Blythe, Alfred (No. 16197)

Blythe, Alfred

Sergeant

No. 16197, ‘B’ Company, 13th Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles

Killed in action on Saturday 1 July 1916 (aged 29)

No known grave

Commemorated:

Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Thiepval Memorial, France (Pier and Face 15 A and 15 B)

Newtownards and District War Memorial

BIOGRAPHY

Alfred Blythe was born on 25 December 1886 in Newtownards Workhouse and he was a son of widowed Agnes Blythe (nee Jackson).

Robert Blythe and Agnes Jackson were married on 5 September 1874 in Newtownards Parish Church of Ireland Church (St Mark’s).  Robert Blythe, a shoemaker from South Street, Newtownards was a son of William Blythe, a shoemaker.  Agnes Jackson (aged 20) from Mill Street, Newtownards was a daughter of Henry Jackson, a weaver.

The Blythe family lived in South Street, Newtownards before they moved to Lime Street, Belfast.

Robert and Agnes Blythe had at least three children:

Sarah (born 23 June 1875 in South Street, Newtownards)

Agnes (born 19 June 1877 in Lime Street, Belfast)

Mary Elizabeth (born 13 March 1879 at 15 Lime Street, Belfast)

Their father Robert died of cerebral disease on 4 April 1882 (aged 39) in Down Asylum and their mother Agnes worked as a spinner.

Agnes Blythe (nee Jackson) had at least one more child:

Alfred (born 25 December 1886 in Newtownards Workhouse)

In April 1911 Alfred Blythe and his widowed mother were living at 22 Thomas Street, Newtownards and after that they moved to West Street.

Prior to the outbreak of the Great War Alfred Blythe worked as a labourer.

Alfred Blythe enlisted in Belfast, he served with the 13th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles in 108th Brigade of the 36th (Ulster) Division and was posted as missing in action after the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

As in every case where a soldier was posted as missing in action, family and friends at home retained the hope that Sergeant Alfred Blythe had not been killed.

This hope received a boost in July 1917 when a photograph of a soldier who was being held prisoner in Gefangenlager, Scheidmuill, Posen was published in the Glasgow newspaper Thompson’s Weekly News.  It was reported that this prisoner had lost his memory and couldn’t remember his name or his regiment.  When people in Newtownards looked at the photograph they saw a very strong resemblance to Sergeant Blythe and enquiries were made.

Sadly, hopes were dashed when it was officially confirmed that Sergeant Blythe must be presumed to have been killed in action on 1 July 1916 at the Battle of the Somme.

Sergeant Alfred Blythe (No 16187) has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France and on Newtownards and District War Memorial.