Alan Fayers Mitchell (whose middle name appears as ‘Faynes’ on records held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission) was born on 5th December 1893 at Leytonstone, son of Alexander (Wine & Spirit Merchant) and Elizabeth Harriet Mitchell. He was Baptised Alan Fayers Mitchell. 1901: With his family at “Cannock” Hartley Road Leytonstone. 1911: A Scholar, still at 42 Hartley Road Leytonstone. His Will gives the address of the family home as 52 Montalt Road Woodford Green.
He was a Clerk with the London County & Westminster Bank when he enlisted in the Rifle Brigade, and began training in Winchester on 9th August 1914. He landed in Boulogne on 19th May 1915 as part of 14 Light Division. From there they went on to see action at Hooge where the Division became the first to face the new flamethrower weapons.
On the first day of the Battle of Loos, 12 Rifle Brigade with others mounted secondary attacks at Pietre. At 06.00 the Indian Meerut Division attacked Mauquissait, and reached the third line of German trenches before 06.30. 12 Rifle Brigade “B, C, & D” Companies were ordered to support them at 08.25, while “A” Company dug a communication trench. In spite of heavy enfilade machine gun fire, all three Companies had reached the German lines by 09.30. When digging became impossible due to German fire, “A” Company men tried to join the attacking Companies, but were forced to take refuge in a ditch.
As the intensity of the German response increased, Indian troops began to fall back. The Germans pressed on and advanced, while the lack of support and diminishing supplies of British ammunition meant the earlier gains became unsustainable. British artillery were also unaware the trenches had been captured, and so continued to shell them. When the C.O. of 1 Black Watch who were also under attack in the trenches declared the situation to be untenable and decided to withdraw, 12 Rifle Brigade did likewise. By 12.30 the attack was over, and 12 Rifle Brigade had returned to the British Lines they had left earlier that day. The cost of the morning was 7 Officers and 322 men killed wounded or missing. Alan Mitchell was among those who were never found.
He is commemorated by a table in St Andrew’s Church The Drive, Ilford, which was presented by his parents and siblings. One wonders whether this might have begun life in All Saints Church at Woodford. His name is featured on the Ploegsteert Memorial in Belgium and on Oak Communion Rails at All Saints Church which was removed.
Reseach by Adrian Lee, Local Historian
Commonwealth War Graves Commission