Albert was a member of the Darwen Corps of the St. John Ambulance Brigade who offered their services for the front. He enlisted on 8th August 1914, then proceeded to Aldershot. [Information courtesy of Tony Foster] He was 33 years and 2 months old; was a clothlooker by trade; and was living at 9 Argyle Street, Darwen at the time. He entered the war in France on 21st August 1914. On 8th September 1914 he transferred to the 1st Field Ambulance for duty, then became part of a newly formed “B” section, with members of the 19th Field Ambulance, to work as a separate unit. On the 13th November the “B” Section became known as part the 20th Field Ambulance. Albert remained with the unit throughout the war, although he had short spell of being temporarily attached to No 10 Stationary Hospital, from 18th January 1915 for a course on instruction, and the Detention Hospital in Hesdin, France on 6th July 1918. The following letter by Albert was published in the May issue of the Duckworth Street Congregational Church’s magazine. Dated “April 12th, 1917 - To my dear Friends.
Every month since the beginning of the present War, it has been my privilege to have a copy of the Church Magazine. I have always been delighted to receive the same, for it always had some mews of me. In last month’s issue you asked to be acquainted with our work. You asked for a message. In the first place, I would like to give you my message first. They are the words sent to me by a minister in Scotland. They are these, “The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.”
The first part of your request is rather hard, for one has to be careful of the censor and you would like to be acquainted with our work. As for your interest being greater in us while we are away, we know it, and realise it often. As the lad who wrote to his mother said, I know you pray very often for me, or else I should not come through as I am doing. When I left on August 10th, 1914, my home, little did I think I should be away so long or see half so much. I was out at the Front by the 22nd, and on the evening of the 25th I was under fire, and in the thick of it more or less until 1915 came. The first five months would fill a book, but I don’t want to remember it. Many places I was in then are now in ruins. Since then my work has been very uninteresting, of a kind that tries one’s temper and patience. I am one of that army in the rear. Though I am always ready and able to do whatever work I may be called to do – one of those can hear the roll of the cannon in the distance, but who must stay where he is.
My work has thrown me into all kinds of jobs. I have been stretcher-bearer at one time, at another grave-digger, and then had to take on the task of the minister, namely, of reading the Burial Service and offering prays. Then again at another time I have had nursing sick and wounded, by both night and day. I have been employed in the operating room; I have had the care of all classes of men, from Private up to General. Then again at other times I have been out on convoy work in the motor ambulance, and then, as I sit here in a marquee, all complete with 24 beds. I am pleased to say I have no patients at present, not because I want no work, but I am pleased to think we are not needed, at present, though I can hear the noise in the distance.
Now I will tell you how I spend my spare time. Not far away is one of the Scottish Church Huts, and there quite a lot of us go when we are allowed out. We can buy teacakes, biscuits, chocolate, tobacco etc. There is also a good supply of good reading, and two fine men are chaplains. We have two services on Sundays, which I always try to attend; a Bible Class, every Wednesday night, which is very fine and well attended; and we also have an evening hymn, a chapter from the Bible, and a prayer, every night at 7.30, and there are, as a rule, about 70 men here. Yes, as you say in the Magazine, we are gaining in knowledge and experience, and without a doubt, life will never be viewed from the same standpoint again. Out here, if a man wants to read his Testament, he pulls it out and reads. He does not go behind the door as he did once. And If another man smiles at him, well what of it? He knows the Lord whom he desires to know more of. In concluding, let me say how pleased I am to receive my Magazine every month, for it is all interesting from cover to cover. I thank you all for your kind messages through its pages. But I often think when some excitement is on, those at home are the bravest, for theirs is the task of waiting, looking at the vacant chair, and often wondering whether the loved one will return to fill it.
With very best wishes for the Church, and all my friends there – I remain yours in His service
Albert H F Croft”
Albert proceeded to England for Demobilization on 15th February 1919, then was transferred to the Reserve - Class Z the following 18th March. He was the husband of Margaret Croft (Nee Shaw) - Married in Blackburn on 7th June 1905. [Photograph and information from the Duckworth Street Congregational Church magazine courtesy of Tony Foster]