Albert James Whiting 1898-1957

Albert Whiting

Flo Whiting (nee Shilling), Colchester. Click to enlarge.

(L-R) William Alfred Shilling, Frank Pilcher, Flo and Albert Whiting, Dorothy Grace Pilcher (nee Shilling) outside the Artilleryman pub, Colchester, date unknown. Click to enlarge.

Parents: William Whiting and Elizabeth Binks (1)
Born: 1st Quarter 1898 (1)
Baptised: ?
Married: Florence Mabel Shilling, spinster, of Suffolk Road, Sudbury, on 16th September 1922 at St Gregory's Church, Sudbury, Suffolk.(5, 15)
Children: None
Died: 30th May 1957 at St Mary's Hospital, Colchester.(6,7)

Bio: Albert James Whiting was the second son of William Whiting and Emily Binks, and was born during the first quarter of 1898.(1)

He appears on the 1901 census aged 3 living at 76 Burton End, Haverhill, with parents and siblings and grandmother Emma Whiting, the wife of Moses Whiting, who was at that time confined in Broadmoor Asylum. Albert's father William was a cloth cutter at Gurteen's, but before the next census he was to start his own business with the Rope, Twine and Sack company. Albert James, 13, is working as an office boy on the 1911 census. Whether this was for his father's business is unclear. He is living at the Rope Works in Camps Road, Haverhill with his parents and siblings.

The First World War was just around the corner, and we get a valuable insight into Albert's experience of it from his surviving military service records.(2)

On 2nd March 1916 he attested for the 1/5th Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment and he joined on 21st October 1916 as Private No.235024. His home address is given as the Rope Works, Camps Road, which is where he had been living on the 1911 census.

Albert was passed fit to join up at medical category 'A', and we get his vital statistics as follows: Height 5ft 2 ¾ inches, Chest 33 inches with an expansion of 3 inches. He was working as a brewers clerk for Green King in Bury St Edmunds at the time he enlisted, and this was also the place where he joined up.

His casualty active service form charts his whereabouts after enrolment. On 21st October 1916 he was posted to 'K' company, 3rd Suffolk Regiment which seems to have been a training battalion, then joined the British Expeditionary Force in France on 5th January 1917 most likely back with the 1/5th KLR.

War diaries show the 1/5th KLR were in the trenches at Railway wood, Ecole, Ypres by 17th February 1917 after a prolonged period of training away from the front. The battalion did not participate in any heavy fighting during this period, and after being relieved in the trenches were based at Ypres, being billeted in the prison at various times. The only casualties received during this period were from sickness and shelling by the enemy. Maybe it was the latter that accounted for Albert's injuries; he is reported in the Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 20th July 1917 as a Haverhill soldier wounded fighting in the King's Liverpool Regiment.(10)

He was on-board ship returning to England on 28th November 1917, whether this was just leave or to do with his wounds is unclear. Either way, 1st January 1918 he was posted to 14th Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment at Salonika with the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. A somewhat forgotten part of the war, British troops took part in the war in the Balkans to help the Serbians and later the Greek army combat Bulgarian aggression. Disease, particularly malaria, was responsible for the deaths of a large number of British troops but there was also some savage fighting too.

"The 14th King's remained in brigade reserve during the first fortnight of 1918, and on January 15th took over No.4 (Pillar Hill, Horseshoe, etc.,) of the line from the 12th Lancashire Fusiliers. The strength of the battalion on the 20th was twenty-eight officers and 892 other ranks. The weather during this tour was fine and warm, and the only activities of note were two raids carried out in the early hours of the 24th. At 3.5 a.m. four parties of 'B' Company, under the command of Capt. H. McEwen, proceeded through our wire with Krastali as their objective. A small party of sappers for demolition purposes was attached to 'B' Company. At about 4 a.m. the leading parties were within fifty yards of the enemy wire, when an attack was made upon their left flank by at least fifty Bulgars. Simultaneously a heavy trench mortar barrage was put down, some ten yards in front of the enemy wire, accompanied by rifle and machine-gun fire. When attempts were made to cut the wire a series of bomb traps and land mines exploded. It was obviously impossible to make any progress at this point, but one party, under Second-Lieut. Lynch, succeeded in cutting a gap through the wire, and penetrated into the village. Although wounded in the chest before reaching the wire. Second-Lieut. Lynch was again wounded. At 4.50 a.m. orders to withdraw were given, and the Company re-entered our lines at 6 a.m. Contemporaneously with this raid, Lieut. I.O. Atkins, with twenty men of 'D' Company, raided P4¼. This field work was thoroughly searched before the party returned to our lines at 6.20 a.m. Sergeant Bramwell, finding that a man was missing, gallantly returned alone to P4¼, although it was now being shelled by our guns, and carried him back to safety. The total casualties in the two raids were five other ranks killed, one officer and seventeen other ranks wounded, and four other ranks missing. For gallantry in this action Sergeants Hogarth and Bramwell were subsequently awarded the Military Medal.

