

The initial evacuation was from Anzac Cove and Suvla Bay on the western side of the peninsula. Most of the men were Australians and New Zealanders but there were also Indian mule drivers and troops from other allied counties. The operation began on 10th and finished on 20th December and was carried out with such stealth that the Turkish army did not realise what was happening.  By the 20th everyone was gone from this area and the decision to evacuate Helles on the southern tip of the peninsula was taken in December.

Again the actual evacuation was accomplished with great skill and secrecy and virtually no casualties. However, somewhere in the turmoil Alfred White was killed. The enemy troops had by now realised what was happening and were shelling the allied lines continuously. There is no record of how Albert died, so it may have been as a direct result of enemy action or maybe he died of illness or injury or from the effects of the dreadful weather.

The plan was to remove as many of the animals, supplies and stores in advance of the troops and guns and he must have been involved in this operation. Sadly he did not live to go home and he is remembered on the Helles memorial. He was just 20 years old.

His parents lived on in Binsted until after World War 2, Frederick dying in 1946 and Hilda in 1948.

In memory of Driver Albert George White
T4/071751 29th Division Train Army Service Corps
who died on 28 Dec 1915 aged 20
Son of Frederick and Hilda Ellen White, The Bungalow, Binsted, Alton

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