Alfred Anderson

Alfred Anderson

Alfred Anderson (June 25, 1896November 21, 2005) was a Scottish joiner and veteran of the First World War. He was the last known holder of the Mons Star (the Old Contemptibles), the last known combatant to partake in the 1914 WWI Christmas truce, Scotland's last known World War I veteran, and Scotland's oldest man for more than a year.

In October 1914 Anderson left his home and, with the 1/5th (Angus and Dundee) Battalion of the Black Watch, travelled by train from Dundee to Southampton and took a ferry to Le Havre. Surrounded by a group of friends with whom he had joined the Territorial Army in 1912 (aged 16), he thought he was going on a grand adventure; they had volunteered to go and fight on the Western Front.

On December 24, 1914 and December 25, 1914, his unit was billeted in a farmhouse away from the front line, so he did not participate in any of the famous football matches that took place. However, he vividly remembered the day and once said:

Quote
I remember the silence, the eerie sound of silence. Only the guards were on duty. We all went outside the farm buildings and just stood listening. And, of course, thinking of people back home. All I'd heard for two months in the trenches was the hissing, cracking and whining of bullets in flight, machinegun fire and distant German voices.

But there was a dead silence that morning, right across the land as far as you could see. We shouted 'Merry Christmas', even though nobody felt merry. The silence ended early in the afternoon and the killing started again. It was a short peace in a terrible war.

The following year the 1/5th Battalion fought at the Battles of Neuve Chapelle and Loos. During this period, Anderson was batman to Captain Fergus Bowes-Lyon, brother of the Queen Mother, for a short time.

Anderson was wounded in the back of the neck and shoulder by shrapnel from shellfire in 1916—in the slang of the time a "Blighty" (a wound serious enough to necessitate a recuperation in Britain). After recovering at a hospital in Norfolk he became an infantry instructor at a camp near Ripon, rising to the rank of staff sergeant by the end of the war.

It was during his time as an instructor that he married Susanna Iddison. After the war, he took her back to Scotland and recommenced life as a joiner in his father's business.

Anderson was placed in command of a detachment of Home Guard in the Second World War. After that war he was elected chairman of the local branch of the Royal British Legion.

He was awarded the Légion d'honneur in 1998 as were all First World War veterans who fought on French soil. In 2003, when his service as batman to Fergus Bowes-Lyon (who was killed in 1915) came out, Prince Charles went to visit him.

His wife died in 1979 and he moved to Alyth to be near his youngest daughter. Six weeks before his own death he moved to Mundamalla Nursing Home, where he died. At his death, he was also Scotland's oldest man. He died just a few weeks after featuring in the BBC One documentary "The Last Tommy", which interviewed some of the last surviving First World War British Army veterans (nicknamed Tommy or Tommy Atkins).

The widower, who had five children, said he had lost count of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was actually survived by 4 children, 10 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great grandchildren. A biography ("Alfred Anderson: A Life in Three Centuries") was published in 2002, and a bust of him stands on display at the public library in Alyth.

About Christmas Anderson said:

ee also

* Veterans of the First World War who died in 2005

References

* Obituary, "The Times", page 61, November 22, 2005

External links

* [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/scotland/4456234.stm BBC obituary]
* [http://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/output/2005/11/21/story7762177t0.shtm Evening Telegraph obituary]
* [http://news.scotsman.com/scotland.cfm?id=2279822005 Scotsman obituary]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1882500,00.html Times article]
* [http://www.timesonline.co.uk/newspaper/0,,171-1882336,00.html Times obituary]
* [http://www.army.mod.uk/blackwatch/history/first_world_war.htm A history of the Black Watch]
* [http://www.royalhighlanders.co.uk/ 5th (Angus & Dundee) Battalion, Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)]
* [http://www.aftermathww1.com/oldestscot.asp Interview from 2003] , originally published in "The Scotsman", 25 June, 2003, under the headline "Scotland's Oldest Man turns 107", by John Innes


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