ALFRED ETHERINGTON was born in Ewhurst on 9th May 1884, the son of James, a farm labourer, and Eliza. In 1901, aged 16, Alfred lived with his parents in Cox Green, along with his elder brothers William (born 1875) and Seth (born 19/02/1879) and younger sisters Elizabeth (born 1888) and Martha (born 1890). At this time his occupation was given as a 'gardener domestic'.
On 26th April 1906 Alfred left Liverpool with his elder brother Seth on the SS 'Southwark', bound for Quebec. They gave their occupations as farmers. Once in Canada they travelled to Vancouver, British Columbia, where Alfred (or Alf) became a blacksmith's helper. With the commencement of hostilities in Europe, Alfred joined the Army in order to serve with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He attested at Vernon Camp on 29th May 1915, having been taken onto the strength of the 54th (Kootaney) Battalion on 15th May 1915.
The 54th (Kootaney) Battalion had been formed on 1st May 1915 in order to represent the men of British Columbia, many of whom had already volunteered and left for service overseas with other units. It was envisaged that the 54th would remain a locally recruited battalion. Following training at Camp Vernon, Alfred left the 54th and proceeded to England aboard the S.S California, leaving from Quebec on 23rd October 1915. He arrived in England on 1st November 1915 and was taken onto the strength of 30th (Reserve) Battalion at Shorncliffe in Kent the following day. The 30th Bn was acting as a reserve unit for the Canadian force in action on the continent, and having completed his last will and testament, on 8th December 1915, mentioning his brother Seth and his sister Elizabeth, Alfred embarked for France from Hythe on 20th January 1916.
FRANCE & BELGIUM 1916
On January 21st 1916 Alfred was at the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre. He was to remain here until 2nd February when he was transferred as a reinforcement to the 29th (Vancouver) Battalion, part of the 6th Canadian Brigade of the 2nd Canadian Division, joining them in the field as a member of a draft of 39 men on 3rd February. The 29th were in billets at the village of Locre, near Bailleul, having been relieved from the front line two days before. The next 13 days were spent in company training before proceeding back into the front line on the 16th of February.
By April 1916 the 2nd Canadian Division was in action to the south of Ypres in Belgium. The small village of St Eloi was the site of multiple craters formed by underground charges laid by tunnels during actions in 1915. The German line held a small height advantage over the Allied lines, called the Mound. Beneath this area the British had placed six large mine charges, which were detonated on 27th March 1916. The craters formed by the explosions were then assaulted from the British trenches. British forces remained in action in the area until relieved by the 2nd Canadian Division on 4th April 1916. On the 6th April, Alfred and the 29th Bn were relieving the 27th Bn when, at 3.30am, the Germans commenced a heavy long artillery barrage preceding an infantry assault. It is likely that during this barrage Alfred received a shrapnel wound to the lower right hand side of his jaw, fracturing his jaw bone. He was evacuated to No. 17 Casualty Clearing Station at Remy Siding in the hamlet of Lijssenthoek near Poperinge and the following day was transferred to No. 13 General Hospital at Boulogne.
RETURN TO ENGLAND 1916
After a period of initial treatment, Alfred was transferred to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre at Folkestone in Kent on 26th April 1916. Here his injuries were assessed and the following day was transferred to the Duchess of Connaught Canadian Red Cross Hospital at Taplow in Berkshire (sited in the grounds of Cliveden House). Here he was assessed as having complications with his jaw and tongue, and loss of taste. On 3rd May Alfred was transferred to the Westcliffe Eye and Ear Hospital, at Folkestone in Kent. During a five day stay Alfred's eyesight was diagnosed as requiring correction and glasses were ordered for him before he was transferred to the Granville Canadian Convalescent Hospital at Ramsgate. He was to remain here for three months, and on the 4th August 1916 reported back to the Canadian Casualty Assembly Centre at Folkestone to undergo four weeks of physical training. On 6th September 1916 Alfred was finally declared fit for duty by medical board and transferred to the 30th Bn at East Sandling, Kent (near Hythe) and on 27th September 1916 crossed the English Channel once again to France and the Canadian Base Depot at Le Havre.
