Alfred William Inchley

Name Alfred William Inchley
Corps 2nd Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment.
Rank Private
Service No. 16871
Date/Place of entry December 1914      Enlisted at Kettering
Date of death 28 October 1915    Killed in Action
Memorial/Grave E22 x Farm Cemetery La Chapelle d’Armentieres

Alfred William Inchley was born in the spring of 1891, sixth child and eldest surviving son of the eleven children of George Bates Inchley and his wife Sarah nee Arnold. His infant brother George Henry had died shortly before Alfred’s birth. Although born in Middleton, Alfred William appears to have grown up in his grandfather Robert’s home in Rockingham where he is recorded in the 1901 and 1911 census.

Alfred’s mother Sarah was a domestic gardener’s daughter born in Bitteswill near Lutterworth in 1859, but she grew up in Dingley where her family lived at the Horse and Jockey. His father George Bates Inchley was born in Horninghold in 1855 but moved to Great Easton before his sixth birthday. There were numerous Inchley families living in this area of Leicestershire, some rather more prosperous than others. George’s immediate family consisted largely of farm labourers and shepherds, but other Inchleys born in Great Easton included farmers and tradesmen, some of whom were prominent in local affairs.

For example, a William Inchley from Drayton was an ironmonger in Loughborough before moving to Leicester where he helped found the new Congregational Church. The Leicester Chronicle of May 1861 reported the death of his eldest son John, a sergeant in the Army Hospital Corps who died at sea en route for Hong Kong.

An Edward Inchley farmed twelve acres at Drayton and ran a butcher’s business next to the Sun Inn. In 1862 he was appointed overseer of the sale by John Langley of seven freehold cottages at Drayton, five of them currently occupied by four Stokes families and the Perkins family with whom Solomon Oliver, father of Frederick Oliver lodged. Shortly before the War began, a Great Easton Inchley was appointed to the council school management committee.

There had been Inchleys living in Middleton from the eighteenth to the mid nineteenth century. An Edward Inchley was a butcher there in 1758, and is likely to be an ancestor of the Drayton butcher. Three Inchley burials took place at Cottingham between1849 and 1853.

However, the family of George Bates Inchley appears to be the only Inchley family in residence there in the 1880s. When Alfred was born George was employed as a groom and they lived on Middleton’s Main Street, later moving to School Hill close to the Vye, Fisher and Dunkley families. George’s name appeared in the local paper twice shortly before Alfred William was born, in July 1888 as the victim of an assault by John Bradshaw, and in 1890 as a witness to John Crane’s poaching.

George Bates was the eldest of six children of Robert Inchley and his wife Ann Clarke nee Bates. Robert was a shepherd born in 1834 in Great Easton. He married his wife, who came from Horninghold, in 1853, and the couple lived there until returning to Great Easton about 1861. They had moved to Rockingham by 1881 and stayed there for the rest of their lives.  

Robert’s younger brother James also married a Bates from Horninghold. Harriet Bates was probably Ann Clarke Bates’ sister; her father was a butcher and her brother Arthur was intriguingly listed as a ketchup dealer in 1851. There was evidently a continuing link between these families into the next century. Alfred William’s older sister Grace was staying with her widowed aunt Harriet at Horninghold in 1911.

Robert’s eldest sister Elisabeth married Edward Waterfield, a stonemason from Hallaton. Their grandson Charles Edward Waterfield, born in Corby, was to marry Emily Claypole of Cottingham and thereby become brother in law to William Claypole and Stephen Tansley Claypole.

Alfred William was not the only grandchild living with Robert and his wife Ann in Rockingham. Their young granddaughter Gertrude was with them in 1891 and was keeping house for Robert after Ann died in 1907. In 1911 Robert’s unmarried son William, another shepherd, was also part of the household. 

Alfred William would have grown up with his six Rockingham Inchley cousins, the children of Robert and Ann’s son Robert, a fishmonger and publican. Both Roberts were notable gardeners who won several prizes at the Rockingham Castle flower show in the 1880s and 1890s, particularly with their cherries, strawberries and gooseberries.  Robert junior was back in Great Easton in 1911, landlord of the Marquis of Granby. His son Alfred Thomas Inchley, who was the same age as his cousin Alfred William was now the family fishmonger. Robert’s two eldest daughters were in service in Notting Hill, London, and his third a nurse in the household of a Great Easton-born clergyman in Belper.

In August 1908 Alfred William probably witnessed an emergency on his grandfather’s property. Two haystacks belonging to Robert senior caught fire, and the Kettering fire engines were sent for. En route to Rockingham, the leading horse threw its rider who was run over by the fire engine. The unfortunate fireman fractured both thighs and the engine had to take him to Kettering hospital before starting out again for Rockingham. They finally put the fires out at 2.00am the following morning. One stack was destroyed and the other badly damaged, which must have been a major setback for Robert.

