Alfred Skeggs was born on the 20th March 1892 at Welwyn and baptised there on the 5th June 1892.
His father, Henry William Skeggs a cowman on a farm, married his mother, Barbara Watt Hunter on the 9th December 1883 at Datchworth. They had nine children:
- Harry James born and died in 1884 at Ware.
- Dora Ethel born in 1885 at Datchworth.
- Beatrice Maud Mary born in 1887 at Datchworth.
- Henry William (known as William) born in 1889 at Welwyn.
- Annie Louisa born in 1894 at Welwyn.
- Florence Louisa born in 1896 at Datchworth.
- Cissie May born in 1898 at Welwyn.
- Elsie May born in 1903 at Welwyn.
During the census returns of 1891, 1901 and 1911 the family were living at Woolmer Green and Alfred went to the Woolmer Green County Council School. In 1911 Alfred was employed as a labourer in a gravel pit. It is believed that he worked at Watton-at-Stone for Messrs. Arnold and Son Railway Contractors. He then applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
As part of the process he would have had a Medical examination by the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters at Hatfield to ensure he was fit enough for Police duties. He would also have been interviewed and told to wait for a date of appointment.
Part of Alfred’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Record Sheet has survived but it applies to when he re-joined the Police after the War. There is a handwritten note on it however, which states he was first Appointed on the 8th August 1914. He would have started his Probationer training at Police Headquarters at Hatfield on £1/4/6 per week. A month into his training though on the 9th September 1914 he was permitted to resign.
Army Service During The War.
The reason for Alfred’s resignation was that on the 11th September 1914 he enlisted at Hertford into the Bedfordshire Regiment. The following was recorded: He said he was born at Welwyn, Herts., his age was 22 years 6 months and his trade was a labourer. He was not an apprentice, was not married, had never been sentenced to imprisonment and had never served in the Military before.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Height: 5 feet 8 ¼ inches. Weight: 152 lbs. Chest: 36 inches 3 inch expansion. Complexion: Dark. Eyes: Blue. Hair: Dark brown. Identifying marks: 4 vaccination right, scar right elbow. He said his religion was Church of England and he gave his next of kin as his parents of Mardley Bury, Woolmer Green, Stevenage, Herts., which was later changed to his wife of 113, Benares Road, Plumstead, SE. Details of his marriage were also recorded.
On the day he was enlisted he was Medically examined at Hertford. Then, eleven days later, on the 22nd September, he was transferred to the 11th Battalion, Essex Regiment as Private 14981
On the 15th October 1914 he was appointed as an unpaid Acting Lance Corporal. On the 16th June 1915 he was appointed as a paid Lance Corporal and then promoted to Corporal on the same day.
On the 30th August 1915 as part of the British Expeditionary Force he embarked at Folkestone for France. On the 28th September 1915 he was appointed as a paid Acting Lance Sergeant in the Field and then on the 24th December 1915 he was promoted to Sergeant again in the Field.
On the 15th February 1916 he suffered a gunshot wound to his right leg at Ypres. The next day he was admitted to No/. 10 Casualty Clearing Station at Remy Siding and then No/. 19 Ambulance Train at Abeele. On the 17th February he was admitted to No/. 3 Canadian General Hospital at Boulogne. On the 22nd February he was sent to England aboard the SS Cambria and officially posted to Home. On the 23rd February he was officially posted to Depot.
The Casualty List issued by the War Office on the 25th February 1916 listed Sergeant 14981 A. Skeggs 11th Battalion, Essex Regiment as Wounded. He was entitled to wear a Wound Stripe, as authorised under Army Order 204 of 6th July 1916. The terms of this award having been met by him being named in this list.
Alfred married Elizabeth Jane McPherson nee Hemmings on the 29th April 1916 at Woolwich. She had previously married John D. McPherson in 1913 at Woolwich and had been widowed in 1915. She had a son, Ronald John McPherson born in 1914 at Woolwich. At the time of his wedding Alfred was recorded as a Sergeant, Essex Regiment and living at the War Hospital Epsom. Previously the London County Asylum Hospital it had been requisitioned by the Army in 1915 it became the Horton (County of London) War Hospital Long Grove Road, Epsom, Surrey. Elizabeth was shown as a widow of 13 Benares Road, Hampstead. They had five children:
- Iris Jenny born in 1917 at Woolwich.
- Dennis Alfred born in 1918 at Lewisham.
- Percy James born in 1921 at Watford.
- Eileen Mary born in 1926 at Watford.
- Vera Doreen born in 1928 at Hitchin.
On the 15th June 1916 Alfred was posted to the 12th Battalion, Essex Regiment. On the 30th August 1916 he was Medically examined. A rather cryptic report states: Cause of Discharge – Medically unfit N.D.H (possibly Nervous Disposition Heart) Originated many years ago at Woolwich. Was wounded 15th February 1916, after this he had sharp pains in chest and cough. Has not been able to do any parade since he re-joined June 10th. Heart action very rapid, enlarged. Gunshot wound causes no disability. Not result of but aggravated by active service. Permanent Prevents.
