Alfred Andrews was born on 23rd August 1897, one of eleven children to George and Louisa Andrews. George was a bricklayer and labourer from Sussex, who had met and married Folkestone-born Louisa and moved to the Kent town.
When Alfred left school, he found similar employment to his father. He wanted bigger and better things, however, and 5th November 1913 he signed up for the Royal Navy.
Alfred’s service papers show that, at the time of enlisting, he stood 5ft 5ins (1.65m) tall, had brown hair, brown eyes and a fresh complexion. It also shows that he gave his year of birth as 1895 – this suggested to the authorities that he was 18 years old, and therefore old enough to join up.
Stoker 2nd Class Andrews’ first posting was HMS Pembroke, the Royal Naval Dockyard in Chatham, Kent. He spent nearly five months there being trained, before being given his first ocean-going posting aboard the battleship HMS Vanguard.
When war was declared, Vanguard was involved in activity in the North Sea, conducting drills and patrolling the waters off the Shetland and Orkney Coasts. By the time Stoker Andrews returned to Kent, he had been on board for more than a year, and had received a promotion to Stoker 1st Class.
Over the next couple of years, Alfred served on two more ships – HMS Daffodil and HMS Hebe. In between assignments, he was based at HMS Pembroke, and it was here that he found himself in the summer of 1917.
That summer was particularly busy for HMS Pembroke; when the barracks there became full, Chatham Drill Hall was used as temporary accommodation and this is where Stoker Andrews found himself billeted.
The German Air Force was suffering significant losses during the daylight raids it carried out. In an attempt to stem the flow of casualties, the decision was taken to trial night time raids and, on 3rd September 1917, Chatham found itself in their line of fire. The Drill Hall that Stoker Andrews was sleeping in received a direct hit, and he was killed. He was just 20 years old.
The 98 servicemen who perished during the Chatham Air Raid that night were laid to rest in the Woodlands Cemetery in nearby Gillingham. This, too, is where Alfred Andrews was buried.
While researching Alfred’s life, it became evident that his older brother, Ernest, died in 1915. Wondering is this was another war-related death in the family, I dug a little deeper into his life.
Ernest George Andrews was born in Folkestone in 1883 and was the oldest of George and Louisa’s children. Like his younger brother, he too enlisted in the armed forces, joining the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1899, at the tender age of 16. Over the following decade, he served all over the world, at bases in Malta, South Africa and India.
Ernest would have cut a domineering figure – he stood at 6ft (1.83m) tall, and had a number of tattoos – clasped hands, men and women on his left forearm and a heart and birds on the right.
By 1910, Lance Corporal Andrew’s initial term of service and he re-enlisted. Based on home soil this time, he was barracked in Aldershot, Hampshire. His time in the army was not faultless, and there are a couple of occasions – while abroad and back at home – where he was pulled up for being drunk on duty, or for disobeying orders.
A further example of the man Ernest had become, led to his discharge from the army on 6th April 1912. This was the date on which he was sentenced to five years’ penal servitude for ‘feloniously and violently ravishing one Jane Kennedy’ [British Army War Records].
I have not been able to find any further information on the incident, which had happened a couple of months earlier, but it seems that Ernest served his time, and then returned to his home town in Kent. His trail goes quiet at this point, and he died on 21st August 1915, at the age of 32. He was buried in his home town.