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H.M.T. Dongola
H.M.T. Dongola
S.S. Kingstonian
S.S. Kingstonian
Just behind the front line in Flanders
Just behind the front line in Flanders
Aerial view of Passchendaele village, before and after the battle
Aerial view of Passchendaele village, before and after the battle
image: Crown Copyright. Imperial War Museum catalogue number Q 42918A
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Maslin, Alfred

Alfred Maslin
1914 Star
1914 Star
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Private Alfred Maslin (6645)
Killed in Action on Tuesday 11th June 1918, aged 33
Son of Grandmother - Maria Maslin
Born 1886 at Reading
position in family: 1
Relatives: Cousin - Horace Robert Maslin
Local address: Wards Cross, Hurst
Pre-war occupation: Soldier
Enlisted:Reading, Wednesday 12th November 1902
Regiment:Royal Berkshire
Battalion:2nd Bn.
Went overseas:Friday 6th November 1914
Died:Tuesday 11th June 1918
Cause:Killed in Action
Battalion at:Epernay
Commemorated:Memorial at Soissons Memorial

Alfred Maslin was born in Reading in 1886 and by the age of five was living with his grandmother at 36 Southampton Street, Reading. His grandmother was sixty years of age, the widow of a policeman and worked as a laundress. By 1901 Alfred was employed as a servant to a butcher and greengrocer at 139 Caversham Road, Reading.

A year later, when he was sixteen, Alfred enlisted into the army at Reading and was recorded as living in Twyford. A soldier normally signed up for twelve years and could then apply to extend that period. He was obliged to complete five or seven years in the colours after which he could choose to join the Reserve. Soldiers in the Reserve returned to civilian life but were paid a retainer and undertook to attend training annually and return to the army in the event of war.

With the outbreak of the First World War a general mobilization was signalled and all of the reserves reported back to their units. It is not known whether Alfred was a regular soldier at this time or in the Reserve, but he was certainly in 2nd Battalion of the Royal Berkshire Regiment from the time of mobilization. During the war Alfred's home address was Ward's Cross, Hurst.

2nd Battalion was stationed at Jhansi, India when war broke out and moved to Deolali on 4th September. Five days later they were on the move again, this time to Bombay, arriving on the 14th September. They then embarked on the troopship S.S. Dongola, sailing for England on 20th September.

The Battalion arrived at Liverpool on 22nd October 1914 and entrained for Winchester, destined for Hursley Park Camp where they joined 25th Brigade, 8th Division. They marched to Southampton on 4th November and Alfred embarked for France on S.S. Kingstonian, along with Charles May, Isaac Lamb, and Caleb Winsor, arriving at Le Havre the following day. After a short march they reached base camp outside Le Havre with an establishment of 30 officers and 978 other ranks. The Battalion entrained for Strazeele on 9th November and moved from there to billets at Merville, eventually arriving at Estaires on the 14th November.

From Estaires they relieved the 1st East Surreys on the front line trenches, working in rotation with 2nd Rifle Brigade. The Battalion suffered terribly from trenchfoot and illness caused by the damp conditions and abrupt change of climate. Rest periods were taken two miles behind the lines at billets in Laventie. 2nd Battalion was in the front line during the truce of Christmas 1914 and fraternised with Bavarian soldiers in No Man's Land. The first three months of 1915 were spent on rotation in the trenches before the Battalion took part in their first major engagement at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. They suffered heavy casualties with 75 men killed, 223 men wounded and seventeen missing.

After a summer of front line duty the Battalion again went on the attack in September. Their unsuccessful advance at the Battle of Loos cost 131 men killed, 206 wounded and 60 missing. The Battalion had been decimated and fell back into Divisional reserve to replenish its complement and train the fresh drafts of men. In early 1916 they were based south west of Armentieres and again spent some time in the trenches. On 27th March the Battalion was withdrawn to Divisional reserve at Sailly-sur-la-Lys and next day travelled by train to Longeau Station, Amiens.

Over the next few days the Battalion marched east to Millencourt on the Somme where they relieved 2nd Middlesex Regiment in the trenches. Then followed the by now familiar rotation between front line trenches and reserve billets until the Battalion was withdrawn on 22nd June 1916 in readiness for the forthcoming major offensive. The next week was spent in Long Valley near Albert preparing for action. During this time the British bombardment of the German lines continued unabated and the expectation was that the wire would be cut and the defences destroyed.

The 2nd Battalion attacked Ovillers at 7.30 a.m. on the First Day of the Somme and were cut down in waves by rifle and machine gun fire. Only a small group actually entered the German trenches and were soon bombed out. The attack was over in a short time and the survivors returned to their trenches, which were being shelled and swept by gunfire. By mid afternoon, when the Battalion was relieved, the casualty count was 39 men killed, 268 wounded and 127 missing.

The remnant of the battalion had to withdraw to reform and recuperate and the rest of the summer and early autumn was spent near Vermelles, with only a few periods of trench duty. They came back to the Somme area on the 10th October and were in and out of trenches with a few raids to break the monotony until the 5th June 1917. The Battalion then moved north to relieve the 1st Worcesters at Ypres.

The Third Battle of Ypres started on 31st July 1917 and 2nd Battalion had two major engagements in the unremitting mud of Passchendaele horror: at the Battle of Langemark on the 16th August and near Passchendaele on the 2nd December. Then when the German Spring Offensive was launched on the 21st March 1918, the 2nd Battalion was moved back to the Somme area to try to stem the attack.

They first saw action on the 24th March and gradually retreated until 25th Brigade were withdrawn on the 28th March. From 27th April 1918 they were in the French sector and faced the third German attack on the Aisne on 27th May. The casualty return tells the sorry story: two men killed, 51 wounded and 653 missing. The Battalion had been overrun and virtually wiped out; all that remained were 7 officers and 120 other ranks. On 1st June 1918 these men were merged with the other remnants of 8th Division to form the 1/8th and 2/8th Composite Battalions. It is not known which of the two composite Battalions that Alfred Maslin joined.

Both Battalions were holding the line in the Bois d'Eclisse north of Epernay when he was killed in action on 11th June 1918. Alfred was thirty-three years old and had been in the army for sixteen years. During the war Alfred was reported in the Reading Standard to have been wounded twice, so he may have been recuperating for part of the three and a half years since he was first sent to France. He was also reported to be a Bombing Serjeant, though this would indicate a subsequent demotion to Private before he was killed. Alfred has no known grave and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial, about thirty-five miles from where he fell.


Alfred Maslin on the Soissons Memorial
Soissons Memorial

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon