Private Albert Akred | 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment

'From his loving mother and Dad and family 
Gone but not forgotten'

Ten years ago I started tracing my family tree. My Mum told me that her Dad’s Brother, her Uncle Albert, had died in WW1. That was all the information I had.

Knowing Andy's interest in WW1, I asked him if he had any idea how I might find out a little more information? Andy’s reply was “Leave it with me". And so I did. 

A few months later for my 50th birthday, Andy presented me with a thick folder he had compiled about Albert’s war experience and said, “Here’s the little more information you wanted“. 

Oh my goodness! Straight away I could see how much time and effort Andy had taken to research Albert. I was overjoyed with my fantastic keepsake. However I had no idea what was coming next...... Andy had organised a trip to Belgium and France.

Private Albert Akred, a 20 year old farm labourer from a small Norfolk village, had volunteered to join up as one of Lord Kitchener’s New Army, in particular the 4th Battalion, Bedfordshire Regiment.  Albert landed in France on 25th July 1916.

As we travelled to Etaples Military Cemetery, I explained that I knew very little about WW1. Instantly Andy made me feel at ease and started to provide me with background information about the lead up to the start of the war, all the while conveying facts in a way that was interesting and easy to understand, especially for a novice like myself . 

For my husband and other friends who were travelling with us, Andy made sure he engaged with us all equally. He has an exceptional ability to share his knowledge without being overpowering and his enthusiasm becomes infectious. We all felt comfortable enough to continue asking questions and this set the scene for the rest of our weekend.

When we arrived at Etaples Cemetery, I could not believe my eyes; thousands of pristine white gravestones are a sight to behold. 

It has to be admitted that I was overcome with emotion when Andy led me to a headstone and asked me to read the inscription. Yes, it was Albert. Andy pulled from his rucksack some poppies for me to lay and he stood back. I stood at the grave and read the inscription my great grandparents had chosen to be added to Albert's headstone.  

The inscription read "From his loving mother and Dad and family.  Gone but not forgotten."

Coming from a relatively poor family that worked on the land, I have no idea if any of Albert’s family were able to visit his grave..….maybe I am the first?  I was there with an enormous sense of humility and pride; my honour and my privilege was to be there. 

Andy gave me all the time I needed to lay my poppies and pay my respects before we continued this very personal pilgrimage. Andy explained Etaples Cemetery contains 11,517 graves. That fact alone bought home just how many families had lost their Sons, Fathers, Brothers Husbands or, in Mum’s case, Uncle. 

For three days, Andy then led us through France and Belgium, retracing Albert’s footsteps. 

Andy had spent so many many hours reading the regimental war diaries to discover its movements and researching the actions in which they were involved. This enabled Andy to lead us to almost the exact field that Albert would have been in trenches, with his Brothers in Arms. 

As we stood looking across lush green fields of Picardy, it was hard for me to imagine just how awful the conditions that the soldiers of all nationalities had to endure. Andy opened my folder and turned to the page that showed photographs of the area we were standing. There were no green fields, just mud and shell holes for as far as the eye could see. 

In the freezing cold month of February 1917 Albert was wounded and subsequently died. He was probably taken from the North bank of the Ancre where he was wounded, via an advanced dressing station or field hospital to Etaples where he died 18th February 1917, aged just 21 . 

The following evening we made our way to Ypres and the Menin gate, a memorial for 54,585, being just some of the missing around the Ypres salient. To see all those names carved into the memorial and to witness the Last Post Ceremony was an humbling experience. 

Our weekend also included a visit to Thiepval memorial and a trench warfare museum both very interesting and informative. Andy had obviously hand-picked sites that he felt would add to our experience and that made a weekend that I will never forget! 

I have continued to delve into my family tree and have met relatives I didn’t know before . I have great pride and pleasure telling them all about Albert and his war thanks to Andy and that “little more information".  




[See also Herbert Croxford]

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