Graystone, Alfred (1894-1916)

Alfred Graystone was born in Strood around 1894, and was the youngest son of the Graystone-Dale family.  Whilst his mother’s family were from the Medway towns, his father’s family were from Suffolk.

In 1871, his father, Alfred was living at home with his parents in Nacton, in Suffolk, working as a ship’s carpenter.  Nacton was then a village on the River Orwell, near the town of Ipswich, which then had an important dock.  Alfred’s older brother, William, was also working as a ship’s carpenter, although their father, James, was an agricultural labourer.   Charles, a brother in between William and Alfred Senior, also went on to work as a ship wright or carpenter.  Alfred Senior’s older sister, Emma Smith, was visiting from Gillingham, where she now lived with her husband, Elias Frederick Smith, and daughter, Maria, then aged 3 months.  Elias Smith was from Harwich, a port town located where the Rivers Orwell and Stour meet, and was also a shipwright.  Shipwrightery was clearly an occupation available to young men growing up in the Ipswich/Harwich/Felixstowe area in the middle of the nineteenth century, and it also appears to have given this generation of Graystones a chance to move elsewhere. Between 1871 and 1881, Alfred Senior moved to the Medway towns, following his sister and her husband.  We can roughly date this as around 1876, from the birth dates and places of his children in the 1881 Census.

Alfred Senior’s first wife, Ann Lambert, was also born in the same part of Suffolk, in Great Blakenham.  The oldest of their children, Alfred Edward, 9 at the time of the 1881 census, was born in Suffolk, but his younger sister Esther, then 7, had been born in Hull.  Arthur, then 4, had been born in Gillingham, as had William George (then 2) and Florence (then 7 months).  At this point, the family lived at 9 Britton Street in Gillingham.

In 1881, Alfred Junior’s mother, Mary A. Dale, was widowed and working as a dressmaker.  She lived with her young children – Clara, 10, Lily, 5, Augusta, 2, and William Henry, then 8 months.  Mary was born in Old Brompton, whilst the children were all born in New Brompton (or Gillingham as it now known).  Mary had married Robert Dale on 28 November 1869, but was remarried to Alfred Greystone Senior around 1887.

This meant that Alfred Junior had two sets of older half-brothers and half-sisters, with his maternal half-siblings keeping the name of Dale.  In 1891, a couple of years before Alfred’s birth, the Graystone-Dale family were living at 98 Temple Street in Strood.  Alfred’s oldest child still living at home then was Arthur, who was 14 and working as a shop boy for an ironmonger, whilst William George, 12, and Florence Rhoda, 10, were both at school.  Mary Ann’s children, Augusta (12), William Henry (10) and Agnes Lucy (8), were also at school.  Walter Alfred Graystone was the first child born to both Mary Ann and Alfred, and was a toddler of about 2 years old at this point.

In 1901, Alfred Junior was 7 years old and lived with his parents, siblings and step-siblings at 21 Cazeneuve Street in Rochester.  Alfred Senior was still employed as a shipwright in a private yard.  He may well have been working in connection with the merchant shipping industry in the Rochester area, rather than working for the Chatham Dockyard.  It is possible that he had worked at the Dockyard earlier in his working life – indeed, it may have been what brought him to the Medway towns from Suffolk.  Walter Alfred was then 12 and Alfred Junior’s next older sister, Emily, was 8.

Alfred Junior joined the Royal Field Artillery in his late teens – at the time of the 1911 Census, he was quartered at their barracks in Woolwich, serving in the 43rd Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery, a Howziter brigade.  Alfred was a bombardier, regimental no: 64115, serving during the war in the 17th Battery of the 41st Brigade of the Royal Field Artillery.  His page on Every Man Remembered includes a photograph of him taken by a photographer based on Powis Street in Woolwich, which was close to where the Royal Field Artillery were based.

Alfred Junior went to France with the Royal Field Artillery, and he was awarded the Victory, British and Star Medals – popularly known as Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.  Alfred fought in the Battle of the Somme, during which he was injured.  He died from his wounds on 1 August 1916, and was buried in the Corbie Communal Cemetery in France.  At the time of his death, his parents Alfred and Mary Ann, lived at 78 Princes Street, Rochester.

William Henry Dale, his older brother, also enlisted in the First World War in 1915, aged 35.  In 1911, when Alfred Junior was serving with the RFA, William was living at home with his parents, and working as a general labourer.  The family had by this point moved to 8 Bank Terrace, Thomas Street in the Delce area of Rochester.  On enlistment, his next of kin was given as his mother, Mary Ann Graystone, with her address as 9 Star Hill, Rochester.   William joined the Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent) Regiment, with his regimental number of 4190.  William survived the war, dying in Chatham in 1955.


Sources (all

British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920.

Census Returns of England and Wales, 1891; Class: RG12; Piece: 653; Folio: 136; Page: 43;

1901 England Census, Class: RG13; Piece: 724; Folio: 76; Page: 3

Commonwealth War Graves, 1914-1921 and 1939-1947

William Henry Dale:

British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920.

1911 England Census, Class: RG14; Piece: 3895; Schedule Number: 273

England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index, 1916-2007

Alfred Graystone Senior and Mary Ann Dale:

England and Wales Marriages, 1538-1988. Gillingham, Kent, England; Date Range: 1866 – 1882; Film Number: 1042495

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915

Emma Smith:

England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915

1881 England Census, Class: RG11; Piece: 891; Folio: 99; Page: 13; GSU roll: 1341212

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