Albert was born on February 12, 1894 in Plumstead, Kent. He was the second child of Edward James and Susan White nee Turpin. His father was born in Plumstead in November 1869 but his mother had been born in Limehouse in April 1869. They were married in the December 1891 and lived at 47 Glenister Road, Greenwich. Albert had an older sister, Elizabeth born December 1892 in Abbey Wood and a younger brother, William born March 1898 in Greenwich.
The 1901 census shows the family living at 21 Collerston (Colliston?) Road, Greenwich. Edward and Sarah are both 31 years of age and Edward is listed as a Machine Hand. Elizabeth is 8 years old, Albert 7 years old and William 3 years old. Also living in the property at this time are Annie White aged 21 as a Domestic General Servant – the sister of Edward – and Charles Cox aged 24 and Charles Kingsley aged 25 both born in Arlesey, Bedfordshire. They are listed as Boarders and working as Labourers at the Gas Works.
Soon after the family moved to 12 Williams Terrace, Welling and the children attended Foster’s School.
However, in 1907, things changed dramatically for the White family. They sailed from Liverpool on the vessel SS‘Dominion’ as third class passengers to emigrate to Canada. They arrived in Montreal, Quebec on 11 July 1907. In the early 1900s, the Canadian government had an ‘aggressive’ approach to immigrant recruitment and opened several immigration offices in the UK and began to pay selected European booking agents a bonus for farmers, gardeners, carters, railway surfacemen, navvies (manual labourers building the rail lines without the benefit of machinery), and miners. Presumably, Edward White as a machine hand was considered a suitably skilled worker. Their name on the passenger lists for their sailing on the ‘Dominion’ is stamped ‘Com. Paid G.C.E.A. No 9036’ and may relate to a bonus paid for their emigration. Two and a half million immigrants went to Canada between 1904 and 1913.
The “Dominion” was built in 1893 by Harland and Wolff of Belfast as the “Prussia” for the German Hamburg – America Line. In 1898 she was sold to the British Dominion Line and renamed “Dominion”. She was rebuilt with a tonnage of 6618 tons and accommodation for 200-1st, 170-2nd, and 750-3rd class passengers and commenced sailing Liverpool-Quebec-Montreal on May 7,1898. In 1908 she went to the American Line.
In the Fifth Census of Canada, 22 June 1911, the White family were living in King Edward Avenue, Greenfield Park, St Lamberts, a district of Chambly and Vercheres, Quebec. Albert was then 17 years of age. The census shows that the family’s nationality was now Canadian and their religion Anglican. Father Edward is working as a Machinist in an RR Shop i.e. he was working on the railways (as were most of the people living around them) and in 1910 his total earnings were Can $750. Albert Edward was employed as a Press Feeder/Pressman in a printing shop and in 1910 his total earnings were Can $300. Mother Susan and sister Elizabeth were not employed and neither was William who are 13 years of age was probably still at school.
Albert enlisted with the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force as a Sapper and signed his Attestation Paper No 5228 on September 23 1914 at Valcartier Camp* in Quebec. Prior to his enlistment, Albert’2 Attestation Form indicates that he had served for 3 years in a military force. He sailed for England in May 1915 and completed his training at Shorncliffe before leaving for France between 15-18 September 1915. He served with the battalion of the 1st Divisional Engineers, 2nd Field Company and was killed on 11 April 1917, aged 23. The Battle of Vimy took place between 9-14 April 1917 and it is possible that this is where Albert died. Albert is buried at Barlin Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France – grave reference 1.H.13. His death is also commemorated in the First World War Book of Remembrance at the Memorial Tower of the Peace Chamber in Ottawa. At the time of his death, his parents Edward James and Susan were living at White’s Farm, Foster, Quebec.
Albert’s death was reported in the local Observer on 27th April 1917:
Sapper Albert E. White Dead.
A Welling Hero.
His many old school chums and friends at home, in Canada, and at the Front, will regret to learn that Sapper Albert E. White, of the 2nd Field Co., Canadian Engineers, has fallen in action. In 1914 he promptly answered the call, and came over with the 1st Canadian Contingent. He saw two years and three months’ service in France, during which time he had two leaves, and was one of the heroes at Vimy Ridge, where he was killed on April 11th, at the age of 23 years. His late address was 12, William’s Terrace, Welling. He was well known and greatly respected.
The deceased solider was an old pupil of Foster’s Schools, Welling, and went to Canada ten years ago. All his relatives live at Woolwich and East Wickham. A brother in England is serving with the Canadian A.S.C.
* Valcartier Camp was the creation of Sam Hughes, right hand man of Sir Robert Borden who was Prime Minister of Canada at that time. Mr. Hughes, an ardent Orangeman, had been in charge of the Nation’s Military Forces since 1911. He held the rank of Major-General. He was always considered a controversial figure and reference to him for the most part was considered derogatory.
24th August 1914 saw the first troops arrive in Valcartier. Here some thirty-three thousand soldiers were to be trained for overseas service. In less than a month the tract of land bisected by the Jacques Cartier River, had been transformed into a bustling Military Camp complete with roads, water mains, railway sidings, stores, showers and movies for the troops, and three miles of rifle range besides training space for heavy artillery and cavalry.
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Commemorated at Home
Albert White’s name will be added to the East Wickham and Welling War Memorial over the centenary period.
Commonwealth War Graves Commission cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/470662/WHITE,%20ALBERT%20EDWARD
Canadian War Virtual War Memorial veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/470662?Albert%20Edward%20White