ALBERT VICTOR BRAND

Private, G/25693, 1st/4th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Formerly of the Royal Army Medical Corps, no. 33623
Died of Wounds at the 2nd General Hospital, Le Havre on 3 August 1918, aged 26
Buried at Ste Marie Cemetery, Le Havre, Seine Maritime, France
Division 62. III. Row O.7
 

Albert Victor Brand, aged about 18

Albert Victor Brand was born in June 1892, at Felbridge, Surrey, the son of John and Mary Brand and baptised on 4 September at Holy Trinity Church, Forest Row. His father had been born at Dormans (or Dormansland), Surrey, and was a gamekeeper, Mary had been born in Lingfield, Surrey.

The 1901 census records the family as John Brand, aged 42 and Mary Brand, 46, his wife, with their children George, 17, a domestic gardener; John, 15, a baker; Edmund, 14 also a domestic gardener; Ada Emma, 10; Albert Victor, 8; and Frank, aged 4, all living at Felbridge. Ellen, their eldest child, aged 19, had already left home. George and John were born in Newton Abbott, Devon; Edmund and Ada at Salisbury, Wiltshire and Albert and Frank at Felbridge. It may be that John senior moved to different jobs as a gamekeeper through the informal connections employers with shooting estates had with each other. Felbridge is in Surrey but the censuses note it as Sussex. Felbridge is now on the outskirts of the town of East Grinstead in West Sussex.

By the 1911 census Mary, widowed after John's death aged 45 in 1905, had moved a few miles south to Forest Row, East Sussex, living at 'Underwood' in Highgate, then a separate hamlet from the main part of the village. Mary is the head of the household; with her are Ada, now 21, Albert, aged 18, working as domestic gardener and Frank, 14, a 'house boy'. Also living in this seven-roomed house is Mary's stepfather James Cook, aged 75, a cowman on a farm. The older children had presumably set up house on their own.

As a 'domestic gardener' Albert would most likely have worked for various local middle-class families, people who had a garden with flowers, lawns, some vegetables, soft fruit and perhaps a couple of fruit trees. Depending on size and inclination such families employed a gardener or a man and boy for two or three days each week. Gardening for middle-class men and women was considered suitable exercise, a worthwhile interest and many publications were targeted at this lucrative market.

Domestic gardeners usually lived at home with their families and walked or cycled to work, their employers providing tools and equipment. George and Edmund, two of Albert's brothers, had also been domestic gardeners and probably provided Albert with useful contacts. These freelance workers often started as a 'gardener's boy', learning from an older, experienced man and set up on their own once they felt they had sufficient expertise. This was in contrast to an 'estate gardener' who would work on a large estate as part of a team under a head gardener and with a more formal training. Estate gardeners were usually housed by their employers.

The date of Albert's enlistment at Horsham is unclear. Mary died in 1915 so possibly he enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps, service number 33623, about that time. He was later transferred to the Royal Sussex Regiment, 1/4th Battalion service number 25693.

The 1/4th Battalion Territorial Force was originally stationed at Horsham attached to the Home Counties Division. On 24 April 1915 the battalion moved to Cambridge and was transferred to the 160th Brigade of the 53rd Division. On 16 July 1915 the battalion embarked at Devonport, arriving at Alexandria on the 28th. It took part in the Gallipolli campaign, afterwards being evacuated to Egypt due to heavy casualties, disease and poor weather conditions. In 1916 the battalion fought in Palestine at the Battle of Romani and in 1917 at the Second and Third Battles of Gaza and the capture and defence of Jerusalem. During 1918 the battalion fought at the Battle of Tel'Asur before embarking for France in May via Alexandria. As Albert's date of transfer to the battalion is unclear it is not known to what extent he took part in these campaigns.

The Royal Sussex Regiment War Diaries show that on 1 July 1918 Albert's battalion, now in France, was recorded as having 29 officers and 941 Other Ranks (O.R.). During that month the battalion was involved in close fighting in the area of the Bois de Boeuf, St Remy Blaney. On 21/22 July the battalion billeted in Pusieux. On the 23rd the battalion moved to a nearby wood and bivouacked there, the orders were to act as a reserve. It was heavily shelled. Three companies were sent to the L. N. Lancs. (Loyal North Lancashire) to support an attack. They were not needed and returned. One officer and 47 O.R.s were wounded during the shelling. Two O.R.s were wounded during 24th/25th. On 27 July the battalion was relieved by the French and marched to Bois de Boeuf, near St Remy Blaney. On 28th orders were received to proceed to a point of assembly along the railway S.W. of Bois de Montcran. Their French guide had however 'completely lost direction' by 9.30pm. The assembly point was finally reached by 2.45am on 29th. At 3am the commander Captain Weekes was killed, another captain wounded, Captain Middleton took command. On a two-platoon frontage the battalion advanced, supported by and supporting the Queen's Regiment on the left and the King's Own Scottish Borderers (K.O.S.B) on the right. The advance was halted by enemy machine guns firing from the wood. It was impossible, owing to lack of communications, to obtain artillery support and the line withdrew to a road and was reorganised. The wood was successfully rushed by bayonet and the machine-guns captured. At 7am the advance continued, was held up by more machine-gun fire. The line withdrew again, was able to obtain artillery support, retreated out of line of fire until the wood was cleared of the enemy. The battalion's line was consolidated by 8.45am and held during the day. Three officers and 42 O.R.s had been killed, 4 officers and 125 O.R.s were wounded during this action. During 30 and 31 July the infantry was not in action but enemy artillery was active. Altogether 179 O.R.s were wounded during the July fighting. Orders were received on 31st to 'occupy the objective assigned for 29th' from 4.45am on 1st August. This time there was artillery assistance. By 2 August the objective was reached with less resistance than expected and enemy machine-guns captured. The battalion bivouacked on 3 August.

At some time during this fighting Albert was wounded in the right arm by gunfire, presumably from the enemy machine-guns. He would have been evacuated behind the lines and taken to the hospital at Le Havre, dying on 3 August 1918. The letter to his next of kin is dated 6 August, sent from N.2 Infantry Record Office at Hounslow and was probably received on 7 or 8 August.

Albert's sister Ada had married Alexander Padgham in 1913 and was living at Pavilion Cottages, Highgate when she received the official letter informing her of Albert's death at the 2nd General Hospital at Le Harvre on 3 August. Mary Brand had died in 1915 so it is likely that Ada was listed as Albert's next of kin. The memorial book in Holy Trinity Church, Forest Row is signed by his brother Frank, also living at Pavilion Cottages, a couple of hundred yards from Underwood, where they had lived in 1911.

As customary, the family requested and received a photography of Albert's grave with its wooden cross, sent by the Director of Graves Registration and Enquiries. This was later replaced by the usual stone memorial.

Albert Victor Brand was entitled to the Victory Medal and the British War Medal.

Vivien Hill

The AFRG would like to acknowledge the help of the Brand/Padgham descendants for copies of their family documents.