ALBERT JAMES UPTON

Gunner, 62637, 'S' Battery, Royal Horse Artillery and Royal Field Artillery
Killed in Action on 24 June 1915 at Ahwaz, Mesopotamia, aged c. 24
Buried in Basra War Cemetery, Mesopotamia
Grave Reference: Plot 5. Row D. Grave 1
 

Map of Basra War Cemetery

Albert James Upton was born in 1891, the son of James and Harriet Upton, née Murton, who had married at Forest Row on 15 September 1888. He was the second of four children. Albert was listed in the 1891 census (taken on 5 April) as a month old, so was probably born sometime in March, his christening taking place on 29 March at Forest Row. The family was enumerated on Tomsett's Bank in 1891 but at Rose Cottage, Highgate — still on Ashdown Forest — in 1901, with the father's occupation given as bricklayer's labourer.

His father James died in 1908, which may be part of the reason why, by the 1911 census, Albert had already joined the army. He had enlisted at East Grinstead and was enumerated at the 1st Cavalry Brigade Horse Artillery, Wellington Lines, Aldershot, where he was recorded as a 20 year old Gunner. The majority on the same page were gunners, but there were also several drivers, and a few bombardiers and acting bombardiers. Wikipedia suggests that the 1st Cavalry Brigade (which was based at Aldershot so presumably the same as the 1st Cavalry Brigade Horse Artillery) was initially sent to the Western Front after the declaration of war, so it is possible that Albert served there before being posted to Mesopotamia (Iraq).

The British interest in Mesopotamia in WWI was a result of the need to keep the oil flowing to fuel the navy. Basra and Qurna were captured in 1914, but the Turks attempted to recapture the former between 11 and 14 April 1915. The next big action was the Capture of Nasiriyeh between 27 June and 24 July. Albert Upton seems to have been killed between these events, maybe in a minor skirmish.

Albert Upton was the only member of the Royal Horse Artillery commemorated at Forest Row. The Royal Horse Artillery was responsible for the light, mobile guns designed to create firepower to support of the cavalry. In 1914 one battery of the RHA was attached to each brigade of cavalry. Each battery had six 13-pounder field guns and 5 officers in charge of 200 men. The guns were moved by some of the million horses sent to the front.

The Remembrance Book was signed by his mother, Harriet Upton, who gave her address as 20, Watcombe Road, South Norwood, London SE25. In 1911, she had been living as a widowed laundress at 1, Triangle and Oak Cottages in Forest Row. She was also listed as sole legatee in the Register of Soldiers Effects. On 25 April 1916 she was awarded £8 3/11 with a further £5 on 19 August 1918. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star medal for service, but the Medal Roll notes that he was already dead.

Pam Griffiths