Alfred Charles Sambrook was the third of the six sons and five daughters of Henry and Sarah Sambrook of Limehouse, London. His eldest brother, Henry, served with the Royal Artillery and is assumed to have survived the First World War. Alfred was born in St. George in the East, London on November 25, 1894 and by 1911 was a general labourer, while his father and eldest brother were a stevedore (dock worker) and polish maker respectively. Records in the Museum’s archives show that Private 9831 Alfred Sambrook joined the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, 1st Battalion from Tidworth on October 11, 1911. However, Alfred is another man for whom military records have not survived, other than his medal index cards. Despite this, the name Alfred Sambrook has been remembered in history for his actions in the early weeks of WWI:
On August 23, 1914 in northern France, Alfred was with two other men on picquet duty, occupying a forward position in advance of their company and obscured in a ditch just north of the Mons-Conde Canal. At 6am a German cavalry patrol advanced down the road, unaware there were any British soldiers north of the canal. Pte Sambrook fired at the officer, hitting him in the head and killing him outright – at which point the other Germans took flight.
This shot is believed to be the first taken by the British Infantry in WWI and the helmet of the German cavalryman killed is today on display at Cornwall’s Regimental Museum, as pictured above. However, just three weeks later on September 14, 1914, Alfred Sambrook was Killed in Action at the Battle of the Aisne. He was aged 19. Alfred’s body was never recovered, so his name was included on the Menin Gate Memorial at Ypres when it was built after the war had ended.