The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia in October 1917 was not the end of the revolution but the beginning. Following the peace treaty with Germany at Brest-Litovsk and Russia’s withdrawal from the war, the behaviour and policies of the Bolsheviks led to the outbreak of civil war. The principal fighting was between the Red Army, often in alliance with other leftist pro-revolutionary groups, and the forces of the White Army, the loosely-allied anti-Bolshevik forces. In 1918, an allied force landed in Odessa, and in April 1919 the 706 Motor Transport Company of the Royal Army Service Corps arrived at Batoum (or Batumi) on the Black Sea, with ALBERT WHATELEY as one of the drivers.
The Army Service Corps comprised the unsung heroes of the British Army in the Great War. Soldiers required food, equipment and ammunition, and the vast tonnage was supplied to large armies on many fronts using horse drawn or motor vehicles, railways and waterways. Organised into Companies, the Army Service Corps performed immense feats of logistics. Materiel from Britain arrived in bulk at the Base Depots established at the ports on the French coast, and was then transported by rail to what were known as Regulating Stations where it was broken down and reorganised into mixed loads for each Army Division. These mixed loads were then transported by train to the railheads, which were usually ten to fifteen miles from the front lines. Here the materiel was further broken down into lorry loads, and taken by the ASC Motor Transport Companies to the various divisional Refilling Points, where onward transport to the front was usually by horse-drawn vehicles. On occasion, motor transport was used to deliver forward dumps and stores. Although not in the trenches, and rarely mentioned in war histories, the men and animals of the ASC were regularly under heavy shellfire as they made their way to and from the front, and their bravery was second to none.
They were known to the soldiers in the infantry as ‘Ally Sloper’s Cavalry’ a popular pre-war cartoon character who would disappear, or slope off, when the landlord came for the rent. Due to their good pay, comfortable conditions and perceived comparative safety, they were regarded by the infantry as not proper soldiers. This also gave rise to their other sarcastic nicknames, the ‘Army Safety Corps’ and ‘Aunt Sally’s Cavalry.’ When the Army Service Corps acquired its well- earned Royal prefix in 1918, to become the Royal Army Service Corps, the nickname was changed to ‘Run Away Someone’s Coming.’ It had its own song:
‘Tho ours is not the kind of job
That leads to much promotion,
We try to do our little bit
And Tommy, I’ve a notion,
Won’t want for much, if we can help
To give him good supply
And if we don’t always succeed
You bet, at least, we try.’
Albert Whateley attended King Edward VI School between 1910 and 1914. Playing a French Soldier in the special production of Henry V performed for the Shakespeare Festival in 1913, he left in form VA, working briefly for Flower’s Brewery until joining his father’s carpentry business in Greenhill Street. He joined the Stratford-upon-Avon Boat Club and occasionally coxed a crew. In 1916 the Military Service Act introduced compulsory conscription, and Albert, a reservist, was called up on May 12 1916 and placed in the Army Service Corps. There are no records of his activities nor of his Company until April 1919, and this was to remain the same until his death on December 25 1919 in 27 Casualty Clearing Station in Batoum. He was 22 and he has no known grave, but nevertheless Albert Whateley is remembered and commemorated on the Haidar Pasha Memorial in Istanbul, the Stratford-upon-Avon War Memorial and the KES Boat Club memorial both in the Garden of Remembrance, and in the Memorial Library at King Edward VI School.
He was the last of the King Edward VI boys to die in the war. In commemoration of them, the Rev. Robert de Courcy Laffan, Headmaster between 1885 and 1895, spoke to a new generation of schoolboys: ‘They died to save the cause of right, of freedom, and brotherhood in the world, and you and I, all of us, old men like me, young boys like you, we have got to save the world by making right, freedom, brotherhood the governing principles of our own life. Only so can we make ourselves worthy of the sacrifices they have made for us. The ploughing of the sword is finished. Now is the time for the sower to sow, and you and I are the sowers. What seed are we going to sow – the seed of brotherhood or strife towards individuals and classes and between nations? It depends on you and me, and most of all upon you boys, who are to be, when we are gone, the builders of the England that is coming. If we are going to sow the right seed it can only be in the spirit of those who gave their lives for England gladly.’