Alf was the second son of Mr & Mrs James Ball, 102 Stockport Road, Cheadle. Before the war, he worked at William Mosley Ltd, bleachworkers, Cheadle. He is believed to have been a pre-war member of the Territorials and would have been mobilised when war was declared in August 1914. His original service number is believed to have been 2284. An account of the Battalion’s early months of service is here.
On 9 February 1917, the Battalion moved back into the front line at Wieltje, to the east of Ypres. The next day, the Cheshires’ trench was hit by an enemy shell, killing Arthur Arnold and Charles McClellan and wounding 10 more, including Alf. His sergeant, Robert Harding, wrote to the family that not only had they lost a good, brave and plucky son, but his Battalion had lost one of its best men. “He received his wounds last Saturday night about half past nine. There was a heavy bombardment on our trenches and Alf rushed round and took up a post in place of a comrade and, whilst standing there, a shell dropped behind him, the shrapnel hitting him in the back. I heard him shout he was hit. So with the help of one or two more, we got him under cover and bandaged him up as well as we could. He asked me to get him away as quick as we could, so in less than half a minute, three men volunteered to carry him out across the open, which was a much quicker way than down the trench. When I left him, he had been dressed again and was being put in a motor ambulance for the hospital.”
The ambulance will have taken Alf to a Casualty Clearing Station some 15 kilometres away in the village of Lijssenthoek but, presumably his wounds were too severe for him to be saved.
An officer also wrote “The fatality occurred during an artillery bombardment. At the time, your son was in charge of a post and, knowing that the watch would be a rough one, he himself went on duty to relieve a less experienced soldier.”
(NB: Original research by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)