Alfred was Arthur Bell’s cousin as the son of aunt Isabella – who was one of his mother’s younger sisters. Isabella, Alfred’s brother Ernest and Arthur Bell’s sister Dorothy lived in Hall Street, Greeheys in 1911.
Alfred is the only family member identified as a professional soldier and pre-war member of the forces. He had been born in Hulme on 9th June 1887. The family lived at a ‘Beer House’ at 18 Marple Street, Hulme in 1895. His father Alfred Snr. was a Tailors Salesman who died in 1901. Records show the Alfred had spent a period of 5 days in Chorlton Union Workhouse after their father had died in November 1902.
Alfred joined the 6th Volunteer Battalion, Manchester Regiment on 25th March 1906 No. 647, when he was employed by Mr Potts of Moss Side as a carter and outdoor beer seller residing at his mother Isabella’s address at 76 Junction Street. The Medical Exam. records Alfred as 5’6″ and 110 Pounds. He transferred to the regular Battalion on 24th August 1907 retaining the number 647. By the time of the 1911 Census, Alf was serving in India with the 1st Battalion.
At the outbreak of the War, the 1st Battalion remained in India and set sail from Karachi to France on 29th August 1914, arriving in Marseille on 26th September. Alfred’s Medal Roll indicates his entitlement to the 1914 Star, with arrival in France with 1st Battalion on 27th August. Records of some other men (Below*1) with this date as arrival indicate departure from Karachi on 27th August and arrival at Marseille on 26th September. There is no explanation why a group of men are recorded as leaving India in advance of the Battalion. Alfred was entitled to the Clasp on his 1914 Star, confirming arrival in France as an ‘Old Contemptible’ before December 1914.
Alfred’s second Medal Roll page relates to his British War Medal and Victory Medal. This shows postings with the 1st, 12th and 11th Battalions. Other records (Below) indicate Alfred went on to serve with the 18th Battalion – the 3rd Pals or City Battalion – by late 1917. There are numerous examples of other Regular soldiers bolstering the ranks of the Service Battalions; notably after returning from wounding. The posting to four Battalions certainly indicates wounding on one or more occasions.
With thanks to Tony Rodaway I found information about Alf being wounded earlier in 1917, while serving with 18th Battalion. Alf received a slight gun shot wound Code I 1 M in June 1917. This Code refers to wounds to Alf’s Head including contusions and simple flesh wounds of the scalp. The M may refer to medium level damage. The records show Alf had been a Lance Corporal posted to A Company.
By reviewing the 18th Battalion War Diary it can be seen that Alf was away from the front until 14th July 1917. On this date A Company relieved 17th Battalion in the front line of the left Hooge sector, under orders of 90th Brigade. With reference to War Diary and trench maps, it can be seen that A Company held the front line in Sanctuary Wood, with Battalion Headquarters and the other Companies to the west. A Company remained in the front line until the night of 16/17th June, when they were relieved and with drew to the 2nd reserve line at Ritz Street. 18th Battalion was relieved from the front on the night of 22/23rd June. In the period 13th – 22nd June 1917, the War Diary recorded 6 Other Ranks killed, 22 wounded and 3 with died of gas poisoning. It’s likely Alf was one of the men who were wounded.
Casualty records show that Alf was treated in No. 3 Canadian Casualty Clearing Station at Zillebeke on 17th-20th June 1917. He was later transferred by No. 27 Ambulance Train. to Ward III of No. 18 General Hospital U.S. Base 12, arriving on 10th July and discharged to Base on 16th July 1916. On 11th June 1917 Base Hospital No.12 (From Northwestern University Medical School, Chicago) had taken over No.18 General Hospital at Dannes-Camiers near Etaples. The Nursing Staff consisted of 64, including the Matron, Miss D. Urch and 4 civilians (2 dieticians and 2 secretaries.)
Alf may have spent some time convalescing on light duties, before returning to 18th Battalion before December 1917.
