13 Jul 2009

AUSTIN Alfred Ernest

Private 11453 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards Died of Wounds on Monday 22nd March 1915 Buried at Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France - Grave IV.A.86

The inscription on Lancing War Memorial states E. A. Austin, but it's not easy to decide whether he was Alfred, Ernest or Jack, and whether his closest links were with Lancing, Sompting or Worthing. He was born on the 30th November 1881, the son of Alfred and Emily Austin of Sompting, and baptised Alfred Ernest Austin at St. Mary's Church on 9th April 1882. The Austin family were one of the oldest and most numerous in Sompting, and Alfred Austin senior worked as a gardener in the village. At the time of the 1891 census they were living in Cokeham, and by 1901 they had moved to West Tarring where Alfred senior worked as a nursery garden labourer, and at sometime prior to the outbreak of war Jack married, and he and his wife Mary Jane moved to 'Glindor,' Brougham Road, Worthing. Jack Austin enlisted into the Coldstream Guards at Worthing on September 3rd 1914, giving his address as the family home in Brougham Road, and his occupation as 'nurseryman'. His time in training was relatively short for that period of the war, but men were already urgently needed to fill the gaps left by death and injury, and he arrived in France on the 3rd February 1915 to join his battalion. The Worthing Gazette of 7th April 1915 reports:

'ANOTHER MILITARY AND NAVAL FAMILY - We get another interesting illustration of patriotic service in the case of the relatives of Mr. Ephraim Austin of Sompting. His eldest son Harry Austin in the Instructor at the Gordon Boys' Home and he has three grandsons at the front, these being Harry Gordon Austin, Albert Austin and Jack Austin, all of whom have been wounded. Mr. Austin has also a nephew Harry Stripps in the Royal Field Artillery, whilst three other nephews are serving with the Royal Navy in the North Sea, and another is with the Territorial Force in India.'

March 1915 seemed to be a relatively quiet period for the battalion - since the beginning of the month they had either been in trenches at Richebourg L'Avoué, or in billets at Le Touret, with little obvious action. Jack Austin died of wounds on March 22nd 1915, probably at No.33 Casualty Clearing Station at Béthune, and we know from a report in the Worthing Gazette on April 7th that his injury had been sustained on the previous day.

Worthing Soldier Killed We have received a communicatioin from the Front which tells of another local soldier having given his life for his country. This is Private A. E. Austin, of the First Battalion of the Coldstream Guards, who was one of two Worthing men serving in that Battalion. The one remaining, Private J. Shepphard, in his communication to the GAZETTE says that Austin died as the result of wounds which he received on the day previously, having been shot, it is thought, by a German sniper. Private Sheppard thinks that Austin was getting a little too far away from the barricade when he was shot, and he mentions that this occurred in the day time.



Randall said...

Appears to be wrong information in the article. My Grandfather Ernest Alfred (not Alfred Ernest) Austin was wounded and subsequently died on 22 March 1915 and buried in the War Graves Section in Bethune France (North Cemetery. I recently visited his grave along with my Grand daughter.

No trace of Jack Austin in our family history.

Eric Austin

Sue Light said...

Hello Eric
Thank you for your comments. Although I appreciate that family members know far more about these men than I do, information I have here does strongly suggest that he was commonly known as 'Jack' Austin. A letter to the Worthing Gazette (14 April 1915) isn't on the web, but does say:

The Late Private A. E. Austin
An Appreciation

To the Editor of the Gazette

DEAR SIR – In last Wednesday’s Gazette you published the sad news of the death of the above-named soldier. The name may not convey much to the average reader, but to those who knew him it came as a great shock. Brother A. E. Austin, more familiarly known as Jack Austin, was, I believe I can say without any fear of contradiction, about the hardest worker we had in Worthing on behalf of our local Hospital and the other Hospitals in West Sussex.
Every Sunday, without missing once, Brother Austin would be out somewhere in West Sussex with his banners. Most of your readers will now probably remember him, and my Club and Committee feel that we shall have an extraordinary difficulty in replacing him.

ALFRED JONES, Secretary,
Alliance Slate Club.

Regards - Sue