Albert Edward KERSOPP (Kirsopp)
Rank: Private
Number: S/4786
Date of Death: 21 June 1918
Age: 35
Cemetery: Niederzwehren Cemetery, Germany

There is some doubt about the spelling of Albert's surname. The family history website, FreeBMD, records the birth of Albert Edward Kirsopp at Cockermouth, Cumberland in 1883. This spelling is also in the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. However, the spelling on both the Heaton Mersey and Stockport War Memorials is Kersopp.

It's not known when the family moved to the Stockport area but the Commission records Albert's next of kin information as being his parents, Mary & the late Edward, of 3 Chapel Street, Heaton Mersey. These records date from the early 1920s.

Albert is known to have enlisted at Stockport and his army service number suggests this was in 1914. He will have been an original member of the newly formed 9th Battalion and gone overseas with it in May 1915. The Battalion was the Pioneer unit for the Army's 9th Division. Pioneer troops were training fighting soldiers but their normal role was to provide labour to construct defensive positions.

The London Gazette, in its edition of 27 July 1917, gave the official announcement that Albert had been awarded the Military Medal for an act of bravery. There are no citations to accompany this medal and an examination of the Battalion's War Diary makes no mention of him. Gazette entries are normally about three months after the event, so it can be assumed that Albert's action took place during the Battle of Arras in April and early May.

On 21 March, the German Army launched an attack of overwhelming force against the British troops in the area of the Somme. Within hours, the British were in headlong retreat along a 40 mile front. Albert and his comrades were in reserve camp at Sorel-le-Grand. The next day, they came under artillery fire from the advancing Germans and had to hurriedly pack up and move to Hennois. This was not before another local man, Charles Hardy, had been killed. On the 23rd, they withdrew further to Combles.

On the 24th, the Battalion's War Diary records "Under orders, Battalion retired during the morning through St Pierre Vaast Wood to positions at Rancourt, being subjected to heavy machine gun fire on debouching from the Wood. Fought rearguard actions back to Hardcourt. Reorganised and maintained position on the river bank and finally took up position in front of Maricourt."

Although it is not possible to know exactly what happened to Albert, it is almost certain that he was wounded during the retreat on the 24th. It was probably not practical to carry him with them , so he will have been left to be taken prisoner by the Germans and receive medical attention from them.

He died as a prisoner of war on 21 June. After the Armistice, it was decided that the bodies of British soldiers should be moved from their burial areas near PoW camps to one of four "concentration" cemeteries. Albert's burial at Niederzwehren suggests he will have been a prisoner in Bavaria or Saxony.

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