Captain, 15th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers.
Killed in action 1st July 1916, age 30.
Remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.
Former student of electrical engineering.
Alfred was born in 1886 at Clifton, Salford; the younger son of James Lee and Maria Anne Wood. Lee was actually a traditional family middle name, but Alfred would use it as a double barrel surname. His family firm was the Clifton & Kersley Coal Company which owned two collieries and several coal depots in the area. He was educated at public school in Southport staying with his aunt and uncle while studying there, and then went on to study at Manchester University gaining a BSc. in electrical engineering in 1910. On graduation he went to work for the Lancashire Dynamo and Motor Company in Trafford Park and was the company’s representative in India.
When War was declared in 1914 Alfred was living at the family home, a large house called “Arundel” in Bramhall they had acquired in the 1890s. He was quick to enlist and by October 1914 had been commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the 15th (1st Salford Pals) Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, one of Kitchener’s “New Army” units. His enlistment forms showed him to be 5`9” and healthy, but noted him: “Fit in all respects – he has occasionally a very slight stammer which does not affect him at all in giving orders at drill.”
By the time the Battalion left for France in November 1915 Alfred was a Captain in command of “A” Company of the battalion. The battalion spent the first half of 1916 in routine trench duty and training behind the lines for their part in the great push. When the Battle of the Somme opened on 1st July 1916, they were very well trained with great moral, but lacked the combat experience. The Salford Pals objective was the fortified village of Thiepval with Alfred’s Company leading. They went over the top at 07.30 and despite suffering massive casualties managed to capture the 1st line of defences and some even penetrated the village, but an enemy counter attack pushed them back and by 09.00 it was obvious with the huge losses no further progress could be made. They had attacked with 624 men but now only a 150 remained standing. Amongst the dead was Alfred who had reached the village and was killed attempting to destroy a machine gun position. Private Hutton, his batman, wrote to the Cheshire Daily Echo from Hospital in Ashton-Under-Lyne on 14th July describing what happened: “A few minutes before 7.30 the captain was standing below the parapet calmly smoking a cigarette and glancing occasionally at his wrist watch. At 7.30 sharp he leapt over the parapet followed by his men. A perfect hail of bullets was coming from all quarters and when we had gone about fifty yards the captain was hit on the head and I was hit on the arm. However, we did not stop, and a little further on the captain received a second bullet at the side of the head, causing a nasty gash. Almost at the same moment, I was shot through the leg. Turning to me the captain said, “Are you badly hit?” and I replied “Yes, sir. I can’t go on this time.” He then ordered me to try and get back to our trench and I begged him to go with me, as he was badly wounded, but he replied “No, I will get that machine gunner.” This gun was causing great losses amongst his men… I heard the captain reached the third line of German trenches before receiving his third and fatal wound. When I last saw the captain he was lying in our trench and the colonel was with him. He was a brave officer and one of the best. Amongst the men he was known as the “Gaffer” and they would have followed him anywhere.”