Armistice 100: Grandmother to remember Mile End uncles who died in the First World War during Cenotaph service
PUBLISHED: 11:00 10 November 2018
Carol Dodson never knew her uncles William and Alfred. Both died in their twenties fighting in the war.
But not meeting them doesn’t mean she doesn’t feel a deep connection or appreciate what the brothers, who grew up in Mile End and Bethnal Green, went through on the battlefield.
That’s why the 65-year-old is laying a wreath to each of them at the Cenotaph in Whitehall on November 11, the focal point of the country’s Remembrance Day service.
“It’s a great honour. It’s just the last thing I can do for them and a once in a liftetime opportunity. I never met them, but I feel a strong connection to them all the same,” Carol said.
Born to decorator Thomas England and his wife, Mary Anne, brothers Alfred and William were raised in the East End living in spots across Bethnal Green including Cranbrook Street, Morpeth Street and Portman Place.
It’s likely they went to school in Totty Street before taking up Thomas’s trade. Then the war broke out.
Alfred, the eldest, joined the army first with William following him into the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.
Carol, who lives in Crawley, believes the two started the war fighting alongside each other, but they eventually separated.
William was posted to Belgium where he was killed in action on June 18, 1918. He was 22.
Alfred ended up in France where he died of wounds on May 15, 1917. He was 25.
He is buried at the Duisans Cemetery in France while William was laid to rest at the Bedford House Cemetery in Belgium.
“Their mother must have been beside herself. It was a waste. We learnt nothing from that war. That was meant to be the war to end all wars, but clearly it wasn’t,” Carol said.
The only momentoes Carol has left are William and Alfred’s medals. These include the dead man’s penny, issued to the next of kin of fallen servicemen.
On her uncles, the semi-retired grandmother said: “They must have been so mature. I can’t imagine lads of that age doing anything like that now.”