Private Alfred William Rooke. 1st/6th Bn. Duke of Wellington's (West Riding Regiment). Service No: 2964.
Alfred was born in Biggleswade in 1895, his parents were Harry and Lucy Rose Rooke.
By the time of the 1901 census he was six years of age and the family was living at 11, Barrett Street in Keighley. Alfred had four sisters, Eliza (16), Beatrice (14) Kate (9) and Gertie (2). He also had brothers Fred (120 and Harry (3). Their father Harry was employed as a general labourer. By the 1911 census the family had moved to 4 Brow St, off Parkwood Road in Keighley and Alfred was by now sixteen years old and employed as a bobbin weighter in worsted spinning and twisting. Father Harry was employed as a spring bender in a machine shop manufacturing laudry equipment. The rest of the family were employed in textiles.
Alfred was an early enlistment, joining up shortly after the outbreak of war. He was resident at the family home in 88, Parkwood Street at this time when he attested with 2/6th West Riding Regiment in Keighley on 30th September 1914, when he was nineteen years and five months old. After a period of training in the UK, he was transferred to the 1/6th battalion West Riding Regiment on 23rd April and entered France on 29th June with them. He seems to have served with the 3rd Entrenching Battalion until the 2nd of October, when he was transferred to the front line battalion.
1/6th Battalion, West Riding Regiment War diary:
2nd October. Draft. 30 NCO's and men arrived POPERINGHE 7 pm. from 3rd Entrenching Battalion.
Alfred served with them for less than three weeks, when he was tragically killed in action on 19th October aged 20. On the day he was killed the Germans were bombarding the front trenches, destroying the parapet in three places and Alfred died at 5:15 pm when a shell scored a direct hit on his position.
1/6th Battalion West Riding Regiment war diary:
19th October. TRENCHES.
Fine cold NE wind. Artillery on both sides active, parapet F.31. blown in one place also F.32. one place, BARNSLEY ROAD three places, WYATT LANE three places, also new trench joining F.32. and F.33a. blown in. Enemy fired during afternoon about 60 rounds heavy shells, retaliation was called for 2.15 pm.
5.15 pm. No. 208 Cpl. J. Lomas, B Coy. Killed HE Shell, in front trench.
5.15 pm. No. 2964 Pte. A. W. Rooke, B Coy. Killed HE Shell, in front trench.
3. pm. No. 2064 L/Cpl P. Morgan, D Coy. Killed by shell, in support trench.
3. pm. No. 2020 Pte. F. Goodwin, D Coy. Died of wounds shortly after being hit by shell in support trench.
There were nine casualties on this day, mostly shell wounds or rifle bullets, with one man suffering from shock after being buried under a parapet collapse due to a shell hit.
Alfred was buried in TALANA FARM CEMETERY, Plot IV. Row C. Grave 12.
Keighley News report dated 30th October 1915 page 5:
KEIGHLEY LOSSES IN THE WAR - A TERRITORIAL KILLED
Mrs Rooke, of 88, Parkwood Street, Keighley, has received information that her son, Private Alfred William Rooke, of the 6th West Riding Regiment (Territorials) has been killed "somewhere on the western front." In a letter, written on October 19 to Mrs Rooke, Second Lieutenant D. F. Peacock says: "This is a most painful letter I have to write to you.
I am very sorry to tell you of the death of your son this afternoon, He was killed by a German shell, death being instantaneous. Will you please accept my sincerest sympathy in your great sorrow, and I hope some comfort will be granted to you in the knowledge that he gave his life for his country."
Private Rooke was 20 years of age, and enlisted in the Territorials after the outbreak of the war and went to France on July 1. Before enlistment Rooke was an apprentice with Messrs. G, Wilkinson and Son, machine tool makers, Keighley.
Twelve months ago he was a playing member of the Parkwood Rovers Football Club. His brother is a private in the Army Ordnance Corps, now stationed at Woolwich.
Alfred's name is listed in Keighley's Gallant Sons as an early volunteer in the war:
Rooke, Alf. Wm. 88, Parkwood Street.
Alfred was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his war service.
Apart from his war grave overseas, Alfred is also remembered in Keighley's WW1 Roll of Honour book in Keighley Library, on the Sun Street Methodist Church War Memorial and on the Keighley Sunday Circle Roll of Honour.
Alfred's older brother Fredrick Rooke was wounded in the war and had to have a leg amputated. He survived the war.
Alfred's younger brother Harry Rooke served with the 2nd South Staffordshire Regiment and also survived the war.
Birth, Marriage and Death records.
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldier's Died in the Great War
Registers of Soldier's Effects
World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
National Archives - War Diary WO95/2801/1
Bradford Libraries - Keighley Library
Bradford Museums - Cliffe Castle Archives.