Alfred was discharged on the 13th September 1916 being no longer physically fit for war service. He was subsequently awarded a Silver War Badge No/. 17301 on the 1st November 1916.
Mentioned In Despatches And A Military Medal.
Published on the 13th June 1916 in the London Gazette issue 29623 on page 5945: Mentioned in Despatches of Sir Douglas Haig of 30th April 1916, General Haig has the honour to forward herewith the names of those under his command whom he wished to bring to notice for gallant and distinguished conduct in the field, including Sergeant 14981 A. Skeggs Essex Regiment.
Published on the 27th October 1916 in the London Gazette issue 29805 on page 10484: His Majesty the King has been graciously pleased to award the Military Medal for bravery in the field to Sergeant 14981 A. Skeggs Essex Regiment.
As well as the Mentioned in Despatches and the Military Medal, Alfred was awarded the 1914/15 Star, the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and later the Defence Medal.
Little is known about Alfred’s life for the next two years other than his Police Service Record shows that at some time he was employed as a horse slaughterer and then a painter.
Then he re-applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary. He again had to have a Medical examination which took place on the 22nd January 1919 at Police Headquarters Hatfield by the Force Surgeon who issued the following certificate: I hereby certify that I have examined the above candidate as to his health and bodily strength and consider him fit for the Constabulary of this County. Signed: L. Drage Surgeon. He would also have had an interview and told to wait for a date of Appointment.
Re-joining The Police.
As previously stated, part of William’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Record Sheet has survived but there is also a replacement Hertfordshire County Police Personal Record which has survived in its entirety.
They show that he was re-appointed as Constable 46 on the 30th January 1919 and recorded the following: His age on joining was 26 10/12 years, his place and date of birth were Woolmer Green on the 20th March 1892. His height was 5 feet 9 inches, chest 34 ½ inches, complexion fresh, eyes blue and his hair dark brown. He had the following distinguishing marks a scar on his right leg and a scar on his left elbow. He said he could ride a pedal cycle but could not swim, his religion was Church of England and his next of kin was his wife, Elizabeth Jane Skeggs.
Alfred had to repeat his Probationer training at R Division Headquarters at Hatfield. He started on £2/3/0 per week, however, on the 1st April 1919, as part of a national pay increase, he received £3/10/0 per week.
General Order 93 of the 19th April 1919 announced that Alfred was one of eight recruit Constables that had completed their training and were being brought onto the Roster for duty and transferred from Headquarters to Divisions for duty. Alfred was posted to C Division at Watford from the 11th April 1919.
Alfred was Attested before S. Taprell Holland J.P. and A.W. Wiggs J.P. at Watford on the 15th April 1919.
General Order 29 of the 11th February 1920 announced the confirmation of his appointment stating: The following Probation Constables having completed 1 years’ service, their appointment as Constables is hereby confirmed with effect from dates shown, viz: PC 46 Skeggs A. C Division from 30th January 1920.
The 1920 to 1926 Electoral Rolls list Alfred and Elizabeth Jane Skeggs as living at 28, Souldern Street, Watford.
General Order 31 of the 12th February 1920 and General Order 23 of the 14th February 1921 informed Alfred that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £3/10/0 to £3/12/0 per week from the 30th January 1920 and from £3/12/0 to £3/14/0 per week from the 30th January 1921, respectively.
On the 11th March 1921 Alfred passed his Ambulance certificate, an important qualification which entitled him to wear a badge on his lower left tunic sleeve to show he was trained in basic First Aid.
A Minor Blemish.
General Order’s 1 and 2 of the 2nd January 1922 announced that Alfred and PC 61C Reginald Burgess were both reprimanded by the Chief Constable on the 3rd December 1921 for committing a Breach of the Peace on the Watford Fields Recreation Ground at Watford at about 4.20 p.m. on 21st December 1921. The record of the circumstances of what happened has not survived.
General Order 27 of the 24th February 1922 and General Order 29 of the 14th 1923 informed Alfred that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £3/14/0 to £3/16/0 per week from the 30th January 1922 and from £3/16/0 to £3/18/0 per week from the 30th January 1923, respectively.
General Order 73 of the 19th April 1923 announced that Alfred had been commended as follows: The action of Constable Skeggs 46 C Division in effecting the arrest of Herbert Reginald Johnson on a charge of housebreaking has been brought to the notice of the Chief Constable. The reports in the case show that the Constable was alert, observant and attentive to his duties in that he effected the arrest on a verbal description of the thief and when not engaged in his ordinary duties. The Chief Constable hereby commends Constable Skeggs and directs that an appropriate entry be made on his record sheet.
