Alfred CONWAY
Rank: Private
Number: 16288
Unit: 1/4th Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 30 December 1917
Age: 31
Cemetery: Chatby Memorial, Egypt

Nothing is known for certain about Alfred Conway's life other than military records indicate he was born in Stockport and enlisted in the town. The 1901 Census lists a 15 year old living in the town and working as a "hatter finisher" and this is probably the same person.

On the day he died, Alfred was one of 2500 aboard the troopship "Aragon" which had sailed from Marseilles. Alfred's "medal index card" at the National Archives suggests that he had two periods of service with the Cheshire Regiment. He had, no doubt, recovered from wounds or illness and was returning to his unit. On arrival at Alexandria, the Aragon was ordered back out of the harbour as no berth was available. As she cleared the harbour, she was torpedoed by German submarine UC34, commanded by Horst Ubermuller. She sank with the loss of 610 lives. Only a couple of hundred bodies were recovered and the remainder, of which Alfred is is one, are commemorated on the Chatby Memorial.

An account of the sinking was written by a nurse aboard the ship and quoted in "The Roses of No Mans Land" by Lyn MacDonald:-

"Gales raged in the Mediterranean and it was days before the Aragon was able to leave her sheltered anchorage for the last short lap of the voyage to Alexandria. On the third day they sighted the coast of Egypt. The ship's engines had stopped and she lay rocking gently ten miles offshore, waiting for the ship that would escort her to Alexandria harbour, while the rest of the convoy raced on towards Port Said..................

Suddenly there was a terrific crash and a lot of dust and bits of wood were blown up into the air over the aft well-deck.......

The destroyer HMS Attack had pulled up right alongside the ship and she was taking men off as fast as she could. But the Aragon was sinking fast and as she finally started to go down, the front of the ship was right up out of the water and there were men pouring down the side into the sea; it was simply a swarm of khaki all down the side and it seemed as if it would never clear before she went altogether. We felt that all our friends were drowning before our eyes.

Just before she went down she was hit by another torpedo and then immediately afterwards the destroyer was hit. It was bad enough seeing the Aragon go, but when that happened it filled us with an even greater horror because all the survivors from Aragon were aboard. The torpedo hit her in the oil bunkers, so all the men who were thrown into the sea were swimming in a pool of oil. The tragic thing was that those who were wet, had had time to strip off their clothes on board the Destroyer and so they were naked when thrown into the sea. When they got into the oil it sickened them with the fumes and made them unconscious, and it covered their bodies so that it was impossible to pull them out of the water. It was terrible to see where the ships had been, and now where there was nothing but a little floating wreckage and hundreds of swimming figures. The submarine was obviously still around and the captain of our trawler decided that it was too dangerous to risk staying there any longer. So we started back for the shore."

   
           
   
     
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