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28375 SAPPER WALTER ALLDRITT
ROYAL ENGINEERS
by
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 2000.

1. Early Life

Walter Alldritt was born in the Parish of Kingswald near the town of Oswestry [1] in the County of Salop, Wales in January of 1870. His mother was Mrs. Sarah Alldritt of 8 Lowerbrook Street, Oswestry [2]. Prior to his enlistment in the Army, Walter served a five-year apprenticeship as a coach wheeler for a firm by the name of Rogers & Sons in Oswestry [3].

2. Enlistment

Alldritt was recruited for the Royal Engineers by Sergeant A. Smith of the 3rd Battalion, Shropshire Light Infantry. At the time of his enlistment he was not married, had never been imprisoned, had no prior military service, nor had he ever been rejected for prior military service. Alldritt was examined by H. Nelson Edwards, the Army Medical Officer in Shrewsbury, on the 16th of August 1894, and was duly certified fit for military service. On the 20th of August 1894 Alldritt was administered the oath of attestation by the Commanding Officer of the Shropshire Light Infantry Depot at Shrewsbury. The oath was witnessed by Lance Sergeant George Bamford of that regiment. On this same date Lieutenant (QM) George Pecker of the Shropshire Light Infantry signed the Certificate of Primary Medical Examination declaring Alldritt fit for service in the Royal Engineers. The Certificates of the Attesting Officer and the Approving Field Officer were both completed on the 20th of August 1894. Walter Alldritt was assigned Regimental Number 28375 and the rank of Sapper in the Corps of Royal Engineers.

3. Description and Personal Data

At the time of his enlistment Walter Alldritt was 24 years and 7 months old. He was 5 feet 6-1/4 inches tall and weighed 126 pounds with a chest measurement of 33 inches (35 inches expanded). Alldritt had a fresh complexion, grey eyes, and brown hair. His enlistment records show that his distinctive marks consisted of dots tattooed on his left forearm and on the back of his left hand. He declared himself to be a member of the Church of England [4].

4. Early Military Service

Sapper Alldritt was assigned to "F" Company of the Royal Engineers Depot Battalion at Chatham, Kent. After his initial period of military training he was assigned to the 7th (Field) Company [5] which was stationed at that time in the Curragh in Ireland, just southwest of Dublin [6]. On the 10th of August 1897 Sapper Alldritt applied to extend his service to complete 7 years with the Colours. His application was approved by Major W.F.H. Stafford, Officer Commanding, 7th (Field) Company, Royal Engineers. On the 28th of December 1898 Alldritt was granted Good Conduct Pay at the rate of 1.d per day.

5. The South African War, 1899-1902

In the early summer of 1899, with the probability of a conflict with the Boers in South Africa increasing, it was decided to send the 7th Field Company to Natal [7]. The company, under Brevet Lieutenant Colonel W.F.H.S. Kincaid, sailed for South Africa in July [8]. Upon its arrival in the Cape Colony the company was sent to Orange River Station, with one section of 50 men, under Lieutenant R.L. Mc Clintock, detached to Kimberley. This section was to render valuable service during the Boer siege of that town [9]. Alldritt's service record contains no entries indicating that he served with this section which took part in the defence of Kimberley.

Sapper Alldritt and the men of the 7th Field Company were assigned to Lord Methuen's column for the relief of Kimberley. The engineer units with this column consisted of the 7th and 11th Field Companies, the 8th Railway Company, the 31st Fortress Company, and a Telegraph Section, all under the command of Lieutenant Colonel J.B. Sharpe, R.E. as the Commander Royal Engineers (C.R.E.). The move northward commenced from Orange River Station on the 21st of November 1899 and by the afternoon of the following day the division arrived within 2 miles of Belmont Railway Station where the Boers decided to make their first stand on a range of hills commanding the railway. The Boers were driven from this position on the 23rd of November and the advance was continued. The Royal Engineers were assigned the task of repairing the railway that had been considerably damaged by the Boers before they retreated. On the 25th of November the Boers made a further stand at Graspan and then retired to the Modder River. On the 28th, the 7th Field Company was pushed on with an escort to endeavour to save the railway bridge over the Modder. The company was greeted by a salvo from the Boer artillery that had taken up a position on the north bank of the river. Alldritt and his mates soon discovered that the bridge had been destroyed. The Royal Engineers of the column were given the task of constructing a temporary bridge, a difficult task that was completed by the 10th of December.

On the 11th of December 1899 the 7th Field Company was attached to the Brigade of Guards and took part in the right attack during the unsuccessful Battle of Magersfontein [10]. Following this battle, Lord Methuen decided to hold his ground along the Modder River to await further developments with regard to the movements of the Boer forces and other British forces in the area [11].

British offensive operations began again on the 12th of February 1900 with the 7th Field Company attached to the newly formed 9th Infantry Division under Lieutenant General Sir H.E. Colville. Following the relief of Kimberley the British force began operations to capture the Boer forces in the laager near Paardeberg Drift which were under the command of General Cronje. Trenches were commenced and pushed forward towards the laager. By the 26th of February the 19th Brigade and the 7th Field Company had made a trench nearly 500 yards long on the right bank of the Modder as well as another trench on the left bank of the river. The Boer entrenchments were assaulted that night by the 19th Brigade, of which the Royal Canadian Regiment and a detachment of the 7th Field Company formed the vanguard. The men of the 7th Field Company got within 100 yards of the Boer trenches without being observed, and then, at about 3 a.m., a heavy fire was opened upon them and the sappers with some of the Canadians succeeded in entrenching themselves close to the enemy's lines. By 5 a.m. the trench was completed and fire was opened at short range on the Boers, who, after defending themselves for a time, made proposals for surrender. The action of the 7th Field Company in this battle was highly commended by Lord Roberts, who inspected them the same day and congratulated them on their gallant conduct [12].

