Alan Edward Scarth 22 April 1917

Lieutenant Alan Edward Scarth was killed in modern day Iraq. He was born in India in 1896, where his father ran a tea estate in Assam. He was sent to England in the care of his uncle the Rev CH Crossley of Willingham Rectory, Cambridge. He was in Crosby House for just two years from 1911 until 1913 and left just before his 18th birthday. He then returned to India to work on the tea plantation but in February 1915 he joined the Indian Army Reserve of Officers and spent some time training with the 1st Yorkshire Regiment stationed at Rawal Pindi. He was then attached to the Corps of Guides at Marden on the North-West Frontier.

In October 1916, he was sent out to Mesopotamia (Iraq) and was in charge of the Gurkha Company of the Corps of Guides, attached to the 53rd Sikhs. With them he took part in the advance to Baghdad. Alan Scarth was hit on the second day of the Battle of Istabulat where the 53rd suffered heavy casualties. He died in the first-aid station. On 22 April, the regimental diary records the action near Samarrah as British troops went into action against the Ottomans.

“At 16.50, two companies under the command of Captain A.E.Scarth and Lt. G.N.Mackintosh were sent to re-inforce the 56th Rifles on the left flank by the railway. At 17.40, the left flank met with heavy enfilade fire from across the railway lines with heavy losses. Captain Scarth was wounded and died of wounds. The attack was successful, Samarrah was taken.”

Accordingly, his company were congratulated on their success. One officer wrote to Alan’s parents in India : “Alan’s Company of Gurkhas did splendidly, in fact brilliantly – no less than three generals have congratulated our CO on this company…and this success was no doubt due to your son’s example and leadership as he was a fine officer.”

Alan Scarth, aged just 21, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial which has the names of more than 40,000 British soldiers killed in Mesopotamia between 1914 and 1921.

C Pendrill
Yarrow Fellow