This month our featured casualty of the Somme is Albert Richard Peterson, an “old soldier”, as he described himself, who nevertheless left a widow and three young daughters living in Barnstaple. He would have been proud to know that his daughter Florence grew up to marry and become matriarch of one of North Devon’s most successful business families, their professional ethos echoing his own acknowledged qualities of hard work and attentive service.
Albert Richard Peterson
Sergeant 18960 “D” Battery. 103rd Brigade., Royal Field Artillery
1874 – 23rd July 1916
Albert Richard Peterson’s birth was registered in the Whitechapel District of London in 1876; he was the son of Henry Peterson and Hannah Dempsey who were married in the Tower Hamlets District of London in 1868.
The 1891 census shows Albert was living with his parents and four sisters Sarah, Hannah, Mary and Rosina who were all listed as being born in Middlesex. The family were living in Well Street, Wapping and Albert’s occupation at the age of 15 was shown as a blacksmith, whilst his father Henry was a shoemaker.
The next information found about Albert is an Attestation Order for enlisting in the Royal Artillery which he signed on 14th July 1897 where he stated he was 22 years and 5 months old and that he had served previously in the Royal Artillery but had purchased his discharge. The Anglo-Boer War records show his service number at that time to be 95037 and his rank as a Gunner in U Battery and also gives the information that on the 31st March 1900 he was listed as a prisoner of war at Koornspruit.
There was no record of him in the 1901 census so at this point I have assumed that he was still serving abroad with the Royal Artillery. The next information found is of his marriage to Emily Sloley at Fremington Church, this states that Albert was employed as a Butler residing in Bickington at the time of his marriage to Emily whose family lived in Fremington.
Albert and Emily then had two children whose were born at Exford in Somerset; these were Emily registered in 1907 and Jane registered in 1908. By the time of the 1911 census the family were back living in Barnstaple in Grosvenor Street; Albert’s occupation at this time was a Fruit Salesman. Their third daughter Florence’s birth was registered in late 1912 in Barnstaple.
It then appears from this North Devon Journal on the 10th September 1914 that Albert re-enlisted in the Royal Horse Artillery at the outbreak of the First World War.
This later article in the North Devon Journal of the 21st October 1915 (Page 5) refers to his previous service in the Boer War, his pride about his service in the ongoing conflict and the conditions on the Front at that time.
Albert then appeared to return to Barnstaple in early May 1916 as was stated in the North Devon Journal of the 4th May 1916 (Page 5). The following week 11th May 1916 (Page 5) his promotion to Sergeant was reported.
The North Devon Journal on the 3rd August 1916 (Page 5) then reports that Mrs Peterson had been advised of the death of her husband as follows.
The North Devon Journal on the 24th August 1916 (Page 5) reads as follows.
The above article gives more details of his service prior to the First World War and the regard in which he was held by his company. A memorial service was then held for Sergeant Peterson, Private R J Eddy and Private W Dibble in St. Mary Magdalene Church in September 1916 with members of all the families attending (North Devon Journal 14th September 1916).
Albert Peterson is buried in Plot B19 in the Peake Wood Cemetery, Fricourt, France. Peake Wood Cemetery is a small cemetery with four rows of graves and six memorials and was first used on the evening of 14thJuly 1916 until March 1917..
Albert’s family remained in Barnstaple and his daughters married locally; Emily married Edward Sampson in 1932, Jane married John Edmonds in 1932 and Florence married Percival Brend in 1931.
The 1939 Register shows that Albert’s widow Emily Peterson was still living at 13 Grosvenor Street in Barnstaple. She died on the 27th November 1955 aged 73 and is buried in Barnstaple Cemetery; the memorial stone reads as follows:-
“In loving memory of Emily Mary Peterson who fell asleep Nov. 27th 1955 aged 73 years
Also Albert Richard Peterson Sergt. R.F.A. Husband of the above who was killed in action July 23rd 1916. (Buried in France)
Ancestry Library Edition – Census records; Birth, Marriage and Death Registration records; British Army WW1 Service Records 1914-1920; (available free online in the Local Studies Centre and in any Devon library)
British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)
findmypast – 1939 register; Devon marriages (parish records); Soldiers Who Died in the Great War (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)
Commonwealth War Grave Commission website http://www.cwgc.org/ – photo of Peake Wood Cemetery, Fricourt
Mapco mapco.net/london.htm – 1868 map of London Edward Weller