De nabestaanden van sergeant Alfred Graham, te weten zijn schoondochter en een kleinzoon, zullen op zondag 10 november a.s. de herdenkingsplechtigheden op klaprooszondag in Sittard bijwonen.
Vooruitlopend daarop hebben zij reeds een korte biografie met foto´s aan ons doen toekomen.
De originele Engelse tekst luidt als volgt:
Sgt Alfred Graham
Alfred Graham, or “Alfie” as he was known, was born in South Shields near Newcastle on the 31st August 1916, His father was Mark Graham and his mother was Julia Graham (Langridge). Alfie was one of twenty two children, all but six died in childhood.
We don’t really know a great deal about his early life but Alfie married Isobel Smith in 1935 and they had there only child, a son called Derek in February 1936. At this time Alfie was working for the Northumbrian Water Board. Before and during the war the family lived in Waldridge Cottages which is a very small hamlet with just one row of small houses near Matfen in Northumberland. He enjoyed mechanical things and had a number of motorbikes during the time.
Alfie enlisted in the army on 13th June 1940, at Glasgow, number 3323932, it’s not clear why he joined a Scottish Regiment the Highland Light Infantry rather than one of the more local regiments such as the Durham Light Infantry. He was described then as five foot eight and a half inches tall, had red hair and a fresh complexion and a tattoo on his left forearm.
Alfie spent from 1940 until 1944 in training, mainly in Scotland, this included leadership training, mountain and town fighting training. Alfie was made a Sergeant in May 1944 but in his letters he mentions that due to the shortage of officers that his platoon had no officers and he was responsible for the thirty soldiers from leaving England until his death in action.
Alfie was killed on 18th January 1945 whilst fighting in operation Blackcock to clear the Roer triangle, he was killed whilst fighting in Scharlbruch just over the German border, he was 29 years old. Although information may not be fully reliable, the letters from his friend Sgt Harry Beardsworth after his death indicate he was shot in the leg, and although only wounded he moved to try to remove his back pack and was then shot again fatally. In the letters from someone who was at his death it was said that he had a half smile on his face, but I’m sure that this is perhaps more for the people left behind.
As a sad note the sister of another soldier and friend in his unit called Sgt Jack Murray wrote to his wife Isobel asking if she could ask Alfie for news of her brother, as she and her family hadn’t heard anything from him, in fact he had been killed on the same day as Alfie by a Shell, he is also buried in Sittard cemetery .
His son Derek was only 4 years old when Alfie left for the war so had only a few memories of his father, however he did recall that he was an avid reader of Western (Cowboy) novels and always seemed to be smiling. Unfortunately Derek died in 1994 and Isobel died in 2006.
Alfie wrote lots of letters home, he wrote two home on the 16th January 1945 back to Isobel and Derek which we still have, in each letter he ends with “My Honey” and lots of kisses for Derek, his son.
Isobel his wife never re-married and she never really got over his loss. She did however get great comfort from knowing that his grave was tended and visited by a Dutch family called Van Unen who lived at PC Hooftstraat 29, Brunssum, they regularly exchanged letters and cards up until the 1980’s, their son Bertie also wrote to Derek from the end of the war. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the family for the friendship they showed.
Sadly Alfie never saw his son grow up or had the chance to know his two grandsons and three great grandsons of whom he would have been so proud.
To us he is our own special hero and his name lives on.
I would like to thank the members of the War Grave of Committee of Sittard and the other people who look after the graves for the generous hard work they do.