Albert Neville BATTY (BEATTY)
Rank: Private
Number: 163146
Unit: 75th Battalion (Central Ontario Regiment) CANADIAN INFANTRY
Date of Death: 18 November 1916
Age: 19
Cemetery: Vimy Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Albert’s family name is Batty. This is confirmed by the 1901 Census, the registration of his birth in 1897, a newspaper report of his death and this is how it is inscribed on the War Memorial. However, Albert may have decided to change his name when he emigrated to Canada and, certainly, by the time he enlisted into the army he had adopted the name Beatty. A possible reason is suggested later.

Albert was born in the Stockport area, his parents being Peter, a wagon repairer, and Margaret Annie. At the time of the Census, the family was living at 36 Garrett Street. Albert had a younger sister, Ada, who was then three. He also had several older siblings: Annie Elizabeth (18), Ellen (15), Jessie (14), Joseph (11) and Thomas (7).

When he left school, Albert trained to be a tailor and decided to make a new life for himself in Canada. It’s not known exactly when he emigrated, but by 1915, he had settled in Toronto. On 4 September 1915, he enlisted into the army. As with many young men, he will have felt a sense of adventure as well as a patriotic duty. When he attested, he lied about his age, giving his date of birth as 20 December 1915, making him two years older than he really was and immediately eligible for overseas active service. It’s possible that he assumed the name Beatty at this point so his enlistment couldn’t be traced by the family.

His attestation papers are available, on-line at the Canadian National Archives and these show Albert to have be a man of short stature, just over 5 feet 4 inches, with a 35 inch chest. He had fair hair with brown eyes and hair. He recorded his religion as Church of England. His father was registered as next of kin and was then living at 14 Heathland Terrace, Stockport. Albert was assigned to the 75th Battalion, which had started to recruit in Toronto on 15 August. After initial training, it left Canada in March 1916, landing at Liverpool. After further training, the Battalion embarked for France on 12 August.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July and the 18 November would see the final attack. Four British and one Canadian Division would take part. In the early hours, they moved into assembly trenches. The first snow of winter fell during the night. By zero hour, 6.10am, the weather had turned to sleet and rain. Visibility was very poor and the objectives were, by now, obscured by snow. As the whistles blew, Albert and his mates “went over the top, towards the enemy position opposite. They knew it as Desire Trench. This was not their first time action on the Somme, so they knew the dangers ahead.

In the appalling weather conditions, the 75th lost the correct direction but made it across No Man’s Land to the enemy position, although not the sector they were designated to capture. On their right, the 50th Battalion had failed to secure it’s objective and this allowed the enemy to pour machine gun fire onto the men of the 75th. They were also exposed to continuous sniper fire from the right. They barricaded the trench in between their positions and those of the Germans and also dug a new trench parallel to Desire. The newly captured positions were consolidated and they held them until relieved in the early morning of 20th November. The battalion had suffered 101 fatalities.

After the attack, Albert was officially posted as missing (although the casualty list written at the time records him to have been killed). He had probably been killed by shellfire. His family in Stockport must have been desperate for news, but his body was never found and identified. In February 1917, military authorities concluded that he must have been killed. The Stockport Advertiser, in its edition of 16 February reported that the “Youngest son of Mr Batty and the late Mrs Batty, 14 Heathland Terrace, Shaw Heath, who was reported missing on November 18 1916, is now officially reported killed on that date. He was 19 years of age. Two of his brothers are on active service.”

The Stockport Express also published two “In Memorium” notices. One was from “Father, Sisters Nellie, Jessie and Ada and Brothers Joe and Tom (in France)”. The other was from “Sister and brother-in-law, Fanny and Arthur, 24 Stockholm Road, Edgeley Park.”

Albert’s name is inscribed on the Vimy Memorial which commemorates nearly 12000 men who died whilst serving with Canadian forces in France and have no known grave.

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