Albert Turner was a true ‘Old Contemptible’. He was a Regular soldier in the 2nd Battalion of the Coldstream Guards. He enlisted before the War as a guardsman with the service number of 8456. Attached to Number 6 Company he was to see plenty of action in his short career before being killed on 6th November 1914 in ‘the war to end all wars’!
William and Susanna Turner lived at Chapel House, Ringmer and had four other children before Albert was born on 23rd January 1890. He was baptised at St. Mary’s and educated at Ringmer School from 4th September 1893 (at age 3½) until 17th April 1902 when he obtained a labour certificate.
Along with many of his fellow countrymen of the time, a service life probably seemed preferable to the alternatives of long boring hours labouring on the land or even perhaps unemployment. It offered a regular if not spectacular wage and a pension at the end if you served your time and did not misbehave too much. The Second Battalion of the Coldstream Guards had remained in Britain since leaving the South African War theatre on 6th October 1902. It was no doubt this factor which influenced Albert to marry Nellie and set up their matrimonial home near the barracks in Middlesex.
Sent to France on 12th August 1914, Albert was among the earliest to go into action. As part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade, the 2nd Coldstream Guards was involved in the famous retreat from Mons. Several actions followed during the retreat and then the British Expeditionary Force swung once more on to the offensive. It started to push the Germans back again until stopped by stubborn resistance on the River Aisne. The period of static warfare was about to start and the British forces were transferred from France to Flanders where the First Battle of Ypres was to commence on 19th October 1914.
On 20th October the Battalion marched to Wieltje and on the following day was ordered to secure the Zonnebeke to Langemarck Road. Considerable opposition was met and many casualties resulted from continued fighting over several days. By the 25th the line destined to be held by the Coldstream Guards ran through Polygon Wood, some four miles east of Ypres itself. The weather was atrocious and our men were continually sniped and attacked by German grenade throwers. The enemy pressed ever closer to the British until in some places scarcely twenty yards separated the improvised and water logged trench lines. The wood was very dense and conditions ghastly with much hand to hand fighting. On 6th November 1914 Albert Turner was killed and he was given a battlefield burial at the time, but the grave was subsequently lost. He was, in consequence, commemorated on Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres. His body was later found, along with twenty-three other Coldstream Guardsmen, during battlefield clearances that took place between 1927 and 1932. Fortunately it was possible to identify his body and he was reburied in Sanctuary Wood Cemetery, Zillebeke, Belgium at grave reference IV.J.8.
Albert’s medals were sent to his widow who was subsequently to re-marry and, as Mrs Cuckson, moved to 40 Fernhead Road, Paddington in London.
Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, Ypres, Belgium