Rank: Gunner
Number: 8480
Unit: 155th Heavy Battery ROYAL GARRISON ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 16 September 1916
Age: 20
Cemetery: Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt, Somme, France

Alfred was the son of Isaac and Amy Matkin of 43 Aberdeen Crescent, Edgeley (and previously of 30 Roscoe Street). He was, almost certainly, related to George and Isaac Matkin. The two fathers of the three men originated from Bakewell and he was probably their cousin.

Alfred had attended the Edgeley Wesleyan Day and Sunday Schools and later found work as a cutter at the Chestergate Clothing Works. He enlisted in October 1915 and was assigned to the newly formed 115th Battery.

The Royal Garrison Artillery fired the heaviest weapons in the Army’s arsenal. The guns were used to batter enemy defences and, also, went into action to try to destroy the enemy’s own artillery. The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916 and, in the south of the battlefield, the artillery had been particularly successful in its tasks. 15th September would see the opening of another phase of the attack when the infantry advanced along a six mile front towards the village of Flers.

The Battery’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that from 6am on the 15th, their guns fired 500 rounds in support of the attack. The next day, Alfred was at his position on No.2 gun when he was hit in the head by a piece of shrapnel from an exploding enemy shell. He was taken to the nearby dressing station, operated by 20th Field Ambulance a little way to the rear of their position, but had probably died by the time he reached it.

Major Dobbin later wrote to the family “He was buried the same day by a chaplain of his own religion. If I live to return to Stockport I can tell you myself and describe his grave. Death was instantaneous. He got a shell splinter in the head and never moved again. I imagine he felt no pain and I was close to him. Don’t grieve. He lived to cross the enemy’s trenches with his battery and died a soldier’s death seeing his countrymen advancing. God will reward him for his duty carried out to death.”

Major Dobbin was obviously trying to be kind to the family in describing Alfred‘s death as “instantaneous”. If it had been, he would not have been taken to the Dressing Station. The War Diary records that, in the afternoon of the 16th, an officer (probably Major Dobbin) went to the Field Ambulance to locate Alfred’s grave.

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