Private Alfred Stephen Taylor

Date of Birth 26 October 1885
Age at Death 30
Date of Death 12 September 1916
Service Number 451462
Military Service 58th Battalion, Attd, 2nd Canadian Tunnelling Company
Merton Address 95 Fortescue Road, Colliers Wood
Local Memorial Christ Church, Colliers Wood

Additional Information

Alfred was born on 26 October 1885 in Kingston upon Thames. His father was named Stephen Taylor, and his mother was Agnes Mary Taylor. Nothing is known about his early life, but at some point he immigrated to Canada. The first record we have for Alfred is a Marriage Affidavit for 22nd July 1913. While living at 419 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, Alfred married Annie Morgan who was born in Merton. The records state that his father’s name is Stephen, and that his mother’s maiden name is ‘Minnie’ Macgregor.

On 28 August 1915, Alfred enlisted with the 58th Battalion of the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force. He is described as being 5 feet 9 inches tall, with grey eyes and brown hair. He also has a tattoo of a Butterfly Girl on his right arm. His occupation is a Labourer.

In September 1915, the British government sent an appeal to Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to raise tunnelling companies. The Canadian Military Engineers contributed three tunnelling companies to the British Expeditionary Force. One unit was formed from men on the battlefield, plus two other companies trained in Canada and then shipped to France. It is probable that Alfred served with the 58th Battalion on the battlefield, before being transferred to the Tunnelling Company.

Underground shelters and passageways were constructed in order to give troops some protection from the violent confrontations occurring on the battlefield. Galleries were constructed off trench systems so troops could find shelter near the front. Tunnels allowed troops and supplies to move up to the front in relative safety and aided in the evacuation of the wounded. Tunnellers were also involved in offensive operations where a shaft would be driven under German front lines and loaded with explosives to be detonated in advance of an allied attack.

On 12 September 1916, the 2nd Canadian Tunnelling Company were stationed at Mount Sorrell, which was a ridge held by the Allies against German attacks. The entry in their War Diary for this day records: -
“Enemy camoufleted us at DIAMOND ‘listening post’- We lost 1OR (other rank) killed.” This most likely refers to Alfred, who was killed on that day. A camouflet, in military science, is an artificial cavern created by an explosion. If the explosion reaches the surface then it is called a crater.

Alfred has no known grave, so he is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres. He is also commemorated locally at Christchurch, Colliers Wood. Alfred’s wife Annie, moved back to England, as her address was recorded as 95 Fortescue Road, Colliers Wood, in the Commonwealth War Graves Records.


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