Though his parents lived in Bournemouth, Alfred John Avalon Hutchins, always known as Avalon, was born at Avalon, Catalina Island in California. He was the elder son of five children and was in Laxton House from January 1912 until December 1915.
He then went to Sandhurst, passed out in October 1916, joined the Royal Sussex Regiment and was in France by December 1916 aged 19. He was severely wounded in the face and left thigh and gas poisoned on either 20th or 21st March 1918 near Boesinghe, north of Ypres and died in a Field Hospital near Thielt, on 22nd March, aged 20 years old. He was buried at Bergmoolen Military Cemetery and later reburied at Harlebeke, New British Cemetery, 20 miles east of Ypres.
His headstone reads “Brave and True, Loving and Beloved by All”. A brother officer wrote: “Your son had endeared himself to all the officers of the Battalion, and with the men of his platoon, he was very popular. At his work, he was most willing, cheerful and enthusiastic, and in himself he was so unselfish and so lovable, that I cannot help but feel for him the warmest friendship.”
Avalon Hutchins was the cousin of Fred Trenchard, also killed near Ypres in May 1915. His best friend was Richard Moore, also of Laxton House, who was killed the day before Avalon, on the Somme.
His grieving father Alfred wrote to his son Douglas, who was then in Laxton House, to tell him the news. The family only received the news of Avalon’s death some seven weeks after the event.
My Dearest Douglas,
It is with the greatest grief that I am writing to tell you that this morning we received a notice from the War Office that your dear brother Avalon died on 22nd March. This is sad news for you and your poor mother as well as the rest of us. Please tell Mr Sanderson and Mr Squire about it. My dear boy, this was the Will of your Heavenly Father who has taken him where he will be far happier and we shall, if we obey God’s laws and love and worship him, meet him again in Heaven. What memories we have of our dearest Avalon who was kind to us all and of such a lovely disposition that I cannot remember during all his life that he had done anything to displease us – how he loved us all, poor boy. Mother is heartbroken about it.
He signs off in the formal style of the day: “I remain your affectionate father A Hutchins”.
Six days later he wrote again to his son Douglas, trying to strike a more ‘normal’ note. He tells Douglas that they had “two bad thunderstorms this afternoon with lots of hail” and that “all the soot came down the dining room chimney, such a lot, this afternoon.” However thoughts of Avalon are not far away. He tells Douglas that he is now “head of the family of children” so he must “be a good obedient boy and polite and kind to everybody”. He tells him that he has been very busy writing letters as “we have had a fearful lot sent (to) us.” He hopes that his son has been properly buried in a marked grave – “so that we could find it after the war is over. We could put up a nice cross on his grave.” This time the letter is signed “Your loving father”.