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From Lye to Flanders - following in footsteps of Great Uncle Albert

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: June 23, 2014

  • Albert's medals - The British War Medal, Victory Medal and the 1915 Star while below is Albert and his grave

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I THOUGHT Bugle readers would be interested in our First World War journey from Lye to Flanders following in the footsteps of Private Albert Hyde.

Albert Edward Hyde was born in 1895 at 66 Dudley Road, Lye. His parents were William and Mary. His siblings were Wilfred in 1896 and Mary (Polly) in 1897. Polly was my grandmother.

At 14 he worked in a bucket factory in Stourbridge and trained to be a blacksmith.

He joined the Lye Territorials. When the war began in August 1914, Albert was one of the first volunteers in the Worcestershire Regiment 1/7th Battalion, 48th (South Midlands Division).

On March 31, 1915, the battalion crossed the Channel in SS Onward landing in Boulogne. They went by train to Cassel and marched 20 miles in the pouring rain to Bailleul where they trained in trench warfare. Albert was billeted in Armetieres.

Albert's division was entrusted with a section of the front line near Ploegsteert (which the troops called 'Plug Street'). He spent five days in the front line trenches before he returned to billets or worked in the support trench.

On April 30, 1915, after a four-day break, Albert returned to the front line only to be killed by a sniper on that day. He was 20 years of age.

On Monday, three days after his death, a letter from Albert reached his mother in which he wrote

"I am all right in the trenches so far, ours are only 100 yards away from the Germans and we can hear them singing at night."

The next day the sad news of her son's death was received, his captain saying that Albert was 'fearless in danger and a most willing soldier'.

So, after researching the life of Great Uncle Albert, we decided to go to Belgium to see where he served and died.

We travelled to Ypres by Eurostar – London to Lille Europe, a five-minute walk to Lille Flanders and caught a train to Ypres.

We arranged two half-day tours with Bob Findley, of Battlefields Alive in Belgium , who took us to places, including Sanctuary Wood, to see preserved British trenches complete with shell craters and the German trenches at Bayernwald.

It was sad to visit Tyne Cot cemetery which is the resting place for more than 12,000 soldiers. We visited the emotive site of the Passchendaele battle where 400,000 soldiers were lost in 100 days. Bob showed us The Pool of Peace in Wijschate (called Whitesheet by the soldiers) is now a peaceful reminder of the Great Mine Battle of 1917 where the British tried to capture Messines Ridge. We also visited the place where John McCrae wrote the poem In Flanders Fields in 1915.

Bob took us near Plugstreet where we found a tree-lined ditch stretching far into the distance, this was the remains of Albert's trench on the front line. No wonder Albert could hear the Germans singing as their front line was only 100 yards away. The Christmas truce in 1914 took place in this area and the British soldiers played football with the Germans.

The last place to visit was Albert's grave at the Calvaire Military Cemetery. The inscription on his stone read 'A sad day recalled mother, father, Wilfred and Polly'.

We felt very sad as we placed there a small cross and a poppy with a message 'Great Uncle Albert, not seen but never forgotten'. Albert is also remembered on the Lye War Memorial.

We will always remember our visit. This area experienced some of the heaviest fighting in the war but now it is a peaceful place.

Eileen Tromans.


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