Alexander AUSTIN
Rank: Gunner
Number: 131602
Unit: 12th Battery, 35th Brigade ROYAL FIELD ARTILLERY
Date of Death: 9 October 1917
Age: 27
Cemetery: Birr Cross Roads Cemetery, Ieper, Belgium

Alexander is believed to have been born and lived for most of his life in the east Manchester districts of Gorton and Bradford. His mother is known to have been called Mary and a married woman of this name was living at 6 Elliott Street, Bradford, in 1901. The census of that year records she had three children Maud (then aged 12), Alexander (10) and John (7). She was later recorded (by the War Graves Commission) as living at 18 Cranbrook Road, Gorton. Alexander, however, was living in Stockport at the time of the War. However, he enlisted in Manchester where he probably worked.

The Brigade’s War Diary, held at the National Archives, records that on the day he was killed, they were at a position known as Chateau Wood near the hamlet of Potijze. They were firing a creeping barrage across No Man’s Land which was keeping down the heads of the German machine gunners, whilst a strong British infantry patrol was making its way across, probably with the intention of raiding the German trenches. Such raids were often carried to “snatch” prisoners so they could be interrogated for useful intelligence. Of course, the German artillery would have realised that something was going on and would have been firing back. During the exchange, Alexander was killed. He will have been buried close to the gun positions but, after the armistice, his body was moved to the new War Graves Cemetery at Birr Crossroads.

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