The Kings were withdrawn on the 29th, and went into corps reserve at Pivoines, Sharps Bridge and Piton des Anglais. Work on the Lake Line, and anti-malarial treatment commenced, and was proceeded with until February 11th, when training began, On the 17th heavy snow fell to a depth of over two feet, and for the next ten days the bitterly cold 'Vardar' wind blew. On March 15th the battalion again relieved the Lancashire Fusiliers, this time in No.1 Sector of the line at Minden Ravine. After a quiet tour they were relieved on Good Friday. The middle of April found the Kings back in Minden Ravine and on the 22nd, as a result of enemy retaliatory fire, two officers were wounded, 1 other rank killed and 8 wounded. On May 1st the Kings moved back into Corps Reserve at Moracva, where they remained until the beginning of June, when they relieved the 12th Cheshire Regiment in sub-section reserve in Shelter Ravine.

On the 9th the 14th Kings were withdrawn, and on the 19th they embarked at Itea for Taranto, whence they entrained for France and arrived at Serquex Camp on June 26th" (13)

After joining up with the BEF in France, the 14th King's Liverpool Regiment absorbed the 18th Battalion (Lancashire Hussars) Kings and the re-organised regiment became known as the 18th Battalion Kings Liverpool Regiment on 13th August 1918 and was part of the final advance in Picardy near the end of the war.(3) Once again, Albert was involved in heavy fighting. The War Diaries for the Battalion describe the period of action in which he was injured again:

"6th October 1918. The battalion was billeted at Templeux-la-Fosse, and was expected to move forward during the morning, but the move was put back for 24 hours.

7th October 1918. The battalion moved forward to the Hindenburg Line in the neighbourhood of Bony, taking up previously selected positions by 1545 hours. Major R.O. Wynne, D.S.O., who had gone forward to reconnoitre the position of assembly was wounded, but remained at duty. Final orders for the attack on the 8th were issued, rations were issued and everything prepared, overcoats being dumped and the necessary tools being issued.

8th October 1918. The battalion arrived in the Assembly position in B.8.d at 0600 hours. Battalion headquarters were located at about B.8.d.7.5. Enemy shelling light in B.2.d. intermittent shelling on Belle Vue Farm and Beaurevoir Mill. Manchesters and Connaughts not in position. At 0652 the Manchesters and Connaughts moved forward, this battalion, being in Divisional Reserve, following. A good number of prisoners commenced to come in, the situation being good, and the Manchesters and Connaughts got into position without much difficulty.

At 1030 word was received from the Manchesters that Les Folies Farm was captured at 0830, and that they were advancing on to final objective, with very little opposition. There was no news of the position on the left flank from Marliche Farm to Lamp Farm. The Manchesters reported that the Connaughts were in and around Serain.

At 1235 hours, our 'D' Company was ordered to report to the Connaught Rangers, as reserve in case of necessity. At 1242, 'A', 'B', 'C' Coys were ordered forward, and take up positions between Petit Folies and Les Folies Farm in time to arrive at 1400, meeting the Commanding Officer at U.19.c.9.7. at that hour, the battalion going to take over the line from the Connaughts. At 1730 'D' Company moved forward to occupy the Mill at Serain and help in clearing up the Village, occupied by the Bosche, 'B' Company moving up to take over part of the line from the Connaughts. Battalion Headquarters were at Les Folies Farm, just west of Serain.

9th October 1918. At 5.20 a.m. the battalion moved forward from Serain to Maretz, the Manchesters mopping up Avelu and Maretz. No opposition was encountered until arrival at about L'Epinette when the enemy M.G's opened out down the valley. A section of cavalry attempted to capture the M.G's by a frontal attack, but were shot down. Eventually and armoured car proceeded along the road on the right flank, and dispersed the crews. The cavalry then followed up the enemy, and 'D' Company sent a strong patrol of a platoon in strength to follow the cavalry. This patrol captured an Officer and four men of the enemy. Companies were then ordered to close on the centre of their line at 1145, and proceeded forward, taking up a position in P.31.c. In the engagement 3 Officers and 31 O.R. were wounded, and 6 O.R. killed. During the evening, guides from each company, under the Intelligence Officer, Lt. H.G. Watts, M.C., reconnoitered the route to be taken the next day."

