Albert Cousins was in his 30’s when he joined the war effort in 1916. As one of the older and more educated soldiers he was assigned a technical role in the Signals. He was responsible for laying telephone wires and delivering important messages. He later trained as a stretcher bearer and was caught up in the 2nd Battle of the Somme in 1917.
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Albert grew up in Devon but moved to Cambridge where he was an illuminator of manuscripts for the Cambridge University Colleges. It was there that he met his wife-to-be, Ethel Sutton, and where they raised their 3 daughters. Albert took on a second job as curator for the Fitzwilliam Museum in order to fully support his growing family.
But in 1916 the War meant that Albert had to leave his family to serve his country. He served in the Bedfordshire Regiment for a short time before requesting to be transferred to The Kings Rifle Corps. From there, he was transferred to The Rifle Brigade and want sent in a reinforcement party to 16th Battalion The Rifle Brigade in France in late November to early December 1916 and arrived in the trenches at Ypres on 13 December.
During the Battle of Passchendaelle, Albert’s Brigade was involved in the battles of Pilckem Ridge, 31 July – 2 August 1917, and the battle of Menin Road, 20 – 26 September 1917. Both battles were victorious for the British and Allied forces but there were many casualties and conditions were terrible.
Once the war ended, Albert’s battalion was decimated. He and his fellow survivors were assigned a new battalion and moved to Belgium to await their return to the UK. It was here that he wrote his experiences from throughout the war into these journal extracts.
“The night before attack – sunset – thoughts – prayers (perhaps for the last time)” (page 27)
“No fear – say verses of psalm to self” (page 28)
When he finally got back to Cambridge in early 1919, Albert was reunited with his family and life continued as it had before the war. Like many soldiers Albert did not speak much about his experiences until fifty years later his grandson, John Taylor unknowingly followed his footsteps and was commissioned to the Rifle Brigade. It was only when John shared this news that his Grandfather finally shared his story.