Peasants to Puddles
My Family History - By Nicky Rowberry

Albert Edwin Corbett - Private 241700

This page is dedicated to the memory of Albert Edwin Corbett who died on 26th March 1917 in Gaza.

Albert Edwin Corbett died on 26th March 1917 at the First Battle of Gaza. He was unfortunately one of the casualties amongst the millions of men who lost their lives in World War 1. It seemed sad for him to have died and all but these bare facts remembered, so I've tried to find out at least a little about his life before his untimely death aged just 19.

Albert was born on 26th August 1897 at 7 Usk View, Merthyr Road, Abergavenny in Wales. He was the 7th known child of James Corbett and his wife Sarah Ann Vine. His father James was a farm labourer who had been born in Herefordshire, where he had met Albert's mother Sarah. Albert's older siblings had been born in Herefordshire, before the family moved to Abergavenny about 1890. By 1901 the family were living on Llanellen Road in Llanfoist near Abergavenny. James Corbett was working as a horse and cattle man.

By 1911 the family was living at 4 Princes Street, Abergavenny - a row of little terraced houses. James was described as a farm labourer and Albert and his younger sister Beatrice were still at school. Most of the older childen had moved out, but his older brother Alfred was still at home and employed in the coal mines. Albert had initially attended Llanfoist school and then Clydach School from 1904 to January 1907 then Garnvach School in Nantyglo from January 1907 to November 1907. Since he was still at school in 1911 he must have moved on from Nantyglo school, but I've not tracked down the records yet. All these school moves were probably related to the family moving as James got jobs in different places around Abergavenny.

I don't know when Albert enlisted but it probably wouldn't have been until at least 1915 when he was 18. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission website confirms that he was a Private in the 1st/5th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment. I can't reproduce the CWGC photo of the cemetery, but to see his page please click here

You can now look at the Medal Roll cards from the first world war online. These show a soldier's name, rank and what medals they were entitled to. Due to copyright issues, I don't think I can reproduce the image of the medal card, so instead I've transcribed it.

NameCorpsRankReg No.
CorbettWelsh R.Pte5479
Albert E.ditto 241700
Medal.RollPageRemarks
VICTORYJ/1/104 B3211880 
BRITISHdittoditto 
STAR   
  
Theatre of War first served in 
Date of entry therein 

The index card indicates that he would have been entitled to two medals. The British Medal was awarded to servicemen who served in a theatre of war between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918. The Victory Medal (Allied Victory Medal) was awarded for service in any operational theatre over the same time frame. The Star was awarded to all those who served in any theatre of war against Germany between 5th August 1914 and 31st December 1915. The fact that he wasn't awarded the Star medal suggests he may not have joined the army until 1916.

Albert's battalion was in the forefront of the fighting at Gaza on 26th March 1917 and bore the brunt of the attack. 122 fellow soldiers from his battalion died in Gaza that day. For those Welsh soldiers whose ages are listed in the CWGC site, the average age was just 25; Albert was one of the youngest at 19. Unfortunately although many War Diaries have been digitised and are available online, the ones for Albert's regiment in Gaza have not. It's rare that the War Diaries mentioned any Ordinary Rank soldiers by name, so it's unlikely that Albert is mentioned in them, but it would be nice to check. In the absence of any detailed accounts, some idea of the fighting can be gained from the newspaper reports about Gaza. I suppose in trying to keep morale up, the newspapers made out it was a big success; not for the Welsh troops who suffered so much there though.

I've struggled to find reports of Albert's death in the local newspapers. I thought it would have been reported in the Abergavenny Chronicle, but the only mentions I've found of him are these brief snippets from May 1917 and January 1919.

Albert was buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery. He is also commemorated back home on the Abergavenny War Memorial, which is a white marble plaque on the wall in the entrance to the town's market hall. This memorial splits the men into those from the town and those from the rural area, Albert is listed in the first category.

The final piece of documentation I could find for Albert was his entry in the Army Register of Soldiers' Effects. It lists the amout of money in his account at the time of his death and the amount, including the War Gratuity, that was eventually paid to his next of kin - in this case to his father James. For Albert the total amount came to just 5 3s 10d - not much to show for the ultimate sacrifice.

It would be lovely to complete Albert's story by finding a photo of him, so if anyone has one, please do get in touch. He had quite a few siblings, so hopefully there are some descendants out there who can help. E-mail: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

In researching Albert's final days, several sites have been invaluable, so I've included links to some of them here.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

The National Archives at Kew:

The British Newspaper Archive:

Welsh Newspapers Online at the National Library of Wales:


If any of the above is of further interest, please feel free to contact me at: n.rowberry@btinternet.com

Nicky Rowberry 2021

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Peasants to Puddles - My Family History. By Nicky Rowberry