The Following Biography was written by Stephen Roberts and Victoria Doran:
Alec Rowan Herron
This casualty is another example of a local middle class young man who became an officer and who died leading his men into battle. In fact, he appears to have been an exceptionally able individual who would probably have enjoyed a distinguished academic career if it had not been for the Great War in which he served so enthusiastically and selflessly.
Alec Rowan Herron was was born in Liverpool on 30th July 1893, but lived for most of his life at 25 Devonshire Road – a large ten-roomed house in West Kirby. Alec had two sisters, Marjorie and Nancy, who were younger than him. His father, William J. Herron (born in about 1867 in Birkenhead) was a ship broker, based in Liverpool. William travelled a lot in connection with his work. We can tell because Marjorie was born in New York and William was absent from the family home in 1911. Indeed, in 1900, William, his wife Sophia (born in Bradford in about 1870) and Alec were all living in the USA, as the following source testifies:
His friend and distinguished Harvard historian, Harold Laski (1893-1950) wrote this tribute to Alec in the preface to his book “Studies in the Problem of Sovereignty” (1916):
I should like, too, to associate whatever there is of good in the thought of this book, with the name of my friend, Alec Rowan Herron, Scholar of New College and second-lieutenant in the King’s Royal Rifles, who fell at Givenchy in the first year of war (sic). What we have lost in him only those of us who had the rare privilege of his intimate friendship can tell; but I may be permitted to say that it was the opinion of those with the right to judge that a very brilliant career lay before him.
Laski was a socialist historian and economist, who admired Stalin and was therefore never accepted by the mainstream of the Labour Party. However, when we see that he taught such luminaries as V.K. Krishna Menon, Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., K.R. Narayanan and Pierre Trudeau and influenced India’s first prime minister, Mr. Jawarhalal Nehru and compare this knowledge with the above fulsome praise he wrote for his late friend, we begin to realise just how gifted an academic Alec Herron must have been.
Upon the declaration of war in August 1914, Just like so many other young men of his background, Alec immediately applied for a full-time commission in the army and was posted to the Special Reserve Battalion of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps. By the end of August, he was with the 6th Battalion and based on the Isle of Sheppey. He joined the 1st Battalion in November and arrived in France on 24th November 1914.
His battalion was part of 6th Brigade, 2nd Division, which served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the Great War. It fought at Mons, Landrecies, on the Marne and the Aisne and at Ypres in 1914 and at Festubert and Loos in 1915. During the Spring of 1915, the British Army was consolidating its positions at the northern end of the Western Front and getting used to trench warfare. It was losing an average of 300 men per day to sniper and shell fire. Alec, however, does not seem to have been such a “routine” casualty, as he died leading an attack upon the enemy trenches at Givenchy.
A book exists containing copies of Alec’s letters and letters of condolence from friends. The authors have not yet seen this publication, but once they have done so, the above biography will be augmented.
After the war, Alec’s parents were residing at 18 Stanley Road, Hoylake, Wirral.
Birth: 30th July 1893 in Liverpool
Death: 10th March 1915, killed in action aged 21
Addresses: Pallisades Township, Bergen County, New Jersey, U.S.A, (00); 25 Devonshire Road, West Kirby (01),
Occupation: University Undergraduate and Army Officer
Units: 6th and 1st Battalions The King’s Royal Rifle Corps
Rank: Second Lieutenant
Medals: 1915 Star, Victory and British War
Commemorated and Buried: GH, W.K., Le Touret Memorial Panel numbers 32 and 33
Sources: BR, CWGC, SDGW, MC, LG, DA, LE, Census: 1900 USA, 01, 11.