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Alfred Hyde

Served with Essex County Constabulary from Jun 17, 1913 and died on Jul 12, 1918.

Joshua George Hyde and Sarah Cooper were raised in the village of Wilstead (Wilshamstead), Bedfordshire where they courted and then married on November 24, 1876. At some stage during their married life they also lived at Littleworth. They had at least two sons: Frank, the eldest and Alfred, who was born in 1894.

Frank became a police officer with Essex Constabulary and then on June 17, 1913, Alfred followed his brother's chosen career and became Constable 431 of the same force. Alfred patrolled the streets of Chelmsford, Westcliff-On-Sea and Brentwood where he met and became engaged to Ada Yeomans.

On November 17, 1915, Alfred volunteered for military service and enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps as Private 1st Class 20933.

When introduced in 1912 it was originally intended that the Royal Flying Corps would become a joint service institution that would provide aerial support to both the Army and the Royal Navy. With the outbreak of war in 1914 this did not occur as the Admiralty and the War Office looked after their own interest.

As the war progressed the respective air units of the Navy and the Army moved apart, each developing in the light of the specific needs of the service it supported.

Not surprisingly, the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), supporting the Army, expanded faster than the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) both in terms of manpower and aircraft. Recruits to the RFC and the RNAS wore uniforms based on the services they supported.

In April 1918, following a review undertaken by General Jan Christian Smuts, the South African representative on the Imperial War Cabinet, it was decided to amalgamate the air branches of the Army and the Navy and to form a unified force providing aerial services to each. The unified force was named the Royal Air Force and at that stage Alfred became a member of the Royal Air Force..

Prior to the formation of the RFC the Royal Engineers had been researching aerial techniques for about thirty years with the first balloon experiments being carried out at Woolwich in 1878. Twelve months later five balloons had been built and trials had commenced. The first recorded military use of a balloon section of the Royal Engineers was in 1885 at Suakin near the Red Sea. The balloons were used for enemy spotting and were normally tethered at the end of a cable attached to a winch. Observation balloons enabled local commanders to detect the enemy who were otherwise concealed from the ground.

By the turn of the century, during the Boer War, balloon techniques had advanced considerably, and four balloon sections were in operation in different sectors of the campaign - Ladysmith, Fourteen Streams and Potgieter's drift.

Germany had also developed air balloons and by 1915 had more than 80 balloons on several battlefronts. British and German balloons were deployed as part of the East African campaign.

When war broke out in 1914 all sub-Sahara Africa, with the exception of Ethiopia and Liberia, was in European Hands. Germany had colonies in Togoland, The Cameroons, German South West Africa and German East Africa.

The campaign in East Africa was the longest anywhere in the entire world - extending past the armistice - a war fought on land, sea, on great lakes and mighty rivers, in deserts swamps and jungles and in the air. Germs often proved more deadly than Germans for the Allies and tens of thousands succumbed to tropical diseases.

Unlike the stagnant trench warfare of the Western Front, where progress was measured in yards of mud gained or lost and the numbers killed, wounded or captured, there were few set battles in the African campaigns which were marked by extreme mobility with troops marching over thousands of square miles - much unexplored and unmapped.

The campaigns involved Europeans, Indians, Arabs and Africans from a dozens of tribes - more than ten countries were involved.

By the time the German forces surrendered on November 28, 1918, over 80,000 British and African troops had been killed.

Private Alfred Hyde spent eighteen months with 16 Balloon Base in German East Africa although it is not known whether he was an observer or a mechanic. During this time, like many other servicemen, he contracted malaria and was returned to the UK to be treated at the Royal Naval Hospital, Plymouth where he died on July 12, 1918. He was just twenty-four years old and the cause of death was recorded as pneumonia after scarlet fever.

Alfred is buried in the north part of All Saints Churchyard, Wilstead, Bedfordshire. Among his mourners was his brother Frank, who at the time was a Detective Sergeant in the Essex Constabulary at Romford.

Grave of Private Alfred Hyde

His headstone is inscribed 'For God and King and Home he gave his all.'

He is also remembered on the memorial erected in the grounds of All Saints Church.

Memorial - All Saints Church Wilstead (Wilshamstead)

Inscription - Alfred Hyde

'In remembrance of the love of Wilshamstead men who came not home from the war 1914 - 1919.'.
Lord guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces of the sky,
Be with them traversing the air
In darkening storm or sunshine fair.
M.C.D.H.
(Printed in The Times 5th January,1915)

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