Back on Middleton Hill in 1901, George Bates Inchley was employed as a cowman. Seven of Alfred William’s brothers and sisters were still living with him and his wife Sarah; Grace, Jemima, Arthur Bates, Ethel, Edith, Linda and Frederick. In 1911 it was just the two youngest.

Two of Alfred William’s sisters moved to London like their Inchley cousins from Rockingham. The eldest, Flora, had been in Stamford in 1891 with her childless aunt Jane Cook nee Inchley, who later worked at the famous George coaching inn. Flora was employed as a cook in Paddington by 1901, visiting her fathers’ cousin Evelyn Peterson nee Inchley who had moved to London with her husband in the 1890s.

Also settled in London was Alfred’s third sister, the upwardly mobile Henrietta. Employed as a domestic servant in Wilbarston in 1901, she had moved on by 1911 to a position as cook in prestigious Hanover Square in London’s Mayfair. Alfred William, by now employed on the Rockingham estate, was in London to witness her wedding on 17 December 1914, shortly before he enlisted. Her husband was George Chambers, a chauffeur living at Bryanston Mews and probably not from the Cottingham Chambers family.

The next sister Jemima stayed closer to home, marrying an ironstone labourer from Wilbarston in 1911, while Ethel went into domestic service with a Leicester fishmonger – perhaps a contact of her uncle Robert’s? She got married there in 1915. Alfred’s younger brother Arthur Bates Inchley was a butcher’s assistant in 1911 but his WW1 Medal record shows he enlisted in the Royal Artillery later that year.

According to his WW1 medal record, Alfred William enlisted in late December 1914 in the 2nd Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment. He landed in France on 25 August 1915 and went to the Western Front.

The 2nd Battalion formed part of the 24th Brigade in the 8th Division. This Division comprised various regular army units which had been stationed across the Empire prior to the outbreak of war. Earlier in 1915 it had been involved in the Battles of Neuve Chapelle in March and Aubers in May; the Northamptonshire Regiment lost an exceptionally high number of men at the latter.

Alfred William arrived at the Front during a relatively quiet period for the 2nd Battalion who were in and out of the trenches all summer. The first three weeks of September were wet and cold and the battalion spent them in their billets. The decision ha been taken to mount an offensive near Armentieres, aimed at stopping the enemy sending reinforcements to Loos. This offensive was to be led by the 25th Brigade, with the 24th providing support. The chosen date was 25th September

The Battle of Loos took place from the 25th to the 6th October. The 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment fought there while the 2nd took part in a diversionary action to the north, at Bois Grenier. For the remainder of October the men of the 2nd were in the trenches. The regimental war diary for the 28th remarks that the enemy is quiet, adding that only six men have been killed that morning. One of those six was Alfred William. He was twenty four years old and had served on the Western Front for just nine weeks and a day.

I am greatly indebted to Annie Johnson for the following extract from a letter written some weeks later by her grandfather Alfred Bradshaw of Cottingham to relatives in London:

“The war does not get on so well as we should like, Inchley had a son killed a few weeks ago. Soon after he listed he caught cold and was very ill..... did not think he would live.  Dr Duke said he was not fit to go but they don't take any notice of local Doctors.  It must be a sight now with so many new recruits.”

Alfred is buried in X Farm Cemetery, a mile south of the village of La Chapelle d’Armentieres on the Bois Grenier Road. This area was very close to the Front Line and the cemeteries were largely made by fighting units and field ambulances during the early days of trench warfare. X Farm Cemetery commemorates just over on hundred WW1 casualties.

Alfred’s grandfather Robert died in 1917 and his parents George Bates and Sarah during the 1930s. His brother Arthur Bates survived the war, as did his cousin Alfred Thomas. There are no military records pertaining to his youngest brother Frederick; a man named Frederick Inchley served in the West Surrey Regiment but cannot be precisely identified. Frederick did take part in the war as Alfred Bradshaw mentions him in a letter written after the war had ended:

We are so glad the war is over.  So far Fred Inchley is home.  He has been one of the favoured ones.  He looks well.  The one that married his sister*, is weak….”
(*possibly Alfred Blissett of Wilbarston, husband of Jemima Inchley)

Of the other members of the extended Inchley family known to have served, only one was killed.  Alfred’s cousin William Wardle was the son of George Bates’ younger sister Harriet and her joiner husband Alfred Wardle who lived in Stamford. William was about the same age as Alfred William and died in August 1915, mere days before he arrived in France.

George Bates’ cousin Richard Inchley from Horninghold settled in Corby where he married Annie Hammond. Their son Thomas Frederick was in the Leicestershire Regiment whose website states he was badly injured at Ypres in April 1917 and remained in a convalescent home for most of the War.