Private Albert Edward Essex enlisted as a regular soldier with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 23rd November 1903, aged 19 years three months (although according to the age on census records, this is not correct, and he would have been aged 17). His service record is available on the Find My Past website (available free of charge in any Solihull Library, with your Solihull Library Card) and shows that he went on to serve with the regiment in India and Agra. He served three years with the Colours, including terms in India and Agra. Following active service, he spent a further year in Section A, 1st Class Army Reserves. On completion of this year, he was relegated to Section B Reserves on 26 November 1907.
A typical term of service in Section B Reserve would be five years, which means that Albert’s service would have expired on 26th November 1912. However, there was also an option of extending Section B service for a further four years, moving to Section D Reserve with the same terms and conditions. Pte Albert Essex appears to have taken up this option of an extension, as his service record is stamped “Mobilised Wrexham 5 Aug 1914”, just one day after war was declared. The Long, Long Trail website has a useful summary to help understand transfers to the Reserves.
Anyone with Albert Edward Essex in their family tree could easily miss his war service, as he was present in England for all the census returns in his lifetime. On the 1891 and 1901 censuses he was recorded living in Ulverley Terrace, with his parents James and Maria, and his five other siblings (two brothers and three sisters. Two more siblings died as infants). Albert was the youngest of the three sons and is shown on the 1901 census, aged 15, as a gardener, becoming a building contractor’s navvy by 1911. There is no mention on the census that he was an Army reservist. By 1911, the family had moved to Coronation Place, Ulverley Green, Olton, where they were still living when James received his son’s medals and next-of-kin memorial plaque in 1919.
Albert’s service record describes him as 5ft 6 and 7/8ths tall, with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. It notes that he had a scar on the outer side of his left forefinger. He wore size 7 boots and a size 21.5 helmet.
His conduct whilst with the Colours was described as very good, although the Defaulter Book entry in his service record indicates he was punished twice: for being eight minutes late falling in for parade in Lichfield on 6 Apr 1904; and for being absent without leave for two hours on 11 May 1904.
His baptism is recorded under the name Albert Essex (no middle name) in the Solihull parish register on 29th August 1886, with his parents listed as James (a labourer) and Myra [sic], with their abode recorded as Solihull.
Private Albert Edward Essex is commemorated locally on the memorial inside St Margaret’s Church, Olton. He is also commemorated in France at the Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck.
If you have any more information about Albert Essex or his family in Olton, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
tel.: 0121 704 6934