Alfred Ernest Redston
Rank: Private
Number: 3513092
Unit: 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment
Date of Death: 24 July 1920
Age: 21
Cemetery: Basra Memorial, Iraq

Alfred would die in a conflict that has much resonance in the early years of the 21st century - as part of a military occupation force in Iraq.

Almost nothing is known about Alfred other than he had been born in Manchester in the late spring of 1899. His original service number, 74530, dates to quite late in the Great War and it is likely that he was conscripted when he became 18 in 1917.

British troops had landed at Basra in the autumn of 1914 with the intention of securing the oil fields. In moves which appear to have as much to do with the expansion of the influence of the Empire than with winning the War, they advanced northwards. The Turkish army was initially forced back but rallied to besiege and defeat the British at Kut-al-Amara. The Expeditionary Force was later reinforced and overcame the Turkish forces. Effectively the fighting was over in the spring of 1918 but an Armistice was not signed until 1 November.

In January 1919, the British established a military administration for the country and, in April 1920, the League of Nations confirmed the British mandate. Whether what happened next should be described as an Arab insurrection or an Arab fight for independence is immaterial. The Regimental History records that the first serious trouble arose at Rumaithah. A small force of British troops had been sent to deal with the situation but had been cut off.

A much larger force, including the 2nd Manchesters, was now assembled at Hillah, 60 miles from Bagdhad. On the 23rdJuly, the column moved off and marched to Imam Bakr, some 6 miles away. Temperatures were over 120F and the column's medical officer recommended that the men have 24 hours rest there. However, the senior commander at Hillah ordered the advance to continue and, by 12.45pm the next day, they had reached the Rustumiyah Canal. Here they started to dig in. For the remainder of the afternoon all seemed peaceful and the attached "political officers" were confident that the local inhabitants were friendly. However, a cavalry patrol arrived back with news that a well armed force of several thousand Arabs was moving on the column from the direction of Kifl. At 8pm, the political officers now advised that the locals were likely to rise in support of their advancing Arab force and made the strong suggestion that the British should retreat back to Hillah.

The Regimental History takes up the story. "About 8.40pm, the retirement began the Battalion finding advance and flank guards and although the Arabs had by this worked around between the camp and Hillah they were held in check and the retreat began promisingly enough. But while the advance guard was fighting its way through and clearing the flanks, something started a panic among the transport animals and these suddenly stampeded, bolting in all directions but principally through and over the advance and flank guards. The result was that many of the men were knocked over by the runaway carts, cut up into small parties and temporarily disorganised. The enemy was quick to seize the opportunity and attacked in masses, coming right in among the men and guns. Hand-to-hand fighting ensued and the Arabs were not beaten off until the column had suffered  heavy casualties, caused mainly by the men being separated in twos and threes and  surrounded by large numbers of the enemy.

However every officer and non-commissioned officer collected what men he could, some sort of formation was resumed and the retirement continued; and the Arabs having been at last beaten off, Hillah was reached by the remnants of the column in the small hours of the 25th."

Over 400 members of the column were dead. Fatalities amongst the 2nd Manchesters numbered 134 including Alfred and two other local men, Samuel Sayburn and John Malone.

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