Killed by flu after surviving five years of war

Field of poppies

Field of poppies

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Lance Corporal William Alston (P/8023), who hailed from 106 St Paul’s Street, Low Moor, Clitheroe, survived five years of hell fighting in “the war to end all wars” only to die almost a year later.

Lance Corporal Alston served with the Military Foot Police, Military Foot Corps. He died aged 42 on March 31st, 1919 from pneumonia.

Lance Corporal Alston is buried in grave 754 at St Mary’s Cemetery, Waddington Road, Clitheroe. He was the son of James and Margaret Alston (nee Dixon) who were married on October 12th, 1873, at Clitheroe Parish Church.

William was the third of the five sons of James and Margaret to sacrifice their lives for their country in the First World War. Firstly, Dixon, aged 27, died in 1915, then Thomas, aged 32, in 1917, and finally William, aged 42, in 1919.

William had emigrated to Canada to find a better life in 1903 and must have travelled because, when his country called, he returned from Arizona. Initially he enlisted in the Sussex Regiment, but was then seconded to the Military Police. Little is known of his service, but he must have remained in the Army after the Armistice because in early 1919 he was struck down by the deadly influenza virus which killed more people than the First World War.

Unfortunately, he deteriorated and the influenza turned to pneumonia, as it tended to do before the days of antibiotics and William died on March 31st, 1919, in the Royal Victoria Hospital, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, after living through the five years of hell which was the war to end all wars. His body was brought home to Clitheroe by train and he was interred with full military honours at St Mary’s Cemetery, Clitheroe, on April 5th, 1919. His aged parents, James, then 74, and Margaret, 75, must have been devastated to bury yet another of their sons. James died the following year while Margaret died five years later.