Private Albert Preston of Hambleton volunteered in the early days of the First World War and was one of five Rutland soldiers who died on 15 July 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. Albert Edward Preston was the son of Josiah and Mary Caroline Preston who lived in what is now St Andrew's House, opposite the church in Hambleton. He was born on 25 February 1892 and attended Hambleton School with his brothers and sisters. His father worked as a gardener. The 1911 census shows Albert to be working as a groom at Colonel Blair's stables at Ashwell Hall where he later became a footman. A month after war broke out in August 1914, Albert answered Lord Kitchener's call for volunteers and joined the army. Aged 22 years and 192 days he became a private in the 8th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. After training in England, the battalion arrived in France at the end of July 1915. Albert's family understood he was working with horses because of his previous experience as a groom and was therefore relatively safe. In the early days, the battalion learned about trench warfare in the Loos area of the Western Front, but preparations were underway for a Big Push further south. The Battle of the Somme opened on 1 July 1916. The Leicestershire Regiment's volunteer battalions, the 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th, formed the 110th Brigade and would go into action in the second phase of the battle. On 14 July the Brigade attacked Bazentin-le-Petit Wood. The position was taken, but at terrible cost. The British artillery barrage had not done the damage expected and the Germans were able to lay down withering machine gun fire on the advancing Leicesters. Wave after wave were sent over the top and hundreds were killed and wounded, among them Albert Preston. Albert has no known grave and is remembered on Pier 3A of the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing as well as nearer home, in St Andrew's Church. He is also remembered in Ashwell, on the war memorials inside and outside the church. Here he is recorded as Edward Preston. Another Hambleton villager, Samuel Pawlett, died in the same battle,
See where all our Rutland soldiers died during the Battle of the Somme on our interactive map.
We are grateful to Albert's niece Lavinia for providing more information about her uncle and for the picture above.
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