Alfred Ridge died of wounds on 21st January 1918, aged 30. He was being treated for grenade wounds to his backside in a German Field Hospital near Wevelgem and is buried in Harlebeke New British Cemetery, Belgium. Alfred’s grave was actually relocated from the German cemetery at Menen Wald (Ram’s Wood), during 1923/24.
With huge thanks to International Council of the Red Cross, Prisoner of War Records became accessible on line during 2014 – ICRC Digitised Records With the great
translating help of Charlie on the MRF, this has confirmed “Alfred Corporal, 1095 18Bn Manchester Regt, A Coy, died 21.01.18 at the Field Hospital Wewelgem. Handgranade wound posterior. Buried Wood Cemetery Menin.”
The recent digitisation of the 1918 editions of the Manchester Evening News (above) provides confirmation that Alfred had been captured – and wounded – on 14th December. On this date, the
18th Battalion were involved with the defence of German assault and unsuccessful counter-attack in the Polderhoek sector of Ypres. The War Diary reported 11 Other Ranks killed, 39 wounded and 69 missing in the action. ICRC records indicate Alfred was posted to A Company. These men occupied the right side of the Battalion front and were overwhelmed in the initial German assault at 6am. The War Diary notes the German infantry using grenades to quell the British defence. It is likely Alfred was wounded and captured at this stage.
The 18th Battalion had returned to France by January 1918 and the events at Ypres when Alfred was captured provided the final major action for the 3rd City Battalion, before the men were absorbed into 17th Battalion in February 1918.
Back at home in Manchester Alfred’s family mourned the loss of their young man and issued their Memorium for the Roll of Honour in the Manchester Evening News on 30th May 1918.
Here’s the transcript:-
RIDGE-Corporal ALF RIDGE, Manchester Regiment posted missing December 14 1917, now reported died a prisoner of war. Deeply mourned by his MOTHER [Isabella], sister ANNIE [Micek] and Brother ERNEST (at sea), 9 Hall Street, C-on-M. [Isabella ran a grocer’s shop here, following the death her 2nd husband Frank Micek. Her father and Frank had been bakers]
Art thou weary, art though languid, art thou sore distressed? Come to Me saith one and coming be at rest.
RIDGE – To the proud memory of Corporal ALF RIDGE. died a prisoner of war January 21, 1918.
We mourn him in silence and sorrow unseen, If others forget him we never shall.
Deeply regretted by his SISTER [Elizabeth]. BROTHER-IN-LAW [Giuseppe Zanzottera marriage 1911] and SONNY – 82 Greenheys Lane.
By Alfred’s Cousin’s Grandson and Great Grandaughter
*It is also possible Alfred had been on leave at the outbreak of hostilities, or possibly he had been accepted for Overseas service when he left India.
*1 7232 Private Terrence Roe is also shown on the Medal Roll to have arrived in France on 27/8/14. His Service Record has some aspects that are unclear(including correspondence about missing pay), but one document referring to his ‘Mark of Distinction to 1914 Star’ indicates service in France from 26th September 1914 when the 1st Battn arrived in Marseille. This suggests the August date may have been wrong for Terrence and possibly Alfred.
1656 Robert Rothwell’s Service Record also survives. This shows arrival in France on 27/8/14 and confirms he had been in France at the outbreak of the War. It is interesting to note the records indicate Robert was transferred to the 11th Battalion, after his arrival in France.
1932 Sidney Frank Riva’s record also indicates arrival in France on 27th August 1914 and states that he left India the preceding day. This is contradicted by Sidney’s Casualty Record sheet which clearly specifies disembarkation from Karachi on 27/8/14, as well as arrival in France on 26th September.
635 Arthur Robin’s Casualty Record also indicates disembarkation from Karachi on 27th August and arrival in France on 26th September. The Medal Roll specifies 27th August for entry in France and qualification for the 1914 Star. Arthur was a member of B Company of 1st Manchesters. He had extended his service by two years on 5th August, just after the commencement of the War.
Thanks to the Members of The Manchester Regiment Group for help with these records.
Thanks to Jan Vancoillie for information on the relocation of Ernest’s grave from Menen Wald. For related photos see Flanders 2015