Lieutenant Albert William Henry


Albert William Henry was born on 20 March 1894 at Ely, Cambridgeshire, son of Antrim-born Robert Henry, a sergeant-major in the 4th Suffolk Regiment, and his wife Mary Esther Henry. He was educated at the Council School, Hopton, Thetford.

Henry was working as a clerk in Canada on the outbreak of war. He returned home and enlisted in the 2nd Life Guards (No.3532) at Windsor on 24 November 1914.

On 11 October 1916 he applied for a commission in the cavalry and the following month was sent to the No.1 Cavalry Cadet Squadron at Netheravon. On 17 February the following year he was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant and posted to the 2nd Reserve Regiment of Cavalry at the Curragh.

On 17 April he embarked for France and four days later reported for duty with the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment at Boeschepe. He was posted to C Squadron. On 6 June 1917 the regimental diary mentions Henry in relation to preparations for the Battle of Messines:

2Lt Henry reported to CFE with party of 16 OR for purpose of Clearing Cavalry Track on Zero day.

In September 1917 the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment was dismounted and absorbed into the 9th Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers. Henry was attached to the new battalion, joining it in the field on 4 November 1917. It is likely that he saw action with the battalion during the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917.

Henry was captured on 27 March 1918 at Andechy, near Roye, during the German Spring Offensive. He later described the circumstances as follows:

On the night of the 25th-26th March 1918, at about 2 A.M, part of the 108th Bde, composed of the 1st R.Ir. Fusrs and the details of the 9th R.Ir.F, arrived at ERCHES, having marched from near NOYON, and were billeted in an empty P.O.W cage there. At this time I was in command of a Coy roughly 50 strong. Shortly after 9.AM on the 26th we marched out of ERCHES, the 1st R.Ir Fusrs in front of us, our orders being to take up a position in front of ANDECHY, a village about 1 mile East of ERCHES, to prevent enemy cavalry breaking through.

Before we reached Andechy enemy in that village opened fire on the 1st R.Ir.F. M.Gs also opened fire on us from a small wood some distance to our left. We were just passing through an old trench system, the front line trench of which we – the 9th R.Ir.F – manned by orders of Maj Brew commanding the 9th R.Ir.F. then. We held from the road Northwards, and the 1st R.I.F, Southwards from the road, our front facing East. Although we were told that a Battn was in position on our left we were unable to get in touch with anybody. This position was maintained throughout the day, and the night of the 26th-27th.

When it became daylight on the morning of the 27th we could see that the enemy had advanced past our left flank and had got batteries into position to our left rear firing away from us. I was also informed that morning that during the previous night the Battn on the right of the 1st R.I.F had retired. The position then was that we were surrounded. Of Major Brew, my C.O and Colonel Fernell cmdg 1st R.Ir.F nothing had been heard since they left together the previous evening to meet the Brigadier cmdg 108th Bde. We maintained our positions that morning, during which time our Lewis Guns fired on Enemy artillery passing round our left flank.

About 2.p.m. the enemy attacked the 1st R.Ir.F. driving them out of the trenches with bombs, about this time also he opened fire on us from a battery of field guns at close range. About 3.p.m. I was ordered by 2nd Lt Scott actg adjt, to take my Coy and take up position in a trench in rear of the 1st R.Ir.F’s position. This I did, having several casualties from enemy M.G.s in getting there. By the time we had reached this trench all the 1st R.Ir.F in front of our position had been captured. The trench we were in was a deep communication trench with no fire-steps, therefore undefendable. There were four other officers with me at this time [2nd Lts RM Moore 1 RIF; L Smith, Bremner, Slatter 9 RIF], and from our position we could see that enemy infantry were in possession of a ridge about two miles in rear of us. We therefore had a consultation, in which senior N.C.O.s were included, and in view of the fact that the men were all exhausted, having had neither food nor water since the morning of the 26th, and that only a few had any ammunition, we decided that it was impossible to extricate ourselves from our position, and that to avoid unnecessary casualties it would be better to surrender to the enemy, which we did at about 3.30 P.M.

Henry was interned at Rastatt, Baden until the end of May 1918 and then at Schweidnitz, Silesia. While he was a prisoner he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant.

He returned to England on 26 December 1918 and rejoined the 2nd Reserve Cavalry Regiment at the Curragh on 26 February 1919. He relinquished his commission on 11 June that year.

Henry served as a lieutenant in the 4th Battalion, Royal Berkshire Regiment, during April and May 1921 during the State of Emergency declared due to industrial action in the coal mines.