The Thin Blue Line

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Alfred Edward (Fred) Bridger

Fred was born at Graffham, Sussex. He came from a large family and was one of the youngest. His father James died when he was only 8 years old. James was a very religious man who built his own chapel in Graffham, when he disagreed with the Vicar. He liked a very simple service, without the pomp and ceremony of the Church. The Chapel is still there today, adjoining Ladywell Cottage.

In the 1891 census James occupation was stated as Grazier, Cowkeeper and he owned his own field, called Bridger's Meadow.

His father nursed another son Harry, who was ten years old and had Diptheria. He isolated them both from the rest of the family to prevent them catching the disease, but unfortunately they both died.

Alfred's mother struggled to keep the family together. She eventually had to sell the field and the cow and grow all their own vegetables. An entry in the Bridger family Bible says:

'Maria Bridger, Daughter of Richard Hoare Norris, the wife of James Bridger died 23rd December 1948 aged 98 years. God Bless my dear mother. Interred Graffham Cemetry 29th December 1948. Charlotte Bridger.'

Fred wrote to his sister Norrie on 4 March 1901 when he was twelve:

'My dear Sister,

After a long time, I sit down to write a few lines to you in answer to your kind letter, and hope it will find you quite well as thank God this leaves me at present.   I thank you very much for all the farthings you sent me on my birthday, and also for the nice handkerchiefs and cards you sent me at Christmas.  Dear Norrie,  I must tell you that old Billy Davis is dead.  He died in the Workhouse.  He was 92 years of age.  They did have a grand funeral.  They had a hearse and two mourning coaches.   Mister Sam Davis was there at the funeral.  Old Mrs. Davis is in the Workhouse.  They did have a job to get her to go to the workhouse.   They got old Billy in the fly first and she said she would not go and then they asked her if she was not going to wish her husband goodbye, and then she said she supposed I must, then she got in to wish him goodbye and they shut the door and drove off with them.

Dear Norrie,  I don't seem to have got much news to tell you this time.

I must conclude with my kind love to you hoping you will write to me soon,  believe me to remain your loving brother, Fred.

Goodbye,  God Bless You.'

Fred joined Brighton Borough on 1st April 1914 and then resigned on 27th March 1915 having enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery. The Borough records show that he died from dysentery at Etaples Isolation Hospital, France.

Bombardier 95224
80th Bde., Royal Field Artillery

Died Saturday 19th August 1916 age 27

Buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Grave reference IX. F. 3

Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France

Etaples is a town about 27 kilometres south of Boulogne.
During the First World War the area around Etaples was home to a large number of hospitals and reinforcement camps. At their height the hospitals could cope with 22,000 wounded or sick. The earliest burial dates from May 1915. And there are now nearly 11,000 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. The cemetery covers an area of 59,049 square metres. The graves lie below three terraces, the midmost of which carries the War Stone and two pylons, and the highest is dominated by the Cross of Remembrance.

St. Giles Church, Graffham, West Sussex

Alfred is also commemorated on a memorial at St. Giles Church. St Giles traces its Norman arches to the 12th century. The registers date from 1655 and the church was rebuilt in 1874 as a memorial to Bishop Wilberforce.