Albert French (1899-1916)
Albert Edward Mortlock French was born on June 22 1899 in New Bradwell, Buckinghamshire, later moving to Young Street in Wolverton.
His descriptive letters to and from his sister and father and interviews with his brothers have inspired generations - both young and old - to remember him with particular fondness as a lively, growing lad thrown too young into a man's world.
During his school days he was a keen Church Lad's Brigade member, playing the bugle in the band. Albert started work on 4th July 1913 as an apprentice fitter in The 'Bogie' Shop at Wolverton Railway Works. On 29th June 1914 his record card shows he was moved to the Fitting Shop. He was earning 5/- (25p) per week.
In August 1914, many young men from Wolverton left their jobs in the local Railway Works to volunteer to fight in what came to be known as the Great War. They were afraid that unless they joined up quickly they would miss out, because everybody thought the conflict would be over by that Christmas.
Albert French was one of them...
He joined up with the King’s Royal Rifles in October 1915 without the knowledge of his family and only just aged 16. His age was recorded as 19, old enough to be sent to France. He started his Army life training with the 18th Battalion of the Kings Royal Rifle Corps at Gidea Park, near Romford in Essex.
He wrote many letters home from both his training camp and from the trenches in the Ploegsteert sector in Belgium. These letters give an insight into growing up in the trenches and the family life he left behind.
Albert died, just before his 17th birthday, near Ploegsteert in Belgium on 15th June 1916, where he is buried He is remembered annually at the twinning visit of Wolverton Council and the Western Front Association to Ploegsteert and a post at the MK Rose in Campbell Park is dedicated to him.
To find out more about Albert's life and read his letters please click here
On Sunday 15th June 2014, at The MK Rose, Campbell Park, Milton Keynes, Albert’s life was commemorated and his story was shared through extracts from the letters and songs inspired by them, with the help of students of a similar age from Shenley Brook End School and the musicians of the Living Archive Band. Introduction by Roger Kitchen.
View the film on our YouTube site by clicking on the image on the left (36 minutes long). By kind permission of all participants, copyright Living Archive MK.
View the full programme from the event, with song titles and cast list Click here