In 1891 the Cotton family lived at 176 New Hey Road and father Richard was a ‘Woolen Dyer’. They had three children, Florence, aged 17, Arthur Ernest aged 16, and Albert William, 14. Another daughter, Emma Jane, was born later that year. All the family was born in Lindley except Richard who came from Longwood. The children were all baptized at St Stephen’s in Lindley on 5 October 1879. Like their father and most of their near-neighbours, the Cotton children worked in the textile industry: Arthur was a ‘Beamers Assistant’ and Albert as a ‘Weavers Assistant’ and Florence, a ‘Mohair Warper’. By the time he joined the army, Albert was a ’Warp Dresser’.
Something of an athlete, Albert came third in the 120 yards ‘youths under 15 race’ at the second annual athletics festival and gala in August 1888, winning a silk handkerchief. In the schoolboys race he came second for which he won a football.
Living with the family in 1891 was Dan Cotton, Richard’s brother aged 36 and single who described himself as a ‘Woollen Weaver’.
Father, Richard, died 14 September 1893 and was buried in St Stephen’s.
Florence married and left home in 1894. In 1901 the family were living at 13 Dean St, between Wellington St and the New Hey Rd. Jane, although a widow, was not working and was presumably supported by the wages of the two boys, who by then were ‘Twisterin’ and still lived at home. Emma, 8 years old, was still at school. Joseph Wood, aged 34, Jane’s brother, a weaver, lived with them and this must have made conditions in the three-roomed cottage very cramped.
In 1902 Arthur married Sarah Clarke and must have moved out. By 1911 he was living at 17 Dean St with three children, with one, a boy aged 8, named after his late father. Two doors away still at number at 13, Albert, now described as the ‘Head’ of the household, lived with his mother and sister Emma Jane who was a ’bobbin winder’. They shared three rooms.
Albert was conscripted into the Durham Light Infantry in Halifax on 30 May 1916, under the Military Service Act. He was described as 5’ 4” tall with a chest measurement of 41”, with a 2” ‘range of expansion’. Weighing 179 lbs, his physical development was described as ‘good’. He was found to have psoriasis and an old injury to the right ankle, neither of which kept him out of the Services, nor did a slight ‘astigmation’. His religion was said to be ‘C of E’.
Private Cotton served in the Reserve Battalion from September until 25 November 1916, when he was posted to the ‘Expeditionary Force France’, arriving at the 18th Battalion 29 November, transferring to the 22nd Battalion a month later. In February 1917, he contracted Trench Foot, a common condition among soldiers living in trenches with constantly wet and cold feet. He was at the base camp at Etaples, near Boulogne, for a month until 12 April 1917, when he rejoined his battalion in the ‘Field’.
On 25 May he was wounded ‘at Duty’. On 26 March 1918 he was reported ‘wounded and missing’. This was during the ‘Kaisers offensive’ of spring 1918, when Germany made one last attempt to breakthrough before the arrival of US troops in large numbers and succeeded in pushing British forces back.
His family in Oakes, were only told that he was missing. However, June Cotton, Albert’s mother, seems to have received a field postcard from here son on 21 June. As he had been missing for three months she wrote to Army wondering if they had any ‘further particulars’. Like many others, he was in fact a Prisoner of War and a postcard, presumably sent via the Red Cross, arrived before British authorities were aware of his status or able to inform his next of kin.
He never returned home but died of ‘weakness and cirrhosis of liver’ at Lazarett (hospital) 22B in Strasbourg on 14 December 1918 after two years and 190 days of service and a month after the end of the War. He was just five days from his forty-second birthday.
Albert is buried at the French National Cemetery, Cronenbourg and remembered on the plaque in St Stephen’s and on the family grave in the churchyard, which records his death and states he died while a Prisoner of War in Germany.
Albert’s father Richard, and his mother Jane, who died in February 1932, along with his sister Emma, who died aged 47 in 1939, are all remembered on the same stone.