38594 Lance Corporal Albert Robert Basford, Royal Engineers
Born on 15th October 1897 in Aston, Warwickshire
Died on 17th September 1979 in New South Wales, Australia
Albert Robert Basford was born in Aston, Warwickshire, the younger child of Robert Basford and Mary Jane, née Sturdey.
His older sister Margaret Edith (known as Edith) was born on 2nd February 1895.
In the 1901 Census, Albert, his mother and his sister Edith were staying with his Grandparents William and Susannah Sturdey at 59 Hugh Road, Aston, Birmingham. No entry for his father Robert can be found.
However, both Albert and Edith have Regimental birth records which state that their father was in the 13th Foot Regiment, Prince Albert’s Somerset Light Infantry. At the time of the 1901 Census, 1276 Pioneer-Sergeant R Basford was serving in South Africa in the 2nd Anglo-Boer War. On 10th September that year, he was then mentioned in despatches.
However, when he retired from the Army in 1907, Albert’s father Robert became Foreman of Works at Ashridge. The family then lived in the Cottage, Ashridge Workyard, where Electoral Registers show his parents stayed until 1922.
The Little Gaddesden School Logbook entry for 9th April 1907 records that Albert Basford, Standard 3, entered the school from the Garrison School, Plymouth with his sister Edith, Standard 6. Albert then stayed at school until 5th February 1912 when the logbook records “Albert Basford Standard 7 and over 14 years old has left school“.
Joining the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop 8
Albert Basford joined the Little Gaddesden Scout Troop at its start, October 26th 1911. He was a member of the Peewit Patrol, whose Patrol Leader Arthur Whitman was killed at St Julien on 31st July 1917. The Scouts first met in the Reading Room at John o’Gaddesden’s House but meetings soon moved to the Armoury, at 27 Little Gaddesden, the home of their Scout Master, Harry Temple, who was assisted by 17 year old Bernard Phillips. Miss Bridget Talbot was their President and Mr Humphrey Talbot their Treasurer.
Scouts in the other Patrols who served were: Stanley Austin, Sidney Bellamy, Edward Bunn, Kenneth Edge, Gerald Green, Bernard Halsey, Percy Hobbs, Frank (Henry F.) Johnson, George Pinnock, Archie Wells, Frank Whitman and Jim Whitman.
“Bright Boy Scouts – Clever Performance at Little Gaddesden – High Approval” 8
According to the hand written ‘Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922’ kept by their President, Miss Bridget Talbot, the Little Gaddesden Scouts gave a concert/variety entertainment at the school in early February 1912, assisted by Scoutmaster Temple and other supporters. The extract below is from a press cutting reporting the event, pasted into the Scout Diary. The cutting is undated and unattributed but is probably from the local “Gazette”.
Perhaps the one item in the programme which overtopped the others for novelty and excellence of execution was the Kirkby Malzeard sword dance by six members of the Troop (B. Phillips, F. Johnson, A. Whitman, J. Whitman, A. Halsey and A. Basford) with Scoutmaster H Temple as the singer of the introductory verses and violin-player for the dance itself. Its intricate movements were performed with admirable precision and, at the end of the dance, the holding up of the “nut” or star formed by the interlaced swords was greeted with the most enthusiastic applause by the spectators, who would gladly have seen the whole performance again.
Boy Scouts’ Cook’s Badge – First Skin Your Rabbit 8
The Little Gaddesden Scout Diary records that, in Autumn 1912:
14 boys of the LG Troop were examined in the Park at Ashridge for their cook’s badges. Lord Brownlow presented a rabbit apiece to each boy. Fourteen fires were then lit, made up on some bricks + each boy proceeded to skin and boil his rabbit, adding vegetables + dumplings into his stew. The judges on this occasion were Lord Brownlow, Mrs Temple, Mrs Bridle, Mrs Flowers + Mr Jim Rodgers. Mr J Parsons presented 3 prizes for the best 3 saucepans of rabbit stew. Arthur Pinnock won the 1st prize.
We do not know who won 2nd and 3rd prizes, but the diary records that Albert was one of the 14 boys awarded his Cook’s Badge. Other Scout Cooks included Edward Bunn, Francis Green, Gerald Green, Bernard Halsey, Percy Hobbs, Frank Johnson and Archie Wells.
