681915 GNR. A. E. CRAVEN. R.F.A.
Alfred Ernest Craven was born in Preston in February 1897 and baptised at Preston St Luke on 21 February. His father was Alfred Craven (b. 1870 in Preston), a salesman working for a bread maker’s. His mother was Elizabeth Alice Butler (b. 1866 in Preston). Alfred and Elizabeth were married in 1892 and had just two children – Ethel May (b. 1892) and Alfred jnr. In 1911, the family was living at 323 Fletcher Road, Preston. Alfred jnr (aged 14) had started work as a wood turner.
Alfred enlisted in 1915 just after he had turned 18. He joined the Royal Field Artillery and was assigned service number 2970, which was later changed to 681915. He was posted to “C” Battery of 276 Brigade. 276 Brigade formed part of 55th (West Lancashire) Division. The Division landed in France on 29 September 1915 but Alfred was not with them, he joined them later in the field, possibly in 1917. 55th Division fought at Guillemont and Ginchy (on the Somme) in September 1916, suffering severe losses especially at Guillemont. They also fought at Flers-Courcelette and Morval later that month, and then in October 1916 they were moved to the Ypres Salient, at the time a relatively quieter part of the front. Although there were no major engagements in early 1917, there was constant harassment, shelling and raids.
1917: Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
According to SDGW and Soldiers’ Effects, Alfred Ernest Craven died of wounds on 9 September 1917. He was 20 years old. It’s not clear what the circumstances were as, according to the Divisional History, 55th Division spent the period from 7 August to 12 September either at rest or in training, so possibly he may have been wounded in an accident in training.
Service No: 681915
Date of Death: 09/09/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “C” Bty, 276th Bde.
Grave Reference: VIII. G. 12.
Cemetery: VLAMERTINGHE NEW MILITARY CEMETERY
Additional Information: Son of Alfred and Elizabeth Alice Craven, of 323 Fletcher Road, Preston, Lancs.