Born: 7 August 1918
Died: 7 August 1985
Service number: 4748445
Regiment/Service: First Battalion, Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment
Family information: Son of the late Mr and Mrs Bellis of Birstall. Fiance of Hilda Williams, of
After working in a warehouse, Thomas Burnley and Son, Alfred was called up to
army service in 1939. He was sent to France in April 1940 and served in Dunkirk
as part of the Infantry. Alfred was wounded in France after being shot in the
leg by a sniper, fortunately the bullet was deflected by a cigarette tin!
Alfred was taken prisoner by the German army and transported to Stalag 8b, in
Poland, where he served as a slave labourer in Polish coalmines. He and others
escaped when Russian forces advanced on the Germans in Poland. He was befriended
by a Polish family and eventually came home on a troopship via Odessa, Russia.
He was underweight, had sores and boils but was otherwise OK.
Alfred bore no malice towards the German people, though individual German
soldiers would spoil the Red Cross parcels before throwing the contents at the
prisoners. Alfred was always grateful for the fact that he had returned home
when so many did not.
When Alfred was stationed in Barracks in Pontefract he was requested to leave
Normanton baths dance hall for dancing in his Army boots. He was also confined
to Barracks as he kept going absent without leave to visit his fiancée Hilda
Williams in Normanton! Alfred played accordion in ‘Rhythm Wreckers’ group and
also played the piano.
When Alfred was sent to France it was very hard for his widowed mother as he
was an only child. Alfred wrote regularly to Hilda and when his correspondence
dried up for five weeks she knew something was amiss. However although the Army
reassured her that he was still serving with his corps, the French Red Cross
were more helpful and sent her a letter saying that he had been captured but was
“in good health”.
When Alfred returned to England he was welcomed back into his fiancé’s large
family. When Hilda’s brothers offered to get him a job at the pit, he quickly
declined their offer having just spent some five years in bad conditions working
in Poland’s coal mines. He worked ‘on the bins’ for Normanton Council before
going to work as a high power linesman for the Yorkshire Electricity Board.
Alfred and Hilda married in May 1945 and had one child, Christine, in 1947.
He had a great sense of humour, loved company and played the piano to entertain
both at home and in pubs and clubs around Normanton.
Story submitted by Christine Sharp