Allan RodgerBorn October 1899 - Killed by accident 24th May 1918
Allan Rodger was the second of three sons born to Thomas and Georgina Rodger. Allan had an older brother - Leonard as well as a younger sister Margaret and younger brother Thomas. Allan’s father Thomas was the Store Manager of a Drapery concern and the family lived during Allan’s school years and thereafter at No.2 Selsdon Road, Wanstead. Allan’s father haled from Forfar in Scotland.
Allan was at Bancrofts between 1909 and 1915 and like many of his generation displayed all the signs of wishing to be able to leave school and join the army before the war was over. Initially when he left Bancrofts he went to work with his father in his drapery business. This was only ever a temporary measure in Allan’s mind and harking back to his Scottish roots he enlisted on 11th September 1916 in the London Regiment 14th Battalion - the London Scots.
He was 17yrs and eleven months old which officially barred him from immediate training and deployment overseas. Initially he was placed in the Reserve but was mobilised on the 5th February 1917 arriving at the depot at Kingston Upon Thames. Here followed basic training for an infantryman. The loss of soldiers in their first few weeks at the front was not at all uncommon and throughout the war the training delivered, as well as aiming at providing physical fitness and rifle skills, aimed to familiarise, as far as was possible, the new recruit to the hazards of the western front as a theatre of war.
Part of this preparation clearly involved familiarising the soldier with the weapon that would accompany him everywhere on the battlefield the Lee-Enfield Short 303 rifle. Consisting of many parts it was basically a bolt action rifle shortened to make it more convenient to handle. Short or not, it weighed almost 9 lbs. It was also only as good as it was maintained. The trenches - wet, mud, frost and repeated firing necessitated that the recruit learned how to clean and maintain the weapon if he was to be able to rely on it for life or death. This operation would not necessitate each time the complete stripping down of the weapon but certainly the soldier would want to clean the barrel, the firing mechanism and the bolt action.
Allan finally joined his unit - ‘D’ Company of the Battalion on the 27th March 1918. It was a difficult time with the British Army falling back and consolidating its line in reaction to the onslaught of the German Operation Michael offensive that had commenced just a few days earlier. The battalion was occupying positions on the Arras sector of the front.
For the new recruit, the lessons learned in training needed to be put into practice quickly. On the morning of the 24th May 1918 less than two months after first joining his unit Allan was one of a party of his company tasked with forming a raiding party assembling in the reserve trenches. Reserves trenches or not, danger was ever present and in the cold of the early morning the officers in charge of the detail Second Lieutenant Milne and a Sergeant Morrison were keen to get going.
One of Allan’s comrades Private Henry Oliver Berrett was cleaning his rifle and had removed its bolt. Another of Allan’s colleagues tells us what happened next:
Allan’s body was laid to rest at DUISANS BRITISH CEMETERY, ETRUN. Leonard his older brother was sent his personal effects and corresponded with the War Office further regarding Allan’s missing silver ‘fumbs up’ lucky charm.