Albert Morton Monks


This biography was written by Victoria Doran.

Although Albert Morton Monks never lived in the area and is not recorded on any British War Memorial, he was included on the list in the Deeside Advertiser of August 1922 published when the Grange Hill War Memorial was unveiled. He has turned out to have led an interesting life.

29th Candaian Infantry cap badge.jpg

Cap badge of the 29th Vancouver Battalion of the Canadian Army

He served with the Canadian Infantry, and whilst in England did his early training nearby, so took the opportunity to visit his sister Mary Mount Monks, who lived at ‘Coniston’, 1 Princes Avenue, West Kirby throughout the War. He was an adventurous, larger than life character so made his mark in West Kirby in a very short space of time.

Albert Morton Monks was born on 20 Jun 1883 in Colchester, Essex. He was the 2nd son of William Monks (1846-1936) and Alice Blatch (1845-1941). His parents had 11 children, although not all of them survived infancy. His only brother William Henry Monks was 13 years older than Albert, and does not seem to have shared his sense of adventure.

William Monks was born on 8 November 1846 in Bethnal Green, to a family that had been rope makers in London for many generations. William was a carpenter. He married Alice Blatch in the autumn of 1868 in London, where she was working as a milliner. In the mid 1870s the family moved to 3 Little Croft Street, Ipswich, Suffolk.

For some reason Albert was the only member of the family born in Colchester rather than London or Ipswich. Possibly his mother was visiting her father William George Blatch (1817-1894) and Albert arrived a little early. Albert’s maternal grandfather was a master boot and shoe maker of character. The Blatch family had lived in Colchester for many generations and followed the same trade. He also followed them in becoming a Freeburgess of the Borough. He was a radical who founded the Chartists in Colchester and was very well known locally.

In 1891 the family, now including Albert, were still living a 3 Little Croft Street in Ipswich, and his father was a railway foreman.

In 1901 Albert is back in Colchester working as a railway clerk and boarding with his mother’s older sister Mount Blatch (1841-1916). Mount Blatch worked as a dressmaker all her life and never married. She must have been well above average for a dressmaker as she did not inherit anything from her father, yet left nearly £500 when she died in 1916. This was very unusual for a spinster of such a background at that time. No doubt whilst he lived with her, Albert heard many a tale about his grandfather.

By June 1902 Albert had decided that a railway clerk’s life was no longer for him, and the day before his 19th birthday he enlisted as Private 5088 in the Army Ordnance Corps. He was not quite 5 ft 5 in tall, with a fresh complexion, hazel eyes and brown hair. He seems to have spent all of his 3 years service at the Red Fort, Woolwich.

Woolwich Royal arsenal Gatehouse jpg.jpg

“Woolwich royal arsenal gatehouse 1” by “Fin Fahey” – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.5 via Commons –

On 19 Jun 1905 he was discharged to the Reserve, where he recorded another 9 years service.

About 1906, he decided to try his luck in Canada. It is not known what he did for the first few years, but in early 1912 he was hired to manage Lake Cameron Chalet on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The Chalet had been built in 1910 by the Canadian Pacific Railway to serve both as railway station and accommodation for travellers. To develop the area for tourism, they built a trail suitable for horses up the adjacent mountain to the alpine area at 4500 ft (the mountain is over 500ft high). In 1912 the railway was built through to Port Alberni, and Albert was hired to manage the Chalet. Although it only had 5 bedrooms, it was quickly popular with visitors from the USA, Australia and England as well as Canada. Extra accommodation was provided in tents on the lawn. As well as the alpine excursions, guests could go boating, fishing and swimming.

Cameron Lake Chalet 3 Mar 1913.jpg

This photo, courtesy of the Alberni Valley Museum is dated 3 March 1913. Thanks are due to the volunteers of the Museum for proving details of the Monks’ time as managers of the Chalet.

 On 3 August 1912, Albert married May Savatard (1882-???) in Port Moody, British Columbia. May was born in Blackburn, Lancashire and was the daughter of Louis Savatard (1848-1828). Her father started out as a school teacher but in his 30s became a Church of England Vicar. May herself also started out as a school teacher, but emigrated by herself to Canada some time before 1908. Clearly she also had a sense of adventure. Sadly they were not blessed with any children.

