Alfred Henry Abra (1891 – 1961)

Alfred Henry Abra was born on 24 June 1891 in Plaxtol, the third of four children of John, a fruit cultivator from Hampshire, and his wife, Emma (nee Coombs.) At the time Alfred was born the family lived on Sheet Hill but ten years later had moved to Baker’s Farm in Wrotham. By 1911 Alfred had found work as a paper finisher in the Basted Paper Mill and lived with his parents and siblings at Belmont Cottage in Ightham. His role would have involved sorting and counting the paper before being sent out, and in 1914 he joined the Amalgamated Society of Paper Makers. There is also evidence to suggest that Alfred was a pre-war Territorial serving with the 1/5th Royal West Kent Regiment, and living in Crouch around the time war broke out in August 1914.

Unfortunately, Alfred’s service papers have not survived; however, based on his service number, he probably joined the 1/1st Kent Cyclist Battalion at the end of 1914. During 1915, the battalion, which formed in 1908 and headquartered in Tonbridge, patrolled the Kent and Sussex coastline and the Medway. Alfred was definitely with the Cyclists by December when they moved to Chiseldon Camp near Swindon, Wiltshire, and converted to an infantry battalion. Shortly before Christmas, and perhaps knowing that he was about to be sent overseas, Alfred returned to Kent where he married Dorothy Deane Crowson at the Wesleyan Chapel in Ightham on 23 December. Dorothy’s father, Albert, was also a fruit grower, so perhaps the couple had known each other for some years being that children of agricultural workers usually assisted their parents during the school’s annual fruiting holiday. Six weeks later n 7/8 February 1916, Alfred embarked with his unit at Devonport on HMAT Benalla and left for Bombay, where he arrived on 3 March. It is highly likely Dorothy and Alfred did not see each other for almost four years during his deployment to India. The battalion served on the North-West Frontier where they saw significant action, fighting the Mashuds in 1917 and then the Marris and the Khtrans in Baluchistan in 1918. Alfred was still in India when the Third Afghan War broke out in May 1919 and was listed on the nominal roll when the battalion left for England in November. At the time he gave his address as ‘Nutfields’ in Ightham, which is where Dorothy lived with her parents, and probably demobilised before Christmas.

After the war, Alfred and Dorothy left Kent and moved to Keighley in West Yorkshire where they lived on Fell Lane. Nearby was Holme Mills which manufactured paper tubes, and it is possible an employment opportunity had arisen here through Alfred’s Union connections. A daughter was born in 1921, but the following year the Abras returned to Kent where they had a son in 1931. By 1939 they were living at ‘Spindlewood’, 1 Teapot Lane in Ditton – an address Alfred lived at for the rest of his life. He worked as a paper mill salle (finishing house) foreman, perhaps at the Aylesford Mill which opened in 1922, until retirement.

Alfred died at the Linton Hospital in Maidstone on 25 August 1961 and was cremated at the Medway Crematorium in Chatham five days later – his ashes scattered in Glade 38. Dorothy passed twelve years later and her ashes scattered in the same location.

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