It was on 10th October that Albert would receive the injuries that would be the end of his war.

"10th October 1918. At 0230 hours, the battalion moved forward to a position near Reumont, and attacked at 0510. Very little opposition was met with at the start, but later considerable M.G. fire was encountered. At 0800, our troops were seen in the cemetery in K.27.d. Our right company was not in touch with the flank, and the troops on the right appeared to be held up by M.G. fire from the railway embankment in Q.1G. A number of the enemy were reported to be going back in Q.10 and Q.16. A short length of trench on the high ground immediately east of Le Cateau was also reported to be held by the enemy. At 0848, the Centre Coy reached K.33.b. and pushed a platoon into the N.W. outskirts of La Cateau. The right Company was temporarily held up by M.G. and snipers fire, but appeared to be almost in the town itself. Hostile M.G. fire was reported from the direction of Q.10. Battalion H.Q. were situated about Q.2.b.9.9. 'D' Company had established posts at K.28.d.3.2 and K.34.a.6.6. and Companies were informed. Houses in K.28.a had been reported to be strongly held by the Bosche, and a patrol was sent out to investigate and deal with them. 'A' and 'C' Companies were instructed to ascertain who held Montay. During the advance on Le Cateau considerable difficulty was experienced, owing to a 'whizz bang' battery being able to fire over open sights at troops as they moved up the rise and along a slight valley.

11th October 1918. With the exception of enemy aircraft, which was abnormally active, the morning passed very quietly. During the afternoon, a party from 'B' Company, pushing through Le Cateau came across about 200 Bosche in the square, busily engaged in loading motor lorries. The party immediately opened up a strong fire with the Lewis gun and rifles putting out over 50 Bosche, and the remainder retiring to cover. One of the drivers of the motor lorry was brought in a prisoner.

The position in Le Cateau was very difficult, the N.W. and W. of the town being in our hands, and the opposite end held by the enemy, with odd enemy posts in the centre, many civilians also being in the town.

In the evening, our aircraft reported the enemy massing at Le Cateau, and the artillery was directed onto the target. No attack developed.

At 2200 hours the relief of the battalion by a battalion of the South African Brigade (the 1st South African Bn) commenced, the relief being completed by 2345 hours. As companies were relieved, they proceeded to billets in Ruemont, the last party from Headquarters arriving there about 0130 hours on

12th October 1918. After being fed, the battalion retired to billets. There was some shelling of the village during the early hours, with gas and H.E. At 1030 hours the shelling was very close, and companies were ordered clear of the village, and to dig slit trenches. The enemy shelled intermittently throughout the day.

13th October 1918. Between 0200 and 0600 hours, the enemy shelling (21cm) was heavy, and the battalion was ordered to vacate the village, and move to Maurois, leaving Ruemont at 1055 hours. The battalion was billeted in Maurois by 1145 hours. During the afternoon, companies carried on with the re-organisation and equipment of their units, particular attention being paid to the provision of Lewis gunners and their training. The total casualties for the whole period from the 7th to 13th October were:

Killed. Lt F.E.Sanders, M.C., 2nd Lt. L.J.Hayes. 18 ordinary ranks.

Wounded. Captains H. McEwen, W.M. Docharty, M.C., J.W.G. Edmonds, 2nd Lts E.R.Gill, W.O.Williams, T.Moreland.

111 ordinary ranks

Died of wounds. 1 O.R

Wounded and missing. 3 O.R

Missing. Lt. G.E. Burns, M.M., and 20 O.R. (4 of the latter now reported wounded)" (14)

Albert was one of the 111 ordinary ranks wounded in this episode of fighting.

On 10th October Albert had received a shrapnel wound to both shoulders and he was admitted to the 3rd Stationary hospital at Rouen on 14th October before being transfered back to England and to the Kitchener Hospital in Brighton. He was there for 45 days, and was discharged on 29th November. It was reported that 'The wounds are now healed. The man asserts that movements of the arms causes pain at the site of the wounds. There is no wasting of the muscles or loss of power.'

At this point Albert returned to service, but the war was now over. It appears he was with the 3rd Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment in Cork on 31st December 1918.

