Albert was the last child of George and Hannah Stanford. His
father, George, was born in Brighton in 1839 and died aged 53 in
1891 when Albert was just 12 years old. His mother Hannah came
from Berry Pomeroy in South Devon.
In the 1881 census Albert was listed as an infant living with his
parents at 6 Everton Place, Western Street, Brighton. This was a
densely populated area of tenements and beer shops, and most of
the residents were involved in brick making, beer brewing or
providing stabling for horses. Albert’s home was small, just four
rooms, and he shared it with his parents and five older siblings –
George 17, Caroline, 13, Edward, 9, Harry, 8, and Charles, 5.
Everton Place was a cul-de-sac at the side of 14 Western Street.
This street runs from Western Road down to the seafront, close to
Embassy Court. The buildings were later demolished and the site
left derelict for some years.
It has now been redeveloped with town houses grouped around a courtyard and renamed Golden Lane. In the 1901 census, Hannah, now widowed, is still living at Everton Place, with her eldest son George, 37, also a widower, described as a Fruiterer, Green, daughter Caroline, 33, a domestic servant, Charles, now 25 and also a Fruiterer, plus a grandson, George, aged 11.
Albert became a professional soldier. At the age of 19 years and
one month, on 24th June 1898, he signed up at Chichester for the
3rd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment. On the form he listed his occupation as Baker and his employer as Mr Cowley of Hove. He completed 49 days of ‘drill’ with this unit, and then applied to be in Princess Louise’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, joining themon 10 August 1898. On the form he gives his residence as
Albert was, like many boys of his generation, a small, slender lad.
He was 5’4 in height, with a chest measurement of 33’’ – 35’’, and
he weighed just 119 lbs – eight and a half stone. He was fresh
faced, with light brown hair and grey eyes. He had no
distinguishing features save for a very modest tattoo – a dot
tattooed on the back of his left wrist.
Albert’s first army service of 7 years and 11 months was
described as ‘exemplary’. He signed on again in Chatham, Kent on
24 July 1906.
Albert took part in the Second Boer War, spending time in South
Africa from February 1899 to May 1902. He was later stationed in
Malta from 12 September 1911 until December 1914.
Somehow Albert still managed to find time for courtship and
romance, and on 1 June 1907, aged 28, he married Julia Mary
Theobald in Chatham, Kent.
The young couple had two children. Dorothy Julia was born on 6
December 1908 in Gillingham, Kent and baptised on 28 February
1909 in Stirling, Scotland. Albert signed on again on 10 December
1909 to re-engage for a further period to complete 21 years of
military service. A son, Albert Thomas, was born on 23 May 1911
in Glasgow and was baptized there on 8 June 1911. Albert was
promoted to the rank of Sergeant on 1 July 1911 and his character
was described as VG – very good. The summer of 1911 was
unusually hot and sunny, and it was perhaps a happy time for
Albert and Julia and their young family.
Shortly afterwards, in September, Albert was posted to Malta.
On 19 December 1914 Albert was admitted to the Field Hospital
suffering from ‘neuritis’. This is a result of injury or disease
affecting the nerves. It may be caused by a traumatic injury such
as a bullet wound, or by diseases such as diabetes, Lyme disease
(a disease carried by ticks) or vitamin deficiency.
Albert’s medical form does not specify which nerves were
affected, but typically it affects legs and feet, disturbing balance
and causing mobility problems. He was discharged back to his
military duties in April 1915.
On May 11 1915 Albert was in active service in the Second Ypres
battle. A report of the day’s events was written by Sir John French.
By the end of that terrible day, Albert, along with many of his
compatriots, was listed as missing, believed killed in action. He
was just 36 years old, leaving Julia a widow with two children aged
7 and 4.
Julia was awarded a pension of nineteen shillings and sixpence
per week for herself and her two children, payable from 17 January
1916. On the form the word ’widow’ is crossed through in two
places – and the word ‘wife’ inserted instead by hand. It appears
that Albert’s body was not actually found after the battle. The
Imperial War Graves Commission wrote to his regiment in Perth to
enquire where his battalion was on that fateful day, as they had no
record of his grave. Records show that the regiment was near
Bellewaarde Lake in Flanders and Albert’s memorial is at Ypres
Menin Gate Cemetery in West Flanders, Belgium.
Julia received a ‘scroll’ at 59 St Mary’s Road, Faversham, Kent ,on
8 September 1920, and on 13 April 1921 at the same address, she
signed a receipt for medals awarded to Albert – a Star, the British
War Medal and a Victory Medal.
Volunteer researcher: Angela Lowrie
Blog writer : Ernesta Simkute