Alfred Anderson

1896 - 2005


Scotland’s 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 truce.
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.