Alfred Charles DIXON
Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
Date of Death: 4 February 1916
Age: 19
Cemetery: Miraumont Communal Cemetery, Somme, France

As with many young officers during the War, Alfred came from a successful middle class family. The 1901 Census reveals that the family lived in one of Manchester's wealthier suburbs at Alder House, Burford Road, Whalley Range. 35 year old Herbert Clement Dixon was a merchant shipper and his Company, H C Dixon & Co, was at Bridgewater House, Whitworth Street, Manchester. The success of his business is shown by the fact that the family was able to employ four live-in servants - a cook, housemaid, nurse and an undernurse. Alfred was the second child, and had been born on 29 October 1896. His older brother, Thomas Herbert, would also serve in the army, rising to the rank of Captain with the Manchester Regiment before being killed in action in 1918. The Census notes they had two younger siblings - Elsie (then 2) and Arnold (1).

Alfred was educated locally at Hulme Grammar School and, later, at Mill Hill School, London, where he was a member of the Officers Training Corps between 1911 and December 1914. He had passed his entrance examination for Cambridge University but enlisted into the army as a Private straight from school. As common with someone from his social class, he was quickly selected to become an officer, receiving his commission in mid-1915.

Alfred and his men had only been at the front for a few months, when he led a patrol out into No Man's Land during the night of 3/4 February with the intent of raiding the German trenches opposite, near the French village of Authuille. Such raids were common features of trench warfare. Sometimes they were carried out with the intent of capturing prisoners to interrogate. This time, however, it was simply to unsettle and kill the enemy. The plan was that Alfred, a Sergeant Riley and ten men, all from "B" Company" would quietly cross No Man's Land. They would get near to the German trench (probably even getting into it) and throw as many grenades as they could before escaping back.

On this occasion, however, they met a German patrol in No Man's Land which opened fire on them, wounding several. Privates Barry and Rush made two of the 22 reports about the incident. They said that Alfred was badly wounded and ordered the rest of the party to get back to the trench which, apart from Alfred, they all managed to do. Barry and Rush had noted exactly where he had been wounded and they later directed two patrols to the area who searched for him but there was no trace.

On 3 November 1916, Herbert Dixon wrote to the War Office "I have received no word of or from my son and feel that all further hope of him being alive must be abandoned"

"From Colonel J M Graham of his Regiment, I have heard that in his opinion my son was certainly taken by the enemy into their lines. From men of his Regiment, who were in the trenches at the time, I have heard that on 4 February, the enemy signalled on a board "We have your officer" and in reply to our men's enquiry further signalled that he was "dead". I reported this to Col. Graham who replied that there was not a word of truth in it and he also said as far as he could gather my son had nothing on him to identify him and was dressed exactly like any other man. The men whom I have seen say that he was dressed as usual in his officer's clothes and , presumably, he would have been wearing his disc as I have not heard of his not doing so nor of its having been found in his effects. Indirectly through another officer of the Regiment, I have heard that an enquiry was held but with what result I am not sure."

"I have no desire to cast about to lay blame anywhere - my son was prepared to give his life and would be the last boy in the world to desire that anybody should be blamed or put in trouble on his account - but I do consider I am entitled to know all there is to know and I think some proper investigation and report be made when conflicting reports could be compared and a final report given".

Whilst the War Office's reply is not in Alfred's service file at the National Archives, it would seem that the information Mr Dixon had received from the soldiers was correct. Alfred had indeed been taken into the German lines and died soon afterwards, although it is not known exactly when. His burial at Miraumont, not far behind the German lines, suggests it was very soon after he was captured. 

On 10 August 1917, the War Office wrote to Mr Dixon, saying that the Red Cross in Geneva had forwarded Alfred's identity disc which they had received from the Germans and this was confirmation that he was dead, although no further details were given.

In January 1918, the War Office wrote again, forwarding Alfred's belongings which had been returned by the Germans via the Red Cross. They included a cigarette case, gold ring, communion card, mirror, whistle, watch and knife. There was also a letter written by Alfred - the contents are unknown.

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