TO THE SOMME BATTLEFIELD
Having just come out of the front line on the Somme battlefield, Alfred joined the 29th (Vancouver) Bn at Sausage Valley as a member of a draft of 23 men. Initially Alfred was sent to the Entrenching Battalion, a formation of men who fulfilled some of the labour intensive tasks of trench warfare such as trench digging and he rejoined the 29th (Vancouver) Bn at Gouy-en-Ternois on 12th October 1916. A period of company training followed, with a draft of 170 men arriving to replace the battalion losses from the Somme battle and Alfred departed on a five day bombing course on 30th October.
The 29th Bn remained in the Somme area into November, predominantly in the trenches near Souches. At the end of November Alfred was admitted to No. 1 Canadian Field Ambulance with influenza. Over the course of the next few days he passed through the hands of No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance (the Divisional Rest Centre) and No. 11 Canadian Field Ambulance before being discharged as fit for duty on 9th December 1916.
The battalion remained in the Souches/Lorette Spur/Bouvigny Woods area for the remainder of 1916 and on 30th January 1917 they moved north to Raimbert, near Bethune. In this rear area the battalion underwent training before moving further north to Mont St Eloi in Belgium in the middle of February. After a short spell in the trenches they once again retired to training in billets at Maisnil Bouche before returning to the trenches at Neuville St. Vaast in the third week in March.
The year of 1917 continued with the battalion remaining in this area to the south of the Ypres salient and on 29th May 1917 Alfred was awarded a Good Conduct Badge. The year saw the battalion fighting in the Third Battle of Ypres, predominantly the Second Battle of Passchendaele (26th October - 10th November 1917) following which, on 17th November 1917 Alfred was granted 14 days leave. An entry in his pay records made in London suggests that Alfred chose to return home to England for this rest away from the front line.
On returning from leave on 4th December 1917 Alfred was admitted to No. 6 Canadian Field Ambulance with tonsillitis and was subsequently transferred to No. 22 Casualty Clearing Station at Bruay then No. 26 General Hospital at Etaples. At the end of December he was transferred to No. 6 Convalescent Depot, then No. 13 Convalescent Depot from where, on 27th February 1918, Alfred was declared fit for duty and departed for the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Camp 2 at Etaples. He rejoined the 29th Bn on 3rd March 1918.
On 21st March 1918 the German forces under General Ludendorff launched a major spring offensive aimed to drive the Allied forces back across the old Somme battlefield of 1916 before the full might of the US Army could be brought to the battlefields of Europe. The 29th remained in action to the south east of Arras (Mercatel and Neuville Vitasse) from April to July, before moving to the Amiens area in the first week of August.
On the 8th August 1918 the Allies went onto the counter offensive to the east of Amiens, just to the south of Villers Bretoneux, where the Australians had halted the German spring offensive. Three Canadian divisions were in action, and the 2nd Canadian Division advanced to Le Quesnel. On the 9th August, after a stubborn defence, the village of Rosieres (35km east of Amiens) was retaken by the 2nd Canadian Division and tanks. During the fighting Private Alfred Etherington was killed in action.
Alfred was laid to rest in plot I.C.18 of the Rosieres Communal Cemetery Extension. He was posthumously awarded the Victory Medal and the British War Medal. These, along with Alfred's memorial plaque and scroll, were forwarded to his brother Seth, at 815 Drake Street, Vancouver, in 1922. Alfred is also commemorated on the Ewhurst War Memorial and the Ellens Green Memorial.
Alfred is incorrectly noted in the Ewhurst Book of Remembrance as a 'Lance Corporal of the Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, died of wounds sustained at the Battle of Loos in September 1915' . He is correctly mentioned on the Ewhurst War Memorial as a Private in the Canadian Light Infantry.
Alfred's brother, Seth, enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force on 18th June 1917 (service number 525305 Canadian Records RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 2934 - 47)