by Jane Kirk - Village Recorder
What made this biography so different from all the others in this series is that Alfred’s service records have survived. Ironically the majority of WW1 military records were lost as a result of enemy bombing in WW2. So despite not having a photo, it is possible for us to know a little more about Alfred and his physical appearance including vaccination dates and a conduct sheet - which incidentally is marked very good!
At the outbreak of the War Lord Kitchener’s recruitment campaign specified men should be between the age of 19 and 30, over 5’6” tall and have a chest measurement greater than 35”. Although initially successful, three weeks later the age was raised to 35. By May 1915 soldiers only had to be 5ft 3in and the age limit was raised again to 40. That July the army agreed to the formation of 'Bantam' battalions, composed of men between 5ft and 5ft 3in in height. All very telling about the desperate need to recruit!
Alfred enlisted in Ipswich in November 1915 at the age of 37 years and 9 months. He was 5’8¼” tall, weighed 138 lbs and had a chest measurement of 36” with a 2½” range of expansion. He was a Private in the 1st Battalion The Buffs (1st East Kent Regiment), an infantry regiment which was one of the oldest in the British Army. Alfred was posted to France on 10 October 1916 and he was killed in action on 15 April 1917. He is named on the Loos Memorial which commemorates over 20,000 servicemen who have no known grave and is situated in Dud Corner, part of the Loos Cemetery. Its name is believed to be due to the large number of unexploded enemy shells found in the neighbourhood after the Armistice.
Alfred George Spurling
December 1878 – 15 April 1917
The Regimental Adjutant wrote to Rebecca, his widow: “... He was a most noble example to his comrades who loved him as a brother and now mourn for him ... “. It sounds like Alfred was a lovely, popular man.
From those surviving records we know that in 1918 Rebecca received her husband’s “articles of private property consisting of letters, three photos, Testament, steel mirror, wallet with addresses and cutlery”. Eventually she received a widow’s pension of 18 shillings 9 pence a week.
Alfred was born in Rushmere in 1878 and soon after his family moved to Tattingstone living near the White Horse. In his early twenties he worked in Spearman’s Yard, Ipswich as a cart driver - this was in the St Matthews area of town and was named after a Mr Spearman who had a dye works there. Ten years on and Alfred was back in Tattingstone, married with one son, living on Lemon’s Hill and working as a gardener. He had married Rebecca Clarke in 1903, she was a dressmaker, from the Wherstead Road area in Ipswich. By the time of her death in 1938 she had moved back to Ipswich to Bramford Lane. Their only son, Alfred Augustus, became a police constable and at the time of his death was living in Middlesex.
Thanks to Jennifer Jones and Jean Austin for the Commonwealth War Grave information.