Jump to content
Free downloads from TNA ×
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

William Percy Alley, Sergeant, 65572 Royal Army Medical Corps, in 'A' Section of the 103rd Field Ambulance.


Recommended Posts

Known as Percy, he was born in Husborne Crawley, near Woburn, Bedfordshire, in 1885, was, like his father, an agricultural labourer before he joined Northamptonshire County Constabulary in 1910. He enlisted in the RAMC in 1915, was promoted to Sergeant in November that year, and married Phoebe Maria Kemp. They had 2 daughters born in 1917 & 1920.


The 103rd Field Ambulance was in the 34th Division, which did not cross to France until January 1916. The 103rd F.A. dealt with casualties from the Somme in July/August 1916, during which 6 of its own men were killed in action or died of wounds. In 1917 it will have dealt with casualties from the Arras Offensive and the Third Battles of Ypres, and in 1918 with casualties from the Ypres Sector.


While temporarily attached to 102nd Field Ambulance, Percy was recommended for the Military medal for his actions around 11/4/1918, near Bailleul, France during the German Operation Georgette, part of the Spring Offensive. That was a desperate time for the British Army which fell back  with heavy casualties, & when the “Backs to the Wall” order was issued by  Haig. 

Percy returned to policing in January 1919, and in 1925 was the Constable in the village of Flore, living in a police house with his family, when he was suddenly taken ill and died of heart failure. His widow was required to vacate the police house at short notice; she received a small pension and their daughters were placed in the Police Orphanage at Redhill.


Percy had never spoken at home about the war; obituaries didn't mention his Military Medal & the Constabulary were seemingly unaware of it.  His widow, who died in 1963, never spoke to her daughters about his war service either, but a number of photographs & documents have been preserved by his family who agree to sharing images of them here.



william alley uniform.jpg






Alley meds1.jpg





Link to comment
Share on other sites

Sorry I can't help with the date of the document.  Perhaps others with better knowledge may be able to hazard a guess by the combination of units? Maybe some names became casualties. I have had a go at searching but have been unable to definitely identify any names from the limited information  on the list, who clearly match with CWGC. 
I note that IWM has the 103rd F.A. Old Comrades Assoc Records, so I imagine there are ways of working the date out. I wondered if the maps came from the same period. Percy's descendants have no way of knowing unfortunately. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In seeking to date the 103rd Field Ambulance Disposition List, I searched & found this most helpful thread which includes group photos and indicates that the Unit contained a number of other men from East Northamptonshire. That led me to rushdenheritage.co.uk. Under war / ramc that excellent site has some more information including a different group photo outside the same French Hospital around March 1916, which identifies the men (although Sgt Alley is wrongly shown as Atley). The photo was sent in to the local paper by Private Perkins, whose name is hyperlinked to a couple of his recollections. There is also an excellent 1915 picture of the Unit outside Rushden Mission Church, Brookfield Road. A number of the names on the site appear on the Disposal sheet & coupled with the other information such as home town, many can be identified eg the Endersby brothers:  Aubrey, 65648 & Herbert 65649, the previously mentioned Horace Perkins, 65417, John Blott 65590 (the young boxer from Kettering in one of Horace's stories). Googling "103rd Field Ambulance" brings up many response relating to casualties who passed through the Unit's care, but many more on the soldiers serving in it, especially those who Fell.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

Percy's Alley's descendants have a collection of correspondence written in this pig-pen cipher, probably used because he and his wife Phoebe had kept the marriage secret from her employer. I wonder what the censors made of it. The one starting Dear P (Phoebe) seems to concern a certain article of clothing...



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...

I found this thread whilst searching for 102nd Field Ambulance, I’m currently researching 6 members of this unit that were KiA on 16th October 1917.


Given the disposition list has no dates or actual locations noted it’s difficult to offer any suggestion as to a date, however, the map with the name of Capt. Alston on I believe dates to around 13th October 1918, there may be a connection between the list and the map.


On this date the 103rd FA Tent Section left Pigeon Camp near Proven and took over XVI Corps Walking Wounded Collection Posts at Cheapside west of Boesinghe and Mouton Farm west of Elverdinghe. On the same date the 103rd FA Bearer Section in charge of Capt Alston along with 102nd FA Bearer Section were posted to 104th FA in the forward area. Parties of 10 were also detailed from various battalions of the Infantry Brigades of the 34th Division for Bearer duty with the 104th FA. Throughout this time the HQ remained at Pigeon Camp.


The relief of the 52nd FA by the 104th FA was completed at Cement House ADS by 5pm on the evening of 16th October and the three Bearer Sections took over several Relay Posts between the ADS and the area east of Langemarck around Eagle Trench, later that evening Langemarck Relay Post took a direct hit killing all but three of the occupants, Capt Alston and Pte Gypps – both 103rd FA were amongst the casualties along with the six casualties of 102nd FA that I am currently researching.


Compare the following map extracted from the 34th Division ADMS diary for the time in question -




The diary for the 103rd FA can be found in WO 95/2453 - I'm not sure if you have seen the following - 




One wonders if the award had anything to do with this - extract from 34th Division ADMS diary WO 95/2443 - 





Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

I'm embarrassed to reply so belatedly, jay dubaya. I read your reply soon after it was posted and thought I had thanked you, but it seems not!
So thanks very much, particularly for Appendix "O", which I hadn't seen, and I also think probably relates to the award. I have shared it with Percy Alley's granddaughter.
I speculate that he kept quiet about his award because of the comrades he lost. It certainly appears that his Constabulary were unaware of it.
I suspect you are also correct about the list, naming Capt. Alston, and the map.
I had seen the War Diary entry after someone else found it for me, but I'm not great at understanding the contents of such documents and really appreciate other people putting the jigsaw together & explaining it.
Thanks again & all the best. 


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...