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War Memorials

In Memory of
2nd Lieutenant
8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
Who was Killed in Action on Monday, 27th May 1918
Age 25

No Known Grave
Soissons Memorial to the "Missing", Aisne, France

Commemorated in Perpetuity
by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Remembered with Honour
Soissons Memorial to the "Missing"

Soissons Memorial to the "Missing"1

Alfred Sydney Bostock was born in Beeston, Nottinghamshire 0n 23 November 18922, the second of four surviving children, the younger son, of Joseph (b. 1858, Chilwell, Notts) and Mary (b. 1868, Ilkeston, Derbys, née Lane)2. The couple settled in Beeston after their marriage in 1889 and lived for most of their lives at 3 Barton Street (known as Malvern House), Beeston, Joseph having developed a wholesale provisions business. Alfred Sydney was educated at Nottingham High School and then joined his father's business, first as an apprentice alongside his older brother, Joseph Avery Lomas Bostock (b. 1890) who was, by then, working for the firm as a commercial traveller4.

By the time that war came in August 1914, both brothers were heavily involved in the management of the family business so it is not surprising that they were not part of the initial enthusiasm that say a large number of young men volunteer for service. But the relentless demand for new recruits continued even as the number of volunteers dwindled and the Government sought new ways to fill the gap. The Derby Scheme, which introduced canvassing for volunteers but still did not persuade the required numbers to enlist. So it was that conscription was introduced by the Military Service Act of January 1916 which meant that all single men aged between 18 and 41 (with some exceptions) would be automatically conscripted and this was extended to married men until in May 1916. Some, such as ministers of religion and widows with children, were automatically exempt but others who wished to claim exemption, perhaps on the grounds of domestic hardship or performing work of national importance, were required to make their case before one of the tribunals that were help in each locality on a regular basis. In Beeston, it members were drawn from the local community and also had representation from the Army. The case for those wishing to claim exemption was often made by the claimant's employer and, in the case of one or both of the Bostock sons, Joseph appealed to the Beeston tribunal in March 1916 on the grounds that they were vital to the operation of the business5. Although a temporary, two month deferral was given, both sons were required to enlist. Although we have no specific record of the date, it appears likely that Alfred Sydney enlisted towards the end of 1916, initially joined the Sherwood Foresters for training6.

Following his initial training, Private Bostock was identified as 'officer material' and, accordingly, was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant with the Durham Light Infantry on 27 November 1917 and it is likely that he completed officer training early in 1918, On 18 April 1918 he left for France7 and was attached to 8th Battalion8, then part of 151 Infantry Brigade in 50th Division. He was part of large reinforcement to the Battalion, which had suffered heavy losses which had been particularly unfortunate during the early stages of the German Spring Offensive, the enemy's attempt to defeat the British Expeditionary Force before the expected arrival of American troops. After their arrival 151st Brigade and reinforced with relatively inexperienced men, they found themselves in the Ypres salient and with loses during April which reduced the 151st Brigade to the size of one battalion. After being sent to Aisne to recuperate and regroup. After a further German attack which began in 26 May, the Brigade they were scattered and pushed back to south of the Marne. Only 103 men of all ranks survived 161st Brigade as a whole8. Following the fighting on 27 May 1918, 2nd Lieutenant Bostock was reported as missing and, in due course, was assumed killed in action. He had been in France for about six weeks during which time he had experienced little more than death and disaster. As his body was never identified, he is remembered on the Soissons Memorial9.

The Soissons Memorial is in the town of Soissons which stands on the left bank of the River Aisne, approximately 100 kilometres north-east of Paris. The memorial commemorates almost 4,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom forces who died during the Battles of the Aisne and the Marne in 1918 and who have no known grave. The memorial was designed by G.H. Holt and V.O. Rees, with sculpture by Eric Kennington. It was unveiled by Sir Alexander Hamilton-Gordon on 22 July 192810.

2nd Lieutenant Bostock was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal11. He is remembered on the memorial in Beeston Parish Church and the memorial at Nottingham High School.

Joseph Avery Lomas Bostock, Alfred Sydney's elder brother, served as a Bombardier with the Royal Garrison Artillery during the War but, happily, survived and was able to assist his father in the family business which operated as Joseph Bostock Ltd. Joseph Bostock Snr died in November 1940 but Joseph Jnr continued to operate the company. The business perhaps gained a higher profile locally after 1946 when the company acquired the building on Station Road that had been the Regent Hall12 where it carried out bacon curing, storage and other company activities. Joseph Snr's widow, Mary Bostock, died in 1962, aged 93. Joseph Junior, who had by then moved to live in The Park in Nottingham, died in November 1968, aged 78. The Station Road property was sold in 1983 to Foster & Pearson Ltd. It is now occupied by Beeston Conservative Club. Joseph and Mary's youngest daughter. Maud Sarah Eleanor Bostock (1902-1988) became a well known soprano soloist of considerable local standing. Her sister, Mary Irene (1908-1980) was a talented pianist13.

1The photograph of Soissons Memorial to the "Missing" is from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (http://www.cwgc.org).
2His birth was registered in Basford Registration District (of which Beeston was part) in Q1/1893(Ref 7b 194). His full birth date is recorded in the Nottingham High School archives.
3Their marriage was registered in Basford Registration District in Q2/1889 Ref 7b 225). 4Beeston, Notts, 1911 Census, Piece 20429 RD429 SD3 ED4 Schedule 27 - Malvern House, Barton Street. The family had the support of two domestic servants.
5An account of the appeal appeared in The Beeston Gazette & Echo on 11 March 1916. Joseph's appeal was on behalf of 'his son, who was the only inside man left. The whole of the buying devolved upon his son and the turnover was between 100,000 and 200,000 a year'. Which of the sons this was not specified but it seems likely that it was Alfred Sydney as his older brother had been the firm's outside salesman. A further 2 months postponement was granted.
6As his Army Service Record has not survived, no evidence as to his exact attestation date has been found. Unfortunately, perhaps because of the chaotic circumstances during the battle, only an outline account is given of the crucial battle. 2nd Lieutenant Bostock's name does not appear to be recorded in the War Diary as either a new arrival or a casualty.
His early attachment to the Notts & Derby Regiment (Service Number 5593) is recorded on his Medal Card.
7His date of arrival in France is recorded as 18 April 1915 on his Medal Card and his attachment to 8th Battalion is recorded in 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.
8This summary account of 8th Battalion's deployment in May 1918 is based on its War Diary (which can be found in ancestry .com) and the Regiment's Wikipedia entry
9His name is recorded incorrectly as 'D S Bostock' on the memorial and in the CWGC records.
10The description of the Soissons Memorial to the "Missing" is based on that on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website (http://www.cwgc.org).
11Details from Alfred's Medal Card and the Medal Rolls - available on ancestry.com.
12Details of the acquisition and disposal of Regent Hall are derived from title documentation relating to the property, seen by the author.
13All family details have been gathered from standard genealogical sources augmented by mentions in The Beeston Gazette & Echo.

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