The 7th Field Company continued the advance on the 6th of March 1900 with the Highland Brigade of the 9th Division. On the 13th of March the British forces entered Bloemfontein [13].

By the beginning of May 1900 Lord Roberts completed his preparations for the invasion of the Transvaal and gave orders for the advance. The 7th Field Company marched with the 9th Division on the 3rd of May. The company, which was attached to the Highland Brigade, reached Winburg on the 6th of May and immediately fortified the town for defensive operations [14].

The next operation undertaken was the capture of Johannesburg which was preceded, on the 29th of May, by an attack on Doomkop by the 19th Infantry Brigade to which a section of the 7th Field Company, commanded by Lieutenant E.E.B. Wilson, was attached [15].

Fighting continued in the northeast of the Orange Free State during June and July of 1900, and the Boers were gradually driven back. The Boers retired to the Brandwater Basin, a mountainous district lying between the Wittebergen and Roodebergen Hills and the Caledon River. The work of the Royal Engineers during these operations, including the 7th Field Company, was to block the mountain passes to prevent the Boer escaping.

By the 1st of September 1900 the regular campaign in South Africa was over. What followed from this point was a series of small guerrilla type operations for which the Royal Engineer field companies were broken up into small sections and detachments. On the 28th of December 1900 Sapper Alldritt was authorized Good Conduct Pay at 2.d.

For his service in the war, Sapper Alldritt, who had taken part in most of the major actions with the 7th Field Company, was awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps [BELMONT] [MODDER RIVER] [PAARDEBERG] [DRIEFONTEIN]. For his participation in the guerrilla war phase of the conflict in 1901 and 1902 he was also authorized the King's South Africa Medal with clasps [SOUTH AFRICA 1901] [SOUTH AFRICA 1902] [see Notes 16 through 22].

6. Return Home and Discharge

Sapper Alldritt had an undisclosed disciplinary problem while in South Africa, which caused him to lose l.d of his 2.d Good Conduct Pay on the 17th of August 1902. On the 24th of September 1902 he left for home after spending a total of 3 years and 72 days in South Africa. Sapper Alldritt's period of Army service expired on the 31st of October 1902 and on the next day he was assigned to Section B of the 1st Class Army Reserve, Royal Engineers. He continued in this status until the 19th of August 1906 when he was discharged on the termination of his first term of limited engagement. He was still a Sapper after completing his 12 years of service, of which 8 years and 73 days were credited to him towards pension. No specific mention of his conduct or efficiency as a soldier is made in his service record; however, the fact that he remained a Sapper for his entire period of service may indicate that he was a man of average ability. His loss of a portion of his Good Conduct Pay may also be an indication that his comportment was less than exemplary.

7. Post-Military Life

Little is known about the life of Walter Alldritt after he left the Army. His death certificate, issued at the Whitchurch Station in Hampshire, shows that he was an Army Pensioner and that he was receiving a pension of 10 shillings per week at the time of his death. The certificate shows that he resided at 7 Ledsam Street in Wolverton, Bletchley, Bucks. He died on the 12th of April 1947 of coronary thrombosis and arteriosclerosis. He was 77 years of age at the time of his death [23].

ENDNOTES AND SOURCES:

[1]. Oswestry is located approximately 6.25 miles northwest of Shrewsbury and 5 miles south of Wrexham.
[2]. W097/4247. Military History Sheet.
[3]. W097/4247. Short Service Attestation. Army Form B. 217.
[4]. W097/4247. Description on Enlistment.
[5]. W097/4247. Statement of Services.
[6]. Monthly Army List, March 1898, p. 441.
[7]. WATSON, C.M. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1954, p. 40.
[8]. Ibid., p. 78.
[9]. Ibid., p. 83.
[10]. FARWELL, B. The Great Anglo-Boer War. Harper & Row, New York, 1976, p. 105.
[11]. WATSON, pp. 89-90.
[12]. Ibid., pp. 100-102.
[13]. Ibid., pp. 103-104.
[14]. Ibid., pp. 114-115.
[15]. Ibid., p. 117.
[16]. WO100/155. Medal Roll, 7th Field Company, Royal Engineers, Bloemfontein, July 1901.
[17]. GORDON, L.L. British Battles and Medals. Spink & Son Ltd., London, 1971, p. 272. The clasp [BELMONT] was awarded to all troops under Lieutenant General Methuen's command who were north of Witteputs (exclusive), on the 23rd of November 1899.
[18]. GORDON, p. 272. The clasp [MODDER RIVER] was granted to all troops under Lieutenant General Methuen's command who were north of Honey Nest Kloof (exclusive) and south of Magersfontein ridge (exclusive) on the 28th of November 1899.
[19]. GORDON, p. 272. The clasp [PAARDEBERG] was awarded to all troops within 7,000 yards of General Cronje's final laager between midnight of the 17th of February and midnight of the 26th of February 1900, and to all troops within 7,000 yards of Koodoe's Rand Drift between those dates.
[20]. GORDON, p. 273. The clasp [DRIEFONTEIN] was awarded to all troops with Army Headquarters and Lieutenant General French's column; that is, the left and center columns which advanced from Poplar Grove on the 10th of March 1900.
[21]. WO 97/4247. Military History Sheet.
[22]. GORDON, p. 287. The King's South Africa Medal was authorized to all who were serving in South Africa on or after the 1st of January 1902 and who would complete 18 months' service before the 1st of June 1902.
[23]. W097/4247. Army Form 0. 1707. Death Certificate of Pensioner.