Private, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), 1st Bn
Service no. G/3438
Died on 25 September 191, aged 22
Remembered at Loos Memorial, France
CWGC: “Son of Mrs. Florence White, of 66, Wilcox Rd., South Lambeth Rd., London.”
Albert White was born in 1894 in the village of March, Cambridgeshire. His parents Edward White and Florence Mary Owers had married in 1875 and Albert was the youngest of nine children when he was born. In the 1901 census the White family were living in Soham, Cambridgeshire, in Fen Country, where both his parents and the majority of his siblings had been born. His father was working on steam-driven threshing machines.
Florence Mary White first appeared in Lambeth on the Electoral Rolls of 1907 and 1908 living at 58 Walnut Tree Walk in Kennington. By the time of the 1911 census, Florence was living nearby at 123 St George’s Road, Southwark, a busy thoroughfare running from Westminster Bridge Road to the Elephant and Castle. Florence was now 49 and in 25 years of marriage had borne 13 children, three of whom had died as infants. Florence neglected to state the ‘relationship’ of the individuals she named on her census form, but two were clearly her youngest children, Albert Victor White, 17, and Mildred Victoria Landlord White, 13. The enumerator later pencilled in the relationships, wrongly identifying widow Florence Clarissa Hayhoe as Florence’s sister; she was Florence’s daughter, who had married horse dealer Harry Hayhoe in 1898. He died in 1909 when the couple were living in Borough Road.
Florence White earned her income as a landlady. Her own father and brothers had been piano-tuners. Perhaps it was her love of music and the theatre which led her to seek ‘theatrical types’ as her guests. Her boarders in 1911 were two actors and a music-hall artist. Albert had also been attracted to the world of theatre and Florence described her son’s occupation, confusingly, as ‘super-theatrical’. The White family and their three guests lived in six rooms of the property with a young couple and their baby son in three other rooms.
An entry in the Queens Royal West Surrey Regiment Rough Register of Recruits shows 3438 Private White A. aged 21 enlisted on 16 November 1914. Albert volunteered in central London and probably trained with the 3rd Royal West Surrey Reserve based at the Chatham Lines before he was sent to France on 11 March 1915. A draft of 50 men reached the 1st RWS on Sunday 14 March when the battalion was in billets in the Bethune area. The battalion was held in reserve and on standby during March and April. More routine work followed in May. One man was killed and five wounded in a party helping to collect the wounded and bury the dead during the night near Givenchy on 26 May. June and July were months of providing various working parties before the battalion entered trenches near Cuinchy in the last week of July, sustaining small numbers of casualties on most days before returning to billets on 15 August 1915. More trench duty followed before the battalion prepared for their part in the offensive on 25 September. They advanced under cover of smoke wearing rudimentary gas helmets. Counterattacked, they were forced to retire under heavy machine-gun fire. Nine officers were killed or wounded, a total of 226 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing. Private 3438 White A. was posted missing that day.
Florence made enquiries via the Red Cross, hoping that Albert was a prisoner of war. The related card record showed her son had served in ‘D’ company, but there was no trace of the missing soldier who had ‘disparu [disappeared] 25 Sept 1915’. Florence gave her address as ‘Mrs. F. M. White, 3 Lansdowne Gardens, Stockwell, London S.W.’. The reply was ‘rien [nothing] 17.11.15’. After some months, Albert White was officially presumed to have died on or since 25 September 1915.
After 1918 Florence moved from Lansdowne Gardens to 66 Wilcox Road where she remained until 1928. There are no existing public records that show Albert’s initials as A.V.O.; to the Army he was plain Albert. Florence may have added two initials to make her son’s name more prominent on the Stockwell War Memorial. chris burge
a.v.o. white. Private, The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), 1st Bn. Service no. G/3438. Died on 25 September 191, aged 22. Remembered at Loos Memorial, France