From the Little Gaddesden Scout Diary – August 1914 8
War between England & Germany was declared on Aug 4. The L.G. troop are proud to record that their former Asst Scoutmaster (who had left some time ago to join the Royal Navy) Bernard Phillips is now serving his country on board H.M.S. “Implacable”. George Pinnock is also on H.M.S “Powerful” waiting to go to sea. The Chief Scout has called on all Scouts to be ready to help if they are required & the following have volunteered…
Fourteen names are then listed, the first of which is Albert Basford’s.
Few details are known of Albert’s service in the Royal Engineers. However, a Royal Engineers’ Casualty List shows that, on 7th August 1917, 38594 Lance Corporal A.R. Basford was admitted to No 54 General Hospital at Wimereux near Boulogne, having been mildly gassed.
In the back of the Little Gaddesden Scout Diary a slightly scruffy list records: “R Basford Western. North Russia“. This entry is believed to be for Albert and fits with the other evidence found.
Absent Voters’ lists show Albert as a Lance Corporal in the following units of the Royal Engineers:
- Autumn 1918: 206th Field Company
- Autumn 1919: 385th Field Company
- 1920: 11th Field Company
- Autumn 1921: R.A.R.E. (Possibly the Royal Anglesey Royal Engineers)
The 385th Field Company was part of the British North Russia Relief Force which, in late May 1919, arrived to cover the withdrawal of British, US and other anti-Bolshevik forces involved in the North Russian Expedition. For his War Service, Albert was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Albert Basford is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. His entry reads Basford Albert, Royal Engineers. He is similarly shown on the 2018 Centenary Revision of the Roll.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Sister Edith’s War 12
From 14th September 1916, Albert’s elder sister Margaret Edith Basford served as a VAD at Fargo Military Hospital, Salisbury Plain. However, on 27th March 1917, she transferred to No 4 General Hospital France, serving there as a VAD Nurse in Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service. Edith remained in France until 14th March 1919. She too was then awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. She subsequently became a State Registered Nurse and Midwife.
Following the Brownlows to Belton 6
Albert and his parents’ 1925 Electoral Register entry shows them living on Main Road, Belton near Grantham. Like Ashridge, the Belton estate was owned by the Brownlow family. By this time Adelbert, 3rd Earl Brownlow had died and the Ashridge estate had been sold. However, it seems that Albert’s father Robert then moved to Belton to work for Lord Brownlow’s heir, Adelbert Salusbury Cockayne Cust, 5th Baron Brownlow. Albert’s parents then stayed at Belton until at least 1931.
However, on 5th August 1925 Albert Robert Basford married Ada Florence May Beer in St Gabriel’s Church, Plymouth.
Then, from 1926 they lived at 111 King’s Road, Melton Mowbray. Their son Robert F Basford was born that year.
The 1939 Register 15
By September 1939, Albert’s family lived at 187 Thorpe Road, Melton Mowbray. Albert was then a Joiner & Woodworking Machinist while Ada had “Unpaid Domestic Duties”.
Emigrating to Australia 16
However, on 23rd December 1948, Albert Robert Basford, aged 51, a Joiner and Ada Florence May Basford, aged 47, Housewife, emigrated to Australia. They left the Port of London aboard the P & O Steamship “Mooltan” bound for Sydney, New South Wales. Their previous UK address was: 7 Bellozanne Avenue, First Tower, Jersey.
1949 Australia Electoral Roll entries show Albert and Ada living at Flat 4, 28 Baker Street, Mayfield, Shortlands, New South Wales. Ada died in 1960.
Subsequent New South Wales addresses found in Australia Electoral Rolls for Albert are:
- 1968: Lot 35, St Ann Street, Nowra, Macarthur
- 1972: 9 Sunnyside Street, Mayfield 2304, Newcastle
- 1977: 81 Acacia Ave, Lambton 2299, Waratah, Newcastle
81 year old Albert Robert Basford died in New South Wales, Australia on 17th September 1979.
7. Little Gaddesden School Log Book 1906 – 1934
8. Little Gaddesden Scout Diary 1912 – 1922, HALS, Hertford, Acc 3131
10. 1918-21 Absent Voters’ Lists Parliamentary County of Hertford, Hemel Hempstead Division, Great Berkhamsted Rural
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson