Albert Dowsett was born in the Essex village of Sible Hedingham in the spring of 1868. He was the fourth of six children – all of them boys – to Stephen and Susan Dowsett. Stephen was an agricultural labourer, while his wife worked as a straw plaiter to bring in a little extra money.
Albert seems to have been a bit of a tearaway. In July 1877, a local newspaper reported that:
Ezekiel Rulton and Albert Dowsett, boys each nine years of age, were indicted for breaking into the dwelling house of Matilda Jaggard, at Sible Hedingham, and stealing two books, value 1s, on the 20th June. Rulton, having once before committed burglary was sentenced to 10 days’ hard labour and five years in a Reformatory School. Dowsett was acquitted.Essex Standard: Friday 6th July 1877
Stephen died in the autumn of 1884, while Susan died in March 1892. By this point Albert was 23 years of age, and had found solid work in the army. Full details of this early service no longer remain available, but he fought in South Africa in the 1890s.
By 1897 he returned to England and moved to Stone, near Greenhithe, in Kent. It was here that he met and married Anna Davis, the daughter of a local brewery man. The couple set up home in the village, and went on to have three children, William, Dorothy and Margaret.
The 1911 census recorded the family living in a small terraced house close to the railway station in Greenhithe. Albert was working as a labourer in the wash mill of the local cement works, and the family had a boarder, widower William Davies, who was a weighman at the same works.
Away from work, Albert had also found another calling, and was employed as a verger at St Mary’s Church, just a few minutes’ walk from home.
War was now encroaching on Europe, and, with his previous army service, Albert was perfect to resume his military role. Given the age limitations for new recruits early on in the conflict, it is likely that he volunteered for this role. He willingly took up a post with the 3rd Supply Company of the 2nd/4th Battalion of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment).
Private Dowsett was given a guard’s role, and was part of the team given the duty of patrolling two explosives factories near Faversham. He was on duty on the afternoon of Sunday 2nd April 1916 when a fire near one of the factory buildings set off a series of massive explosions. More than a hundred people were killed; sadly this included Private Dowsett. He was 48 years of age.
Albert Dowsett was laid to rest, along with the other victims of the Faversham Explosion, in a mass grave the town’s Borough Cemetery.