British infantry advancing at the Battle of Loos 25 September 1915. It was the first time that the British used poison gas. In places, the gas was blown back onto British trenches. Due to the inefficiency of contemporary gas masks, many soldiers removed them as they could not see through the fogged-up eyepieces or could barely breathe with them on, which led to some soldiers being affected by the gas as it blew back.
Thousands of wounded men from both sides would die following the bloody battle of Loos on 25 September.
Private Alfred Thomas Pring was one of the many casualties. Aged only 17, he was one of five children born to William and Emily Pring, of Station Road in Newton Poppleford. His father, one of the village blacksmiths, had died in 1907, leaving his mother Emily (nee Selleck) to run the smithy business.
In the 1911 Census she is shown as living with her three children and being the owner of a blacksmith’s business employing 52- year-old Samuel Holmes as a “blacksmith’s servant” and with her eldest son (also called William) as a “student blacksmith” at the age of 14.
Like so many of his schoolboy friends, Alfred joined the Devonshire Regiment, 8th Battalion, in Exeter. On 8 October 1915, less than a year after enlisting, he died of his wounds, having been carried from the battlefield in Flanders.
Newton Poppleford war memorial outside St Luke’s Church
Alfred Pring is buried in France, in Boulogne’s Eastern Cemetery, and is remembered on the war memorial in Newton Poppleford.
His story is told by Newton Poppleford resident John Hagger at http://www.roll-of honour.com/Devon/NewtonPoppleford.html
‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!!