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Seeing the World Grandad Alfred Woodworth


Written by Simon Bennett

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Alfred Woodworth, brother of Arthur and William, was born in Shepton Mallet in 1893 and moved to Bristol with his family in 1899.

As a youngster he had joined the 6th Battalion Gloucester Territorials and was at summer camp in Swanage in 1910. At 17 he joined the Merchant Navy, firstly sailing on the SS Clio, a Dutch Freighter out of Rotterdam, and then on the SS Mary Anne.

A story he later told to his daughter was of the time that a voyage was diverted and set sail to look for survivors of the Titanic disaster in 1912.

A year later, Alfred was working on the Elders and Fyffe’s “Banana Boats” between Avonmouth and Jamaica. They also delivered mail and carried passengers.

Alfred sent back many post cards to his mother Eliza Woodworth detailing his travels to Jamaica, Egypt, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Jordan and Jerusalem. He also collected a number of tattoos! A post card from Canada reported “rough seas all the way”.

In 1915 at 21 years of age, height 5ft 7” and a girth of thirty six and a half inches, Alfred enlisted to the Army Reserve as a Private.  His occupation was given as a Stream Wagon Driver, as he had been working for Builders and Government Contractors Wort and Way of Salisbury.

Eight months later, after training, he was mobilised as a Gunner in the Heavy and Siege Royal Garrison Artillery. The RGA fired the most powerful guns in the British Army.

On a furlong in 1916 Alfred married my Grandmother Gladys Evelyn Beeston in Long Eaton, Derbyshire and Gladys then moved to the Woodworth family home in Stacey Street, Bedminster in Bristol.

Photo of Alfred which was sent to his Mother in February 1919.

After the marriage Alfred was posted with a Mountain Battery to fight against the Bulgarians in the little-known campaign in Salonika. While in Salonika he contracted malaria and also got fined 15 days’ pay and was strapped to the gun barrel for being drunk on duty!

At the beginning of 1918 the Allied troops were prepared for a major offensive intended to end the war in the Balkans.

Just before the Armistice Alfred was involved in the Palestine campaign.

He also later saw action in Alexandra in 1919 where by the end of the First World War the Egyptian people had demanded their independence from Britain. He left there for Dover on 3 September 1919 and requested to leave the army.

He demobilised on 27 September 1919 and his discharge character included temperate, sobriety, reliable and intelligent! He was awarded the Victory and British War medals.

I was only five when Grandad passed away in 1970 but I know he did struggle after the First World War and reportedly drank a lot.

He worked hard all his life and said little about his war time experiences and he had very little to do with his two brothers Arthur and William.

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