Last Great War Veteran Dies
Monday was a very sad day for Scotland
with the death of Alfred Anderson marking the end of an era. At 109 years
old, Alfred was Scotland’s oldest man; the last pre-Great War Territorial;
the last Old Contemptible, and the last witness to the Christmas 1914
Born on 25th June 1896 Alfred had joined his local Territorials the 5th
(Angus and Dundee) Battalion, The Black Watch, in 1912. Mobilised on the
outbreak of war the battalion was first stationed at Dundee before being
sent to France to reinforce the hard-pressed regulars of the BEF in late
October 1914, and within a week of arriving in France they found themselves
in the front lines for the first time.
Alfred saw almost 18 months of active service, including the Battle of
Neuve Chapelle, before being badly wounded in the neck by a shell exploding
over the trench. Evacuated to England for treatment, Alfred was, after
recovering, sent to Ripon, Yorkshire, as an instructor at the infantry
depot, where he served until the end of the war. It was there that he
met and married his wife Susanna – they later had a family of six
children, although the youngest tragically died in infancy.
He resumed his civilian career as a joiner, both in Yorkshire and Scotland,
and early in the Second World War, probably realising he was a little
old for active service, he joined the Local Defence Volunteers (later
renamed the Home Guard). He then worked hard to train the Newtyle platoon
for the expected invasion.
Peacetime saw full resumption of the joinery business again, but in 1956
he sold up and started, at the age of 60, a new career as a clerk of works
for local councils, finally retiring at the age of 79.
He had not, until recently, talked about his Great War experiences, but
viewers of the recent BBC TV series ‘The Last Tommy’ must
be pleased that he eventually did so, as he came across as an articulate
man of great dignity and with a good sense of humour.
Alfred had remained remarkably fit up until recent months and he had still
been living in his own home at the time of his 109th birthday. However
the years finally caught up with Alfred and he had to move into a nursing
home in the autumn, where he passed away in the early hours of 21st November.