Alfred William Sewell

Alfred William Sewell Alfred Sewell was born on the 6th June 1890 in Pontypool, South Wales. His grandfathers were employed in the steel industry one as a wages clerk, the other as a millwright. His father was employed as an engineer, however things changed and his father lost his position and became an itinerant worker. It was not a happy childhood, by the time Alfred was 6 years old, he had two sisters aged 4 years and a year old. And his mother had left the family home. There is some indication of her husband being the reason for her leaving. The three children were placed with grandparents for a short time before being entered into the workhouse at Pontypool. The two sisters were to remain there for 18 months, Alfred ran away on the first day. The family were reunited when the two girls were discharged into their father’s care and moved around in lodgings wherever their father’s work took them. Alfred was with them at this time. 1900 saw a new century dawn, it also saw the death of Alfred’s father who was killed in an accident felling a tree. Newspaper reports of the coroner’s inquest show that the three children remained in the lodging house over the weekend, and so did their father’s body. The children were then separated with Alfred being sent to Barnardo’s homes in London. His grandfather signed the forms for him to be sent to Canada and by 1902 he was working on a farm in Canada. He moved farms a couple of times in and around the Palmyra area of Ontario. Eventually he worked for a Mr Edward Grey who was a fisherman on Lake Erie and Alfred seemed settled in the area. With the outbreak of war Alfred, like so many ‘Home Children’ joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force on the 17th September 1915. After basic training in Canada he sailed for England before going to France in 1916. He had trained as a machine gunner and was transferred to the 58th Ontario Battalion in April 1916. War diaries of the battalion show them ‘in the line’ in the Ypres sector before being moved to the Somme to reinforce the battle there. The battalion was involved in a fierce battle to take Regina Trench near Courcelette and was the only unit to capture its objective, but at a high cost. The unit was then moved to Vimy Ridge to recover as part of the build-up before the battle planned for the following year. Alfred was killed by a trench mortar bomb exploding by his machine gun during the early hours of the 3rd/4th November. He is buried in St Eloi military cemetery. Amazingly through all of this he kept contact with his sisters.