Friday, August 07, 2015

24187 Private Albert Henry Gaston, 7th Royal Sussex Regiment, later Labour Corps

Albert Henry Gaston was born at Chailey about 31st January 1886.  He appears on the 1891 census as a four year old living at Fletching Common, Newick with his parents: John Gaston (head, aged 27, a farm labourer), Ann Gaston (wife, aged 25) and baby brother John (aged four months). 

By the time the 1901 census was taken the family had moved to Stair Bridge Lane, Bolney, Sussex and now comprised John Gaston (head, aged 39, born in Newick, a stockman on a farm), Ann Gaston (aged 36, born in Chailey) and five children: Albert (aged 15, working as a farm labourer), John George Gaston (aged ten), Annie Naomi Gaston (aged eight), Lizzie Gaston (aged five) and James Gaston (aged two). 

Albert attested with The Royal Sussex regiment at Chichester on 3rd August 1914.  He gave his age as 28 years and 215 days and his trade or calling as gardener.  He stated that he had not resided out of his father’s house for three years continuously.  He is described as five feet, four and a half inches tall with a fresh complexion and brown hair and eyes.  He was considered fit for the army, given the number 827 and posted to the 7th Battalion.  He is named as Albert Edward Gaston on this document although this is clearly an error.  On other army papers – his Casualty Form Active Service for instance – he is correctly named as Albert Henry Gaston. 
Chailey Parish Magazine mentioned him in it’s first published roll call of local serving men in October 1914 (albeit mis-spelling his name as Gasston).   

On 24th May 1915 a daughter, Noreen Eve, was born to him and exactly one week later he sailed for France.  He remained overseas until September when he was wounded in action at The Battle of Loos.  His surviving service papers state that he was wounded on the 27th; Chailey Parish Magazine gives the 26th. 

He returned to England on 1st October aboard the hospital ship Jan Breydel with a bullet wound in his right thigh and was posted to the Royal Sussex Depot.  He does not appear in Chailey Parish Magazine in February and March 1916 but In April he is back and noted as Gasston, Pt A, 7th Ry Sx, England.

On 18th April he was posted to the Command Depot and from there, on 10th October 1916 posted to the 23rd Training Reserve Battalion.  On 2nd December he was transferred to the 29th Middlesex Regiment and then, on 13th March 1917, to the depot of The Royal Fusiliers.  Finally, on 23rd June 1917 he was transferred to the 427th Agricultural Company, Labour Corps and given a new number – 241847..

Albert was demobilised on 12th August 1918 and transferred to Class Z.  His character was noted as very good.  His medical certificate of identity notes his medical class as B2 and his address as Warren Cottages, North Common, Chailey. 

On 2nd April 1920 the Pensions’ Board, noting his gun shot wound to the thigh and adjudging the severity of the injury to amount to a 20 per cent disability, awarded him 5s 6d (plus 1s 4d for wife / children) per week, commencing 23rd March 1919 and expiring 2nd September 1919 and 8s (plus 3s 6d for his wife / children) commencing 3rd September 1919 and expiring on 25th February 1921.   

On 11th May 1921, presumably closing its files, the Labour Corps Record Office wrote to the Infantry Record Office:

Re 241847 Gaston, A H, Labour Corps, formerly GS/RS/7/827 Royal Sussex Regiment. 

Please inform this office at your earliest the date the above mentioned man returned from France as according to attestation man was wounded in France on the same date that he returned to England, ie: 1st October 1915, which is obviously an error.  Please treat as very urgent.  

The reply, dated the following day, confirmed that Albert had been wounded on the 27th

The photograph on this page was taken when Albert was serving with The Royal Sussex Regiment and was sent to his old headmaster, John Oldaker, in Newick.  John Oldaker's notes state that he was a pupil at the school between 1897 and 1899 and that he sailed for France in June 1915 before being wounded there in September that year. My thanks to Simon Stevens for sending this on to me.

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