A. Rodgers (on the memorial as Rodgers, in the Commonwealth War Memorial database as Rogers)
Private, East Surrey Regiment, 1st Bn.
Service no. 11158
Killed in action on 25 September 1916, aged 21
Remembered at Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France
Chris Burge writes:
Alfred Rodgers was born in November 1894 in Pimlico on the north side of the Thames, the second child of Frederick William and Mary Ellen Rodgers. His older brother Frederick was born in Pimlico in 1890, in the same year that their parents had married at St John’s, Worlds End, Chelsea. By the time of the 1901 census, the four members of the Rodgers family lived at 55 Dalyell Road in Stockwell, in just one room in a property that housed two other families. The family faced considerable hardship as Alfred’s father Frederick was unable to work after the amputation of his right leg. His mother Mary was a packer in a laundry.
In the 1911 census, brothers Frederick and Alfred Rodgers were still living with their parents, who were now both 43. The family had moved a few doors away to 40 Dalyell Road, where they lived in just two rooms of the three-storey building which also housed a family of six in four rooms, a widow in one room and a young mother and child in another room. Alfred’s father had found work as a beer bottler while his mother was working as an ironer in a laundry. Alfred’s brother Frederick, now 20, was an attendant in a cinema and Alfred, whose age was given as 18, was a shop boy for a bookmaker (betting shop).
Frederick volunteered at the very beginning of the war, on 9 September 1914 at Marylebone, joining the Buffs (East Kent) Regiment. Within a week, as private 2176 Rodgers he was posted to the 8th Battalion at Shoreham, Sussex. His disciplinary record started to deteriorate in the spring of 1915; on six occasions between April and June he is absent without leave. The last of these was on 18 June 1915, when he was absent for over four days. On his return, he was given 14 days confinement to barracks and hauled before the Commanding Officer for a second time. On the 26 June he was posted as a deserter. He was reputedly the father of a child born in the Hastings area around March 1916 but his parents had no knowledge of his whereabouts, and may never have heard from him again.
In mid 1915, the mayors of London boroughs were encouraged to boost the dwindling numbers of volunteers by launching new recruitment campaigns to raise local battalions. In Lambeth the designated battalion was the 11th battalion of the Queen’s Royal Regiment (West Surrey), established on 9 June 1915. In neighbouring Wandsworth, it was the ‘Wandsworth Regulars’, the 13th (Service) battalion of the East Surrey Regiment. Alfred Rodgers chose to volunteer at Wandsworth on the 9 July 1915, giving his address as 74 Paradise Road, Clapham and stating his age as 20 years and nine months. At his medical he was recorded as 5ft 1in tall, weighing 7st 7lbs, and with a 32in chest. His recorded occupation was ‘vanguard’. His mother Mary was his next of kin.
The battalion made a series of farewell route marches around Wandsworth in late August 1915 before moving to Witley in Surrey and to Blackdown near Aldershot by February 1916. Alfred was not with the battalion when it finally departed for France in June 1916 as he had been transferred to the 14th Reserve Battalion in May and then the 10th Reserve Battalion. on 24 June. He was finally sent to France in a draft of men supposedly destined for the 9th Battalion, who sailed from Folkestone on 27 July.
Once in France, Alfred and others were diverted to the 1st East Surrey, joining them at the Somme front on 7 August. August was spent out of the line in a period of training and practising bombing and firing on the ranges. They returned to the trenches in very wet weather on 31 August. September was spent in and out of various support trenches in continuing bad weather until a Brigade attack on enemy position took place on 25 September. Among the many casualties was Alfred Rodgers, killed in action on that day.
When Alfred’s mother Mary Ellen took Army Form W5080 to be witnessed and countersigned at St Barnabas vicarage on 18 August 1919, she had written just her own and her husband’s names on the form as the sole relatives of her dead son. Mary Ellen received her son’s medal in August 1921.
Alfred parents Frederick William and Mary Ellen Rodgers were still living at 74 Paradise Road in 1938. They passed away within a few months of each other in 1944, both aged 77.