"I wasn't frightened. I was bloody petrified."
Private Donald Cameron
ALBERT EDWARD PEARCE
Albert Pearce was born in Hackney in 1884 the son of Walter and Elizabeth Pearce. He had one brother, Walter John, and one sister, Emily. By the time he enlisted for service in Maidstone on 10th December 1915 he was living at no 2 Heathfield Road, Riverhead (it is first recorded in his papers as Eastfield Road but later becomes recorded as Heathfield Road). He had married Louisa Claretta Pyne in Kemsing on 26th April 1913. Their only child Kathleen Blanche was born on 15th November 1915. He originally enlisted into the Buffs (Royal East Kent Regiment) but had fitness problems which prevented him being approved for active service. It appears that he did not leave the UK until 22nd September 1917 landing in France the next day and by this time he had been transferred to the RWKR 10 battalion. He joined his new battalion on 1 October 1917 and in November the battalion moved to Italy. It returned to France on 16th January 1918.
The CWGC site records him as a Corporal but all other records show him as a private (even the correspondence post war relating to his pension and the return of his effects).
The German Army had commenced its Spring offensive (Operation Michael) at the end of March 1918 and had made significant advances.
The battalion war diary records that on 27th April 1918, the day before his death, the battalion was working on the Brielen Line in Belgium. It reads as follows:
" A serious explosion occurred behind the detail camp at G6 a 2.3 Sheet 28 NW Belgium about 12.30pm caused by a HV enemy shell striking an ammunition and guncotton dump. The camp was wrecked and numerous huts set on fire by the explosion. Rescue parties at once set to work to assist in recovering the numerous casualties from the debris and extinguishing the fires in the face of great danger from recurring explosions from the dump.
Casualties suffered by the battalion totals:- Killed Lieut D F Anderson, other ranks 17. Wounded - other ranks 28 Missing other ranks 1"
A longer report of this incident (some of which is taken from the battalion diary) appears in the following link (Albert Pearce is expressly mentioned towards the end).
As the record in the link suggests, it seems highly likely that Albert Pearce was a victim of this explosion. He died "of his wounds" in the General Hospital in Boulogne the following day. The strength of the battalion at this stage was recorded as Officers 39 and other ranks 1042.
On 3rd May 1918 Louisa Pearce (and Kathleen, their one year old child) received a telegram at home which read:
"Regret to inform you that OC33 General Hospital Boulogne reports 21204 Pte A E Pearce [illegible] Kents died April 28"