Albert Hirst, 39859 Air Mechanic 2nd Class, 63rd Sqdn, Royal Flying Corps
Died of heatstroke 6th September 1917 in 133rd British General Hospital, Basra, aged 24
Albert Hirst was born in Macclesfield on 18 June 1893, the son of Ellen and Frank Hirst, a silk weaver. In 1901, seven-year-old Albert was living at 69 Newton St with his parents, siblings Mary (22), Ben (19), Fanny (17) and Frank (9), and six-month-old nephew Harold.
Albert began his education at St John’s Church of England School in 1896, later attending Christ Church School. After leaving school he enrolled at Macclesfield Technical School in 1906 to further his education, and enrolled there again in 1913 at the age of twenty, when he was employed as a book-keeper, to undertake a course in advanced book-keeping. By then the family had moved to 181 Newton Street.
Albert was an active member of Christ Church and the Scout troop. He was also a keen bell-ringer at Christ Church.
Albert enlisted soon after the outbreak of war, joining the 2/7th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment. His potential was soon recognised and before long he was promoted to the rank of Corporal. After nearly two years’ training with the Cheshires, he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps. Albert was posted to South Africa and then moved to Mesopotamia (Iraq), where he succumbed to heatstroke in the 133rd British General Hospital, Basra.
Albert’s death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 21 September 1917:
AIR MECHANIC A HIRST – YOUNG SOLDIER’S DEATH THROUGH HEAT
A promising career has been cut short by the death at Basra, Mesopotamia, on the 6th inst of Air-Mechanic Albert Hirst, son of Mr and Mrs F Hirst, 181 Newton St, Macclesfield, and nephew of Mr Joseph Hirst, Byrons Lane. The deceased succumbed to the effects of heat… A fortnight previously his parents received a letter from him from Durban, South Africa, stating that he was in the best of health, and the sad news, coming so soon afterwards, was a terrible shock. Educated at Christ Church School, and an active member of the same Sunday school and Church, he took great interest in the Scout movement, and was a bell-ringer of some promise.
Air-Mechanic Hirst was 24 years of age and enlisted soon after the outbreak of war in the 2/7th Batt. Cheshire Territorials, in which he soon rose to the rank of Corporal. After nearly two years’ training with them he transferred to the Royal Flying Corps just over twelve months ago. His natural inclination for mechanism soon gave him his chance, and he gained his certificate very quickly, being at the head of the flying school with all possible marks. At the time of his death he was expecting further promotion. In civil life, up to the time of his enlistment, he was employed by Mr H Turner, Brookside Mills. His two brothers, Ben and Frank, are at present in training in this country.
Upon receipt of the sorrowful intelligence the flag at Christ Church was flown half-mast, and at Sunday morning’s service the Dead March was played in Church.
Air Mechanic Albert Hirst is buried in Grave Ref. III. K. 6. of the Basra War Cemetery, Iraq. His father asked for the inscription HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR US / GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN to be added to his headstone.
In Macclesfield, Air Mechanic Albert Hirst is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, St Michael’s Church, Christ Church and Christ Church School war memorials, and on St John’s Church roll of honour. The centenary of Albert’s death was marked by the present ringers of Christ Church, Macclesfield, who dedicated a touch of Stedman Triples to his memory. Full details can be found on the Ringing World website.
Elsewhere, Albert Hirst is recorded in the Central Council of Church Bell-Ringers Great War Roll of Honour, held at St Paul’s Cathedral, London.
Brother of Ben Hirst, who served as Lance Corporal 125273 with the Labour Corps and survived the war; and Frank Hirst, a Lance-Corporal with the South Wales Borderers who was wounded in the thigh and briefly taken prisoner in November 1917. Frank managed to escape and return to the British lines, and was later awarded a Silver War Badge (for injured servicemen) and invalided out of the Army.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1901
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
WWI Britain Absent Voters’ Lists (Find My Past)
Central Council of Church Bell-Ringers Roll of Honour website
Ringing World website
Macclesfield Times: 21 September 1917, 21 December 1917, 23 September 1921 (photo supplement)