Cook’s Mate Alfred Edward Victor Wooltorton

Alfred Wooltorton
Alfred Wooltorton © Newdigate Local History Society

Thank you to John Callcutt for letting us reproduce the following information, taken from his book: A Village at War. Newdigate in World War One. Thank you to Edward Wooltorton (Alfred’s great nephew) for the family photographs and memories.

Alfred Wooltorton was born in 1898 and grew up in the village of Raveningham in Norfolk where his father, George, worked as a gardener. The family moved to Newdigate in 1907 and lived at Hatchetts Cottage.

Alfred Wooltorton © Newdigate Local History Society
George Wooltorton in Newdigate. Photo courtesy of Wooltorton Family

George worked on the local farm as a hay binder and stockfeeder and Alfred worked as a baker’s boy in one of the local bakeries. The extra money was needed as there were now eight children to feed.

Alfred and Reginald Wooltorton
Alfred and Reginald Wooltorton © Newdigate Local History Society

His older brother, Reginald (M/16919) had joined the navy in 1915 so Alfred followed suit in the following year.

He spent from September 1916 to August 1917 at HMS Pembroke, the shore establishment in Chatham, which suffered a tragedy when the drill hall was hit, shortly after he had left, on the 3rd September 1917 by bombs from Gotha aircraft. Over one hundred and thirty soldiers were killed. Another tragedy hit the Establishment when, during the Spanish Influenza epidemic of 1918 two hundred and forty two sailors died.

Alfred Wooltorton. Photo courtesy of Wooltorton Family

Alfred was appointed Cook’s Mate on board the Hunt Class minesweeper, HMS Garth. (the Commonwealth Graves Commission states that the Garth was a trawler but that was not the case). Days were spent sweeping the west coast of Scotland from Aberdeen to Leith. Illness had struck the ship; on July 12th, 1918 Able Seaman Joseph M.R. Milet died and Alfred succumbed two days later from scarlet fever in the City Hospital in Edinburgh.

They are both buried in unmarked graves in the Seafield Cemetery in Edinburgh, but their names are commemorated on a special memorial dedicated to those whose names had not been recorded on a headstone.

Mabel Whiffen nee Wooltorton (right) at Newdigate Village Fair in 1990 © Newdigate Local History Society
Mabel Wooltorton’s House © Newdigate Local History Society

Alfred’s younger sister, Mabel Ethel L. Whiffen (nee Wooltorton) lived her entire life in the village until she died in 2004 aged 94. Edward Wooltorton remembers Mabel having a cockatoo.

Newdigate Church – Post 1945 © Newdigate Local History Society

Alfred’s brother Maurice (Edward’s father) went deaf at a very early age and attended the deaf boarding school in Margate. He learnt carpentry there and cycled around Newdigate with a bag of tools doing woodwork. Edward says that his father rebuilt the timber cross at the entry to St. Peters Church and also a story of the time he was on his bike and felt the whistle of a german V2 bomb going past him at which point he rode his bike to the nearest tree for cover.

Born                            Raveningham, Norfolk
Lived                           Newdigate, Dorking, Surrey

Son of                          George and Margaret Wooltorton of Hatchetts Cottage, Newdigate

Regiment                     HMS Garth. Royal Navy
Number                        M/16919

Date of Death              14th July 1918
Place of Death             City Hospital, Edinburgh
Cause of Death            Scarlet Fever

Age                              19

Cemetery                     Edinburgh (Seafield) Cemetery, Scotland

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