RFA West Lancs Bdes
681665 CPL. A. PROBERT. R.F.A.
Albert Edward Victor William Probert was born in the third quarter of 1892 in West Kirby, Cheshire. His father was Evan Probert (b. 1859 in Merthyr Tydfil), a ship’s carpenter. His mother was Emily Ann Haines (b. 1858 in Huntspill, Somerset). Evan and Emily were married in Somerset in 1880 and they had 10 children, though they lost 3 in infancy. The 7 survivors were: Evan (b. 1881), Alice (b. 1883), Matilda (b. 1884), Eveline (b. 1886), then Albert, then Gertrude (b. 1893), and finally Frederick George (b. 1896). Evan’s job had him moving around several towns in the south of England and south Wales but by 1892, the year Albert was born, the family had settled in the Wirral. In 1911, they were living at 88 Market Street, Hoylake, Cheshire. Albert was a dock labourer.
In 1913, Albert got married. His wife was Mary Ellen McGeagh (b. 1889 in Liverpool). The couple had two children: Beatrice Mary (b. 1914) and Albert Edward (b. September 1917 - just 3 months before his father was killed).
Albert enlisted in 1915 and was posted to “A” Battery of 286 Brigade. His service number was 681665. At some point, Albert was promoted to Corporal.
After training, the Brigades left for France in early 1917 and were involved in the heavy fighting to defend the town of Armentières, on the French-Belgian border. In July 1917 they suffered their first attack by the new mustard gas. In late September the Brigade was relieved from the front line and withdrew for a period of training, and returned to the line at Langemark about 35km north of Armentières, not far from the small village of Passchendaele, which would be the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the War. On 9 October 286 Brigade returned to action engaging in harassing and destructive fire on enemy strongpoints, but also suffering their heaviest losses of the war so far, with many soldiers being gassed. On 27 October, 285 and 286 Brigades were placed under temporary command of the Canadians as they began the final attack on the village of Passchendaele. On 28 October, the War Diary reports: “Bombardment and barrage against enemy strong-points and harassing fire by 57th Divisional Artillery Group on front of the XVIII Corps. … 11th Bde RFA took part in barrage and bombardment of enemy strong-points on our own front. 1 Other Rank killed in action. 5 Other Ranks wounded.” These operations were repeated on the following day, and 5 Other Ranks were wounded in action, 11 Other Ranks were gassed and 1 Other Rank was missing (later confirmed dead). From 1-7 November, 286 Brigade were at Langemark engaged in the defence of the village and were under heavy shelling from the enemy, including gas attacks every day.
In early December 1917 the Brigade was in training at Polincove in north-east France. They returned to Haandekot in Belgium on 7 December and two days later took up their position in the line in the Steenbeck Valley, north-west of Ypres. The War Diary records that they “engaged in usual harassing fire on enemy’s tracks, roads etc.” 11 December was a “quiet day. 2/Lt J. P. Davies wounded but remained at duty. 1 O/R A/286 killed in action & 3 O/Rs A/286 wounded”. The man killed was Albert Probert, though CWGC records his date of death as 10 December. Albert was 25 years old.
Service Number: 681675
Date of Death: 11/12/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “A” Bty, 286th Brigade.
Cemetery/memorial reference: III. F. 38.
Cemetery: CANADA FARM CEMETERY
Albert’s youngest brother, Frederick George (known in the family as George) was also killed in the War. He was 85949 PVT. F. G. PROBERT, of 25th Battalion, The King’s (Liverpool Regiment). 25Bn was formed in 1915 from Home Service personnel from Territorial Battalions. They landed in France in May 1918 and initially formed a Garrison Battalion at Calais, but on 16 June 1918 they were placed under orders of 176th Brigade in 59th (2nd North Midlands) Division. 59th Division had suffered severe losses during both phases of the German Spring Offensive in early 1918. After re-organisation and re-training, the Division was ready to return to the fighting by the end of July 1918, so it was probably in the summer of 1918 that George joined the effort. He was probably involved in the Division’s attack near Albert on 21-22 August, which marked the first in a series of powerful blows in the 100 Days Offensive which would eventually lead to the German defeat. George was wounded, probably in this attack, and he managed to make it back to England, but he died of his wounds at Camberwell Hospital on 22 October 1918. He was 22 years old.
Service Number: 85949
Date of Death: 22/10/1918
Regiment/Service: The King’s (Liverpool Regiment), 25th Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Screen Wall. II. C.E. 84C.
Cemetery: LIVERPOOL (ALLERTON) CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Mrs. E. Probert, of 50 Cecil Street, Picton Road, Wavertree, Liverpool.