Reginald Aldred


At the age of 35, at the time of his death, Walter was one of the oldest men commemorated on the village War Memorial. By the turn of the nineteenth century the Aldred family had been established in Hoxne for over fifty years. In 1911 Walter Aldred (senior) is listed as a Boot or Shoemaker, living at 29 Cross Street, Hoxne, with his wife, Ellen, and children Rowland and Walter. Three other brothers, William, Reginald and Sidney had all left home by the time of that census. Walter, like so many of his Hoxne contemporaries worked on the land, in 1901 he was a groom assistant and by 1911 a farm labourer.

Walter's enlistment papers have not survived but it appears that he enlisted in Ipswich but the date is unknown and, at the time of writing, comparison of service numbers, (ie) locating enlistments papers of soldiers whose service number is close to Walters, have been of little use. Walter was drafted into the 8th Battalion which had been formed in September 1914 at Bury St Edmunds as part of the Second New Army (K2). Attached to the 53rd Brigade 18th Division the Battalion was based initially at Shorncliffe in Kent then moved to Colchester in October 1914 and then in May 1915 to Codford on Salisbury Plain before being shipped to Boulogne in July 1915.

Heavily involved in action throughout 1915 and 1916,the beginning of 1917 saw no let up in the Battalion's action on the western front. Between January and March 1917 saw the Suffolk's involved in various actions around the River Ancre, then following the German retreat to Hindenberg Line and the third Battle of Scarpe. Transferred to the Flanders front, in the summer of 1917, the Battalion was heavily committed to the Passchendaele offensive (The Third Battle of Ypres) which started on 31st July and would continue until the 6th November when Field Marshall Haig, using the capture of the village of Passchendaele as justification, called off the offensive.

Due to the continual artillery bombardment from both sides and the worst rainfall seen for thirty years the battlefield soon became a quagmire which restricted movement of any kind. Despite this the attack continued in phases and it was in one of the final phases that the 8th Battalion was, together with the other elements of the 55th Infantry Brigade, tasked with taking the village of Poecapelle which was situated some five miles north east of Ypres. On the 11th October and under constant gas shelling, the Battalion moved to occupy Rose Trench via Francois Farm and Pheasant Farm. At 18.30 hours it began to rain and this continued until 4 am the next morning by which time the ground was saturated and shell holes inundated with water and mud.

At 5.25 am the 55th Brigade attacked with the Suffolk's "B" and "D" Companies moving through a light German barrage to the Langemack-Poelcapelle road. Some confusion seems to have set in at this point as whether the objectives had been taken or not but on reaching the Dixmude road the Battalion came under heavy fire from strongpoints and pill boxes and heavy casualties were suffered by both of the attacking Companies. But there were enough survivors to beat off a German counter attack at lunchtime during which the Germans suffered heavy casualties. The afternoon brought more heavy shelling and machine gun fire and yet another German counter attack which was beaten off despite the Battalion suffering yet more casualties.

During course of this action Walter Aldred died. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial which lies on a broad rise over looking the surrounding countryside.