On 12 March 1915 Albert enlisted at Victoria, British Columbia as Private 180282 in the 88th Battalion (Victoria Fusiliers) Canadian Infantry. He had grown during his earlier service as he was now 5 ft 7 in. On 8 Nov 1915 he was transferred to the 88th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In February 1916 he was promoted to Corporal, and 2 months later to Sergeant. As Canadian soldiers were already serving in Europe long before this, and he had previous military experience, it seems likely that he spent most of this period training other recruits. It seems unlikely that it took more than a year before he became an efficient soldier again, especially as he was promoted twice.

On 31 May 1916 he embarked on SS Olympic with his Battalion and arrived at Otterpool Camp, Liverpool on 8th June. This is presumably when he visited his sister in West Kirby most often. On 8 July 1916 he was transferred to the 30th (Reserve) Battalion at East Sandling Camp near Folkestone, Kent. Probably he was again training others.

Then on 15 Nov 1916 he was sent for Officer Training at Crowborough, Sussex, and on 4th January 1917 he was sent to the 1st (Reserve) Battalion at Dibgate, again near Folkestone.

LG 26 Feb 1917 jpg

from the London Gazette Supplement of 26 February 1917

On 20 January 1917 he was promoted to temporary Lieutenant. At this point he was moved to Seaford, Sussex.

On 28 April 1917 he arrived at the 29th Battalion in France. On 19 and 20 July he was admitted to No.4 Canadian Field Ambulance with a fever of unknown origin, but soon returned to duty.

The Battalion was based at Maroc west of Lens for most of August, suffering frequent gas attacks. They moved up to the 5th CIB Support area on 15 August, and to the Front Line on 19 August as part of the Battle for Hill 70.

The Battle of Hill 70 was a localized battle of World War 1 between the Canadian Corps and five divisions of the German Sixth Army. The battle took place along the Western front on the outskirts of Lens in the Nord-pas-de-Calais region of France between 15 August 1917 and 25 August 1917.

The primary objective of the assault was to inflict casualties and draw German troops away from the 3rd Battle of Ypres, rather than to capture territory. To achieve this objective, the Canadian Corps executed an operation designed to first occupy the high ground at Hill 70 quickly and then establish defensive positions from which combined small arms and artillery fire, some of which used the technique of predicted fire for the first time, could be used to repel German counterattacks and inflict as many casualties as possible. 

From Wikipedia

On 21 August, the weather was fine and the 29th Battalion prepared to attack. Zero hour was planned for 4.35 am. All was quiet until nearly 4.30 am when a severe German bombardment began. The brunt of this fell on ‘D’ Company in Nun’s Alley. As Albert is not mentioned by name in the Battalion War Diary Report of the day, he must have been one of the 3 officers killed very early on by the bombardment. In total 7 officers and 58 other ranks were killed from the 29th Battalion that day.

Albert’s body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Canadian National Vimy Memorial.

Vimy Memorial jpg.jpg

Vimy Memorial

His widow, May, continued to run the Cameron Chalet Hotel with another couple, who eventually took over. The last record of her is a visit to Hawaii in 1929.

Birth: 20 Jun 1883 at Colchester, Essex
Death: 21 Aug 1917 at Lens, France; killed in action
Addresses:  3 Little Croft Street, Ipswich, Suffolk (91); 43 North Station Road, Colchester, Essex (01); Cameron Lake Chalet, Cameron Lake, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada (15)
Occupations: railway clerk; soldier; hotel manager
Units: Army Ordnance Corps (1902-1905); 88th, 30th, 1st Reserve, 29th (Vancouver) Battalions, Canadian Infantry
Numbers and Ranks: 5088, Private; 182082 Private, Corporal, Sergeant; Lieutenant
Commemorated: Vimy Memorial, France; Canadian WW1 Memorial Book p 296
Sources: CWGC, SR, Census: 91, 01, DA, BN, Alberni Valley Museum, Canadian WW1 Archives, British Columbia Marriage Registrations, Probate, FT, LG


2 thoughts on “Albert Morton Monks

    She or brother William were the eldest of that large family and as
    a young child was dispatched to live with her Grandfather Blatch and
    Aunt, Mary Mount Blatch b Morten and was brought up by them hence the
    Colchester connection. Later she was joined there by her sister Mary
    known to me as Aunt Dolly. I knew her as well as my grandmother Alice,the youngest daughter Aunt Trissie[nee Beatrice], Clara and Aunt Lizzie who married
    into TOLLEMACHE FAMILY and had a memorial built to Albert and his colleagues in Bentley Suffolk. Mary married a first cousin who worked in the tax office in West Kirby hence that link. I was so interested to read your account of Albert whose backgroud accordswith my knowledge

  2. Many thanks Patience. It is very encouraging to hear that our work is appreciated and that our research was correct.


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