Alexander was born in Cheadle, one of the youngest of John and Lucy's children. When the 1901 Census, he was away boarding at Sedburgh School. The remainder of the family appear to have been on holiday staying at Low Lindath Farm, Undermillbeck, Westmoreland. Apart from Malcolm, then 13, all of Alexander's siblings were several years older than him. The family business was in the silk trade and his two eldest brothers, Frederick and Walter, worked with their father.
Whilst at school, Alexander was a member of the Rifle Corps and this will have stood him in good stead for obtaining his commission when War was declared. When he had finished school, he chose not to join the family business but trained in the law. In February 1910, he qualified as a solicitor's clerk and, by 1914, he had risen to be managing clerk for the Taylor, Kirkman & Co. The legal practice still has offices in Bramhall.
Alexander joined the 6th (Territorial) Battalion on 2 September 1914. He will have known many of the local middle class men who joined in those days, and his great friend, Tom Worthington, was a pre-War member of the Battalion. Alexander was given the service number of 2475. His service papers still exist at the National Archives in Surrey and these show him to have been a very tall man for those times, standing at over 6' 1" and weighing 185 pounds.
The Battalion left for Egypt on 10 September and some details of its first few months can be found here. It has been difficult to trace Alexander's early service but it is known that he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 25 April 1915. Until recently it has not been clear if he had stayed in England until this time but the personal diaries of the Commanding Officer have recently been published by the Regimental Archives (as "Great Gale to Gallipoli"). These now confirm that Alexander was "promoted just before we left Cairo from the ranks". Within a few days, the troops left to go into action at Gallipoli. Alexander survived the attack on Turkish positions on 4 June and was one of only four officers still at duty on the 5th.
He was promoted to Lieutenant the same day. There were only about 200 men fit for duty, out of a normal strength of nearly 1000. It must have been a very difficult time for Alexander as he will have lost many friends in the previous days. However, the work of rebuilding the Battalion started immediately. He must have made an impression on the Colonel as, later, two new Captains joined the Battalion to command companies. His diary entry for 1 July 1915 notes that he got rid of both of them and "put Milne and Kershaw in their places".
Alexander would now lead "C" Company into the fateful attack on 7 August. Click here to read the details of how this brave man died. His body was never found and identified and his name is now commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing.
It took some while for Alexander's affairs to be finalised in England. He had not left a will so his estate all went to his mother. It was valued at £6533 - worth nearly £350K at 2005 prices.