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War Memorials

In Memory of
Private 18493
1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby) Regiment
Who died on Wednesday, 5th July 1916
Age 21

No Known Grave. Pier & Face 10C 10D & 11A
Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", Somme, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Thiepval Memorial

Thiepval "Memorial to the Missing", France1

Albert Lee was born in Beeston in 1894 2, the ninth child, sixth son of William (b. 1854, Attenborough, Notts) and Emma C Lee (b. 1861, Willoughby, Notts née Cluloe). In about 1890, the family moved from neighbouring Chilwell to Beeston, where William worked at the silk mill. In 1901 the family, now including 11 children, was living at 1 Gladstone Street, Beeston3. William died in 19043, leaving Emma to support this large family with the help of her older, working children. By 1911, the family had moved to 53 Imperial Road, Beeston and Albert had started work as a bricklayer's labourer5

As Albert's Army Service Record has not survived, we do not have a precise record of when he enlisted with the Sherwood Foresters, but it likely to have been sometime towards the end of 1914, soon after 1st Battalion had joined 24th Brigade, 8th Division at Hursley Park near Winchester on 2nd October 1914 and had landed in France on 5th November. Albert would have first received basic training in England, possibly with one of the training units - either the 3rd or 4th battalions - probably in Sunderland where both were stationed by May 1915. Sometime after this, he landed in France, joining 1st Battalion to replace casualties they had suffered in heavy fighting.6.

While the major Somme attacks were taking place on the 1st July 1916, 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters, as part of 24th Division was preparing for action that was planned to commence a few days later. On 1st July they started to move from Rainneville to Henencourt Wood and finally into billets at Dernancourt, on 4th July, ready for the attack scheduled for the next day.

On the 5th, the Battalion reached the barrier on the Albert-Pozieres road, near the Tara line, about 12.30am, and at once began to load up with stokes mortar and mills bombs, with orders to take and secure a line in advance of the existing front line. Progress up the communication trench proved very slow owing to the ration and working parties encountered, and confusion as the direction to be taken and the Battalion was heavily shelled in the long communication trench. The men arrived at last, and took up a position in a support line near the church in La Boiselle. Throughout the action with the enemy that followed, the fighting was very severe and mostly hand to hand with very heavy casualties. The battalion had fought bravely but the battalion was generally considered to have been placed in a difficult position. Shortly after the Battalion was relieved and marched back to its old billets in Dernancourt7.

At some point in this fighting, Private Lee was killed. His body was never identified and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing which now stands adjacent to the Leipzig Redoubt. The memorial was unveiled on the 1st August 1932 by the then Prince of Wales and is the largest British War Memorial in the world. Standing 150 feet high, it dominates the surrounding area. The memorial stands on a concrete raft 10ft thick, built 19ft below the ground, the solution to the problems of building over the warren of tunnels that formed the German second line. Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens the memorial has sixteen masonry piers, where can be found, on the panel faces, the names of some 72,000 British and 830 South African soldiers who died and have no known grave, during the period starting in July 1915, when the British Third Army took over from the French, through the Somme battles of 1916, until 20th March 1918, the eve of the last great German offensive on the Somme. The focal point of the memorial is the Stone of Remembrance, which lies under the great arch and centrally between the piers, for which Rudyard Kipling chose a quotation from Ecclesiasticus, "There name liveth forevermore".

Private Lee's mother, who was to lose another of her sons, Albert's older brother Harold, in the following month, was paid Albert's financial effects of 4s 2d on 8 December 1916 and his War Gratuity of 7 10s on 1 June 1920. By then, she had moved to 28 Imperial Road, Beeston. She died in 1930, aged 698.

1The photograph of the Thiepval Memorial is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website. (http://www.cwgc.org)
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q2/1894 (Ref 7b 193)
3Beeston, 1901 Census, Piece 3153 Folio 72
Albert's siblings were Sarah J (b. c1882), John H (b. c1883), William (b. c1885), Emma (b. c1887), Joseph (b. c1889), Alice (b. c1890), Harold (1891-1916), Frederick (b. c1893). Mary (b. c1897 and Leonard (b. c1898)
4William Lee's death was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1906 (Ref 7b 113). He was 52.
5Beeston, 1911 Census, Piece 20428 RD429 SD3 ED3 Schedule 76
6Details of the battalion structure and movements are from www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-infantry-regiments-of-1914-1918/sherwood-foresters-nottinghamshire-derbyshire-regiment
7This account of the preparations for the attack and the attack itself are based on the Battalion's war diary.
8Details of the payments are from the "Army Register of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929" - available on ancestry.com. The amount of the gratuity tends to indicate that Albert enlisted in November 1914
Emma is recorded at this new address in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission memorial records.
Her death was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q4/1930 (Ref 7b 202). She was 69.

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