‘May 1st – I heard the nightingale’

Albert Lewis Reynolds - attestation papers

Title: Albert Lewis Reynolds - attestation papers
Description: First page of attestation papers held in National Archive for Albert Lewis Reynolds.nAncestry British Army WW1 Service Records by-nc

Before the war, Albert Reynold’s life was that of a countryman. He had been brought up in Pirton in Hertfordshire where his father worked as an agricultural labourer and chimney sweep. By 1911, Albert had moved from the area with one of his brothers and was working as a groom for a family in Hertfordshire. Married to Caroline Bashford in 1907, he was living and, presumably employed, in the Croydon area. By the time of the 1911 census, they and their son, Albert John Louis Reynolds, had moved again, this time to Surrey, as Albert is shown as working as a gamekeeper at Fox Hills, near Ottershaw.

When he joined the Royal Garrison Artillery on 2nd June 1916, he was living in Laurel Cottage, Windlesham.

He embarked in Southampton on 18th January 1917, arriving in Le Havre the following day. In July 1917, he was admitted to hospital with an ankle injury and was invalided home for a spell after this. He returned to France in Spring 1918 only to be wounded in August of that year. He died of his wounds on 9th August 1918.

From the Rev A.J. Hutton’s tribute to Albert Reynolds in the Windlesham Book of Remembrance, we know that Albert kept a diary. Sadly, the whereabouts of this document are no longer known but we are lucky to have these excerpts which help us understand Albert’s thoughts as he fought in France.

The full tribute is shown below.

‘Albert Reynolds was born at Pirton in Hertfordshire. His wife & son were living in Windlesham, Surrey when he joined up on June 1st. He was then 33 years of age. He joined up in the Royal Garrison Artillery 139th Heavy Battery. During the rest of 1916 he was in training at Dover. On January 18th he left Aldershot for France landing at Havre on 19th & reaching Albert on 21st January 1917. He kept a diary from which we know that in 1917 he was moving about between Moulain, Haudricourt,  Dunkirk, St Omer & Rouen & Coyde.

In July whilst grass cutting they were shelled out of Haudricourt. On July 19 he met with an accident whilst fetching forage, which necessitated his going into hospital at St Omer. After undergoing Xrays at Rouen he was sent to Southampton by Hospital ship St George & from there to Leeds & Killingbeck Hospitals where he was until November when he came home on leave. On Jan 5th he left home again for Bullivant. On April 13th 1918 he left Winchester for France again. On April 25th he was in action  ‘1 gun knocked out’ All June and July judging from his diary he was ‘in action’ most of the time till on the 8th of August he was hit & on the 9th he died. He was very fond of natural history & birdlife as the following extract from his diary shows ‘1918. On 23rd March fine morning with heavy dew, the birds singing on the trees and the rooks busy building their nests. The sun was shining very hot towards the middle of the day; a butterfly was flying around and bumble bees were whirling past; thus ended a perfect day’

Another entry in the midst of others ‘in action comes-

May 1st I heard the nightingale’

His wife received a very touching& sympathetic letter from one of his comrades on behalf of himself & all his mates in sub section E as soon as the news of her husband’s death in hospital had reached them at their battery on August 9th 1918.

He was buried in the British Cemetery at Pernois.’

Caroline Reynolds was awarded a pension of 21/8 per week from 17th February 1919. A few weeks earlier, she had been in discussion with the army about the return of her husband’s effects. A document shows that whilst items such as a pierced shilling, a pipe, his belt a pocket knife, two bibles and a cigarette holder were returned, she raised the fact that she had not received his watch or gold ring.

Caroline collected his medals on October 8th 1921.

Bibliography

Hutton A.J., date unknown, Windlesham Roll of Honour SHC Ref: Z_682_1 35A& 35B

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