In his service records, there is an interesting reference on a form entitled 'statement as to disability' which refers to his doctor in Haverhill as being Dr Goodman of Queen Street, and the name of his National Health Approved Society as the United Patriots Society, Haverhill.

There are also reference in the records to several offences Albert committed while on duty.

On 26th February 1917 whilst in the field, he is confined to barracks for three days for being not shaven and dirty with some reference to an offence concerning his rifle which is hard to make out. He received four days C.T.B for inattention on parade on 6th November 1917, then again on 20th December 1917 Albert was confined to barracks for two days for the same offence!

Albert was disembodied for demobilization at Preston on 2nd February 1919. He received the Victory medal and British War medal.(4)

On 16th September 1922 Albert James Whiting married Florence Mabel Shilling at St Gregory, Sudbury, Suffolk.(5) Florence can be found on the 1911 census, working as a dressmaker and living with her parents at The Horn, 66 North Street, Sudbury. Her father, William Alfred Shilling, had been a watchmaker and jeweller before becoming a publican. He was born in Milton-next-Sittingbourne, Kent in 1861(12). He was the brother of Arthur Shilling whose daughter Winifred went on to marry Albert James Whiting's brother Bertram in 1924. William Alfred Shilling married Grace Emma Nice in 1891(11), and had four children. Dorothy Grace Shilling was born in 1891, Gladys Mary Shilling in 1895, Florence was born in the 1896 in Ballingdon, a suburb of Sudbury.(8) Son William Albert Shilling was born in 1906. On the 1901 census we see Flo living at The Angel Inn, 22 Friars Street, Sudbury, which her father ran.

The South West Suffolk Echo of 23rd September 1922 reported the wedding of Albert and Florence: "WHITING-SHILLING. A pretty wedding took place on Saturday last at St Gregory's Church, Sudbury, the contracting parties being Mr Albert James Whiting, second son of Mr and Mrs William Whiting, of the Rope Works, Haverhill, and Miss Florence Shilling, youngest daughter of Mr and Mrs 'Bob' Shilling, of Suffolk Road, Sudbury... The bridesmaid was Miss Ivy Whiting, youngest sister of the bridegroom... Mr Bertie Whiting, brother of the bridegroom, was best man.
...The bridegroom is on the staff of Messrs. Greene, King and Sons, Ltd., at Bury St Edmund's, and amongst the numerous presents received was one from the management, staff, and employees of the firm, this taking the form of a mahogany occasional table, overmantel and 8-day clock. The bridegroom is a keen follower and supporter of sport in various directions, and was prominently associated with the running of the Haverhill Victory football team, which, immediately following the close of the war, played a series of interesting matches and thus filled the gap which existed until recognised clubs had resumed operations

What we can establish from probate records is that Albert, like his father in law, became a publican. He was the landlord of The Artilleryman, 56 Artillery Street, Colchester from at least 1933, which is when he appears in Kelly's Directory as the publican.(9)

He appears on the probate record of his father William, in 1941, as being a licensed victualler (keeper of a tavern).(6)

Albert was still the landlord of The Artilleryman when he died on 30th May 1957. Probate of £1230 2s 5d was granted to his widow, Florence, on 15th July 1957(6).

Thanks to Anne Newman for permission to use the pictures


(1) Birth Register. 1st Quarter 1898, Risbridge District, Volume 4a Page 773
(2) WO363 Soldiers Service Records, The National Archives,
(4) British Army WWI Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
(5) Marriage Register. 3rd Quarter 1922, Sudbury District, Volume 4a Page 2305
(6) England and Wales, National Probate Calendar,
(7) Death Register. 2nd Quarter 1957, Colchester, Volume 4a Page 511
(8) Birth Register. 4th Quarter 1896, Sudbury District, Volume 4a Page 774
(10) Chelmsford Chronicle, Friday 20th July 1917, p.3, Column 2, British Newspaper Archives.
(11) Marriage Register. 1st Quarter 1891, Sudbury, Volume 4a Page 847
(12) Birth Register. 2nd Quarter 1861, Milton, Volume 2a Page 626
(13) Wyrall, Everard (2012) 'History of the King's Regiment (Liverpool) 1914-19', Vol III, p.602-3, Andrews Ltd.
(14) War Diary, 66th Division, Piece 3144, 199 Infantry Brigade,18th Battalion King's Liverpool Regiment, 6th-13th October 1918.
(15) South West Suffolk Echo, 23 Sep 1922