TURN the clock back 100 years and it’s 1916, the Battle of the Somme and we’re just one week away from the death of another Redditch soldier.
Albert Edward Hay, a Lance Corporal with the 1st Battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment, died of wounds at Mount Pleasant Hospital in Rochdale, on July 29.
He had been admitted with shrapnel wounds on July 19 but by July 25 septic poisoning had set in and he died of lockjaw (tetanus). He was just 20.
Born in 1896, the son of William and Amanda Hay, of Feckenham, he was one of 12 children and by the age of 14 he was working as an errand boy at the Novelty Works, part of Terrys.
By this time the family were living at 53 Hewell Road, with Albert’s dad William working as a cycle trade filer and his mum a housekeeper.
We know that Albert went to war on December 12, 1914 and his descendants believe he may have taken part in the Battle of Albert, the first phase of the Battle of the Somme. Certainly his battalion of the Worcestershire Regiment was moved up from Dernancourt on July 6 to attack Contalmaison as part of the battle.
The regiment’s official history reveals they were to lead the attack with the East Lancashire. However, what they didn’t know was that a regiment of German Pomeranian Grenadiers were preparing a counterattack at the same time.
The Worcestershires reached their trench junction at dawn and with it came the German offensive.
A furious battle then ensued. The Regimental record reads: “Flooding down from Contalmaison across the open, the Pomeranians forced back the Lancashire Fusiliers. The remnants fell back to the trench junction.
“There a desperate fight ensued. Intermingled in the trench the Worcestershire and the Fusiliers held their ground and before their rapid fire the Pomeranian Grenadiers could make no headway. After half-an-hour of fierce fighting the enemy fell back, and Lieut. H James VC organised bombing attacks to his right and left front.
“Those attacks regained about a hundred yards in each direction and satisfactory defences were established.”
As the week wore on the record reveals that “the casualties had been terribly heavy. The 1st Worcestershire had lost nearly 350 of all ranks, including 13 officers.”
On July 14 the battalion was withdrawn from action to rest and refit and was not to move forward again until July 30.
Albert Hay is buried in Plymouth Road cemetery and survivors of his family plan to visit his grave on July 29 to mark the anniversary.
With grateful thanks to Philip Jarvis, Peter Harris, the family of Albert Hay, the Mercian Museum in Worcester and the http://www.worcestershire regiment.com website.