General Order 38 of the 28th February 1924, General Order 31 of the 3rd March 1925 and General Order 35 of the 5th March 1926 informed Alfred that he would receive increased rates of pay from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 per week from the 30th January 1924, from £4/0/0 to £4/2/0 per week from the 30th January 1925 and from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week from the 30th January 1926, respectively.
General Order 73 of the 24th May 1926 instructed Alfred that from the 2nd June 1926 he was being transferred from C Division at Watford to E Division at Whitwell and to occupy the cottage being vacated by Constable 94 Clark.
General Order 16 of the 22nd January 1927 instructed Alfred that from the 3rd February 1927 he was being transferred from E Division at Whitwell to E Division at Hexton and to occupy the house being vacated by ex-Constable Barber. The 1927 to 1930 Electoral Rolls list Alfred and Elizabeth Jane Skeggs as living at the Police Cottage Hexton.
Alfred’s Police Service Record shows that on the 30th January 1927 he received a pay increase to £4/6/0, and from the 30th January 1928 to £4/8/0 and from the 30th January 1929 to £4/10/0.
Published on the 29th January 1932 in the Biggleswade Chronicle under the headline Hitchin Sessions, Tuesday: Before Sir Jos. Priestly K.C. (Chairman) and other Magistrates. Norman Hawkes, North Street, Luton was summoned for a breach of the Poaching Prevention Act at Lilley. Pc. Skeggs said he found a ferret in a sack a catapult and a ferret line on defendant when met him at 2.15 p.m. Defendant said he used the line for catching birds and took the ferret out with him for “a bit of sport” – a rat or anything. Sir Joseph, “What was the catapult for?” Defendant, “Well, a schoolboy carries a catapult.” Sir Joseph, “But you’re not a schoolboy.” Fined 10/-.
On the 7th November 1934 the Chief Constable reduced Alfred’s pay from £4/10/0 to £4/0/0 per week for six months after he was found whilst on duty in Licensed Premises, the Lilley Arms PH, Lilley, at 2.05 a.m. on the 1st November 1934 where his presence was not required in the execution of his duty.
His Last Transfer.
Alfred’s Service Record shows that on the 30th March 1937 he was transferred from E Division at Hexton to A Division at Hare Street.
Published on the 13th January 1939 in the Hertford Mercury under the headline Buntingford Sessions, Footprints in the Snow Lead to Court, Potato stealing charge at Buntingford: Footprints in the snow led to the conviction of a man for stealing potatoes, at Buntingford Sessions on Friday. Donald Brenn aged 60, a caravan dweller, of Ashdown Farm, Hare Street, appeared on a charge of stealing a quantity of potatoes on the Barkway road on January 5. He pleaded guilty. Pc Skeggs, of Hare Street, said at 2.40 a.m. he saw the defendant walking towards Hare Street with a sack containing a few potatoes. He said that Mr Brand, of Brick House Farm, had given them to him. Brenn was told he was suspected of stealing them from a clamp, as his footmarks could be seen in the snow. There was some loose straw and earth near the clamp. There were no footmarks to Brick House Farm, and when this was pointed out, Brenn said, “All right I did get them out of the clamp belonging to Mr. Oyler.” Later at Buntingford Police Station Brenn said he wanted a few potatoes to cook and was very sorry for what he had done, Mr A. Oyler, of Great Hormead Hall, said he valued the potatoes at about 1/-. He had recently employed Brenn who was a really good worker. The Chairman, Sir Charles Heaton-Ellis, said if Brenn did not do as the Probation Officer directed, the Bench would have to take serious steps. He was placed on Probation for six months.
The 1939 Register records Police Officer Alfred Skeggs and Elizabeth J. Skeggs and their family as living at the Police Cottage, Braughing.
Alfred’s Service Record shows a number of events as follows:
On the 2nd July 1942 he was granted his 1st Long Service Pay Increment to £4/12/6 per week.
From the 3rd May 1944 he was excused night duty owing to frequent attacks of bronchitis and asthma.
On the 1st September 1944 he received the first of three national pay increases to £5/11/6 per week, and from the 22nd December 1944 to £5/15/6 per week and from the 1st April 1945 to £6/0/0 per week.
Alfred took a further St. John Ambulance first aid qualification obtaining a Voucher on the 17th February 1946.
On the 6th November he received another national pay increase to £6/16/0 per week and on the 30th October 1947, he was Granted his 2nd Long Service Pay Increment although the amount was not recorded.
On the 17th May 1950 Alfred was compulsorily retired on account of his age, 58 years 1 month having completed 29 years’ service.
On retirement he lived at 9, Greenways, Baldock Road, Buntingford and on the 3rd November 1958 he moved to 5, The Phygtle Cottages, Baldock Road, Buntingford.
Alfred Skeggs, a retired Police Constable of 5, The Phygtle, Buntingford died on the 10th July 1969 at Ware Park Hospital, Ware. His funeral was heard on Thursday 15th July 1969 at Enfield Crematorium.