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Albert Rayner Teale

Albert Rayner TealePrivate Albert R. Teale, 251571, Royal Scots, 5th/6th Battalion

Albert Rayner Teale was born in Ossett in the September quarter of 1896, the only son of Benjamin Teale and Annie (nee Illingworth) who had married in 1878. In 1911, Benjamin, Annie and their four children, three girls and one boy aged between 23 and 14 were living at 16, Ashfield View, South Parade, Ossett. Albert, aged 14, was the youngest child and he was still at school.

On the 14th February 1916, Albert Rayner Teale, then a pupil teacher, of Ashfield View, Ossett, enlisted in the army at the age of 19 years and 180 days. At 5’ 7½" Albert was tall for his age in comparison to most recruits, but his medical examination on the 31st March 1916 reported that at 31” chest measurement he had an "under standard chest, but will develop". A chest measurement of 34” was regarded as the standard.

Albert was posted to 'B' Reserve and, perhaps to give him time to develop, he was not mobilised until the 1st May 1916 and he was "at home" until the 2nd January 1917, when he embarked at Folkstone for Boulogne. He joined the 20 Infantry Base Depot, Etaples the same day and was posted to the 5/6th Battalion, Royal Scots in the field on the 6th January 1917.

Private Teale was reported missing, presumed dead, ten days later on the 16th January 1917. In March 1920, Albert’s father, of Ashfield View, South Parade, Ossett returned the list of close relatives to the War office as was the norm in respect of soldiers lost in action. Annie Teale died in 1918, aged 60 years after 35 years of marriage and two of his three sisters had married. They were: Elsie Amelia Proctor (widow), Lottie May Peaker and Mary Lois Teale.

Elsie married Robert Proctor in early 1916 and he died, aged 23, in late 1917. Both registrations were made in Dewsbury. As late as April 1922, the (then) Imperial War Graves Commission and the Army were exchanging correspondence with the former, seeking information regarding Albert’s death or burial. None was available from the Army who reported only that Albert Rayner Teale was reported missing on the 16th January 1917 and that "He was subsequently accepted as having died for official purposes on this date vide War Office Casualty List no. E/4802 6101, dated 18-12-1917."

The 1/5th Battalion (Queen's Edinburgh Rifles) of the Royal Scots was formed in August 1914 at Forrest Hill, Edinburgh and was part of Lothian Brigade, Scottish Coast Defences. On the 11th March 1915 the battalion transferred to 88th Brigade, 29th Division at Leamington Spa and sailed from Avonmouth on the 20th March 1915, going via Egypt to Gallipoli, arriving on the 25th April 1915. They returned to Egypt on the 7th January 1916 and then moved to France, landing at Marseilles on the 10th March 1916. On the 24th April 1916 the battalion transferred to 'Lines of Communication' and on the 15th June 1916 they amalgamated with 1/6th to become 5/6th Battalion when there was a large influx of replacement territorial soldiers. On the 29th July 1916, they transferred to 14th Brigade in the 32nd Division.

The Allies had an ambitious plan for the spring of 1917; this being an attack into the salient that had formed north of Bapaume, during the Battle of the Somme in 1916. The attack was to be directed northwards from the Ancre valley and southwards from the original front line near Arras to meet at St. Léger, as soon as the ground recovered from the winter and was intended to combine with the effect of the offensive planned at Arras.

British operations on the Ancre from 10 January – 22 February 1917, forced the Germans back 5 miles (8.0 km) on a 4 miles (6.4 km) front, ahead of the schedule of the Alberich Bewegung ("Alberich Manoeuvre"/"Operation Alberich") and eventually took 5,284 prisoners.

There was no specific battle on the 16th January 1917 when Private Albert R. Teale died, during the 32nd Division's involvement in the Allied Operations on the Ancre. These operations started with attacks on a system of trenches known as 'The Triangle' east of Beaumont Hamel on the night of the 10th January 1917.

The "Ossett Observer" 1 carried a very short report with a picture of Private Teale:

"Private Albert Rayner Teale, (20), of the Royal Scots, officially reported missing since January 16th. Home address: 16, Ashfield-view, South-parade, Ossett."

Private Albert Rayner Teale, died on the 16th January 1917, aged 19 years and he is remembered on Pier and Face 6D and 7D at the Thiepval Memorial, 2 Somme, France. The Thiepval Memorial will be found on the D73, next to the village of Thiepval, off the main Bapaume to Albert road (D929).

On 1 July 1916, supported by a French attack to the south, thirteen divisions of Commonwealth forces launched an offensive on a line from north of Gommecourt to Maricourt. Despite a preliminary bombardment lasting seven days, the German defences were barely touched and the attack met unexpectedly fierce resistance. Losses were catastrophic and with only minimal advances on the southern flank, the initial attack was a failure. In the following weeks, huge resources of manpower and equipment were deployed in an attempt to exploit the modest successes of the first day. However, the German Army resisted tenaciously and repeated attacks and counter attacks meant a major battle for every village, copse and farmhouse gained. At the end of September, Thiepval was finally captured. The village had been an original objective of 1 July. Attacks north and east continued throughout October and into November in increasingly difficult weather conditions. The Battle of the Somme finally ended on 18 November with the onset of winter.

In the spring of 1917, the German forces fell back to their newly prepared defences, the Hindenburg Line, and there were no further significant engagements in the Somme sector until the Germans mounted their major offensive in March 1918.

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial also serves as an Anglo-French Battle Memorial in recognition of the joint nature of the 1916 offensive and a small cemetery containing equal numbers of Commonwealth and French graves lies at the foot of the memorial.

References:

1. "Ossett Observer", 17th February 1917

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site