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Alfred White DCM

Rank: Lance Corporal

Lifetime: 1887-1918

Reference: 35409

White DCM

Obituary dated 12 October 1918 of Lance Corporal Alfred White in The Surrey Comet

Lance Corporal Alfred William White (35409) died on 23 August 1918, aged 31 (according to the records of the CWGC). However, the date given for his death in his 2 obituaries in The Surrey Comet, dated 21 September and 12 October 1918, was 22 August 1918. He was a member of the 7th Battalion of the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment).

He was the son of Alfred and Harriett White of 2 High Street, Hampton Wick. The family business was a greengrocers which was maintained by members of the White family from 1910 until the 1970s. Some long-standing residents of Hampton Wick may even remember Henry George White, known as Harry “Smiler” White, who seems to have been Alfred’s youngest brother.

Alfred, like his father, was a fruiterer (greengrocer) by occupation and according to his 12 October obituary, he had worked for Mr J King of Berrylands, Surbiton Hill, as an assistant for 11 years prior to enlisting. Aside from Harry, he had another younger brother, Frederick Robert White who also worked in the family business. Frederick and Harry were aged respectively 21 years and 4 years at the time of the 1911 census. Only Harry was born in Hampton Wick. The family had moved around, Alfred having been born in Mortlake (where his mother originated) and his brother Frederick having been born in the City of London. The family lived with an elderly maternal uncle, Frederick Saunders, aged 80 in 1911.

According to his 21 September 1918 obituary, Lance Corporal White was “one of the most popular of the many Hampton Wick men who have joined the colours” and he had “many friends in the district”. His other obituary also states he had made many friends in Berrylands. He was a member of the Kingston Ramblers Cycling Club but was unmarried and still lived with his parents (obituary dated 21 September 1918 in The Surrey Comet).

Although he initially enlisted in the Middlesex Regiment in May 1916, he was subsequently transferred to the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment).

In June 1918 Alfred White had been awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM). His 21 September 1918 obituary quotes the citation for his DCM as follows:
“ For conspicuous gallantry and devotion during an enemy attack. He did excellent work as company runner and twice led platoons, which had got lost in the fog, to their correct positions. He twice went back for reinforcements under heavy machine-gun fire. He continuously showed cheerfulness and courage.”

According to a report dated 18 May 1918 in The Surrey Comet largely about his younger brother Frederick’s heroism, Lance Corporal White had already been recommended for a Military Medal “for getting up supplies under fire in France”. His brother, Frederick, who was serving in the Mercantile Marine was similarly brave being awarded in November 1918 a Gold Medal for saving the life of another sailor when their ship was torpedoed on April 22 1918 in the Mediterranean.

The details of his demise are given in his second obituary in the Surrey Comet dated 12 October 1918. It would appear that Lance Corporal White was killed by a shell. He had been acting as a runner for a Captain Evans who had also been killed. Shortly afterwards he had been buried in a cemetery west of Bercourt chateau near Albert.

According to the earlier obituary published in The Surrey Comet on 21 September 1918, the news was conveyed to his parents about three weeks later by a soldier living at Plaistow who forwarded to them his wallet containing his personal effects including his pay book, photographs and other private papers he had found near a casualty clearing station. Another soldier, Private Wyatt, who lived in Wick Road, Hampton Wick, told Lance Corporal White’s parents he had assisted at their son’s funeral.

His officer’s, Lieutenant J.G. Merrison fulsome praise of him is quoted at length in the second obituary in The Surrey Comet dated 12 October 1918. He says:
“The Battalion will miss him: he was really one of the very best. I knew him for a long time and I also know what Capt Filby thought of him. As for winning the D.C.M., he won it many times over.”

His grave is in Becourt Military Cemetery, Becordel-Becourt in France.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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