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ARMISTICE ANNIVERSARY: The Maidenhead soldier who died on last day of the war

The signing of the armistice did not mean the suffering and casualties ended immediately.

In a cruel twist of fate, one Maidonian succumbed to an illness he picked up while deployed to Egypt on the day the war ended.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that Lance Corporal Alfred Moses Alexander was born in 1888 in Hungerford, Berkshire, to Fredrick, a blacksmith from Wiltshire, and Alice, from Woolhampton.

In 1901, the family moved to Maidenhead and lived in Red Lion Yard – which was in the area between St Mary’s Church and Market Street.

They had moved to Risborough Road by 1911 while Fredrick was an inmate at a workhouse in St Mark’s Road. By then, Alfred was a platelayer for Great Western Railway, and that year he married Primrose Lily Austin, of North Star Lane, Boyn Hill.

Alfred and Primrose moved to College Glen and had three sons – Alfred, born 1911, Arthur, born 1914, and Cyril, born 1915.

Alfred senior is believed to have enlisted in the early summer of 1915, alongside a number of fellow railwaymen from Maidenhead.

They were part of the 116th Railway Company of the Royal Engineers and were sent to Egypt in December 1915.

They worked on expanding the Egyptian rail network and extended railways into Palestine to support the British forces fighting the Ottoman Empire.

An armistice with the Ottomans was concluded in October 1918 but Alfred fell ill shortly after.

He was transferred to No 71 General Hospital in Cairo but died on November 11 – the same day the armistice was signed in a rail carriage in the Compiegne forest – and was buried in the Cairo War Memorial Cemetery.

Two other railwaymen from Maidenhead deployed there also died.

Serjeant Ernest James Smith, of Boyn Valley Road, had died on September 25 1918 and was buried at Ramleh War Cemetery in Israel.

Another Maidonian, Sapper Frank Proctor, of Norfolk Park Cottages, died after the war, in February 1919, from what was likely to have been influenza. He was buried at Haifa War Cemetery in Israel.

Primrose would go on to marry a Charles W D Day in 1925, who had served in the Berkshire Yeomanry.


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