Albert HoltonApril 17, 2014 3:41 pm
In the Chelsea Physic Garden Committee meeting minutes from 18 June 1914, it was reported that one of the Garden staff Albert Holton had had an accident in the Garden. He fell through the glass of a greenhouse and was absent for sixteen days as a result. The Insurance Company paid Albert the sum of £1: 12s. 8d., which was half his wages during that period, and also the maximum amount of compensation payable.
We next hear of Albert in the Committee meeting minutes dated 7 December 1914. It is noted that he enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery – a large component of British forces during WWI who were armed with heavy and large calibre guns and howitzers positioned behind the frontline.
As his parents were ‘to some extent dependent on him’, and also to make it easier for Albert to join up, the Committee were asked to supplement his Army pay for six months, making his wages 28s a week.
This was approved and although initially only stated to continue for six months; Albert’s pay was supplemented until the end of the war. Wage books refer to this decision, as can be seen below.
We discover more about Albert’s service during the war in the committee minutes from 9 December 1918.
It is assumed that Albert was awarded his Military Medal after he fought in The Battle of Albert, which saw the Division he served in capture Trones Wood. This battle led to the Second Battle of the Somme. As a Gunner he would have had an incredibly dangerous and demanding role.
“Gunners – and the heavy artillery pieces they operated – were integral to the First World War. Guns and howitzers carried out a range of vital work, from firing devastating bombardments to cutting wire and countering enemy batteries.” (http://www.1914.org/podcasts/podcast-32-gunners/)
The Committee were obviously incredibly proud of Albert’s active service. He returned to the Garden on 14 March 1919. Despite returning unscathed from the War, Albert suffered a splinter in his thumb once back working at the Garden which resulted in two pieces of bone being removed from his poisoned hand. Albert continued to work at the Garden until he retired in 1953, Albert died aged eight-seven on 6 June 1975.
This picture shows Albert (in the centre) in c.1950 alongside his colleagues, including G. Hagon (to Albert’s right) who had registered for munition work in 1917. Another member of the Garden staff on active service during WWI was J. Larkin.
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This post was written by Lynn Scrivener