The image of a proud servant to King and Country resonates from Alfred Austin Ball’s service picture, taken upon his joining of the Civil Service Rifles in 1913.
Before serving his Country in the Great War, Alfred was to serve Saracens with great distinction. Despite being the tender age of 20, Alfred was entrusted with the captaincy of the Saracens ‘B’ side for the 1913-14 season, helping the club in its 37th year to one of its most successful seasons since its founding. Alfred was a born and bred North Londoner, as the third child and only son of Edgar and Maud Ball. Raised in Hornsey, he was one of the founding pupils of Hornsey County School, attending from opening in 1904-07. Younger sister Beatrice was to follow him in 1908, both being members of Hodson House.
With his four sisters Ethel (b.1883), Maud (b.1888), Beatrice (b.1896) and Gladys (b.1899) plus his father working long hours as a Solicitors’ Managing Clerk in Lincolns Inn Fields, Alfred would often likely have been called upon to take the role of the ‘man of the house’. Whilst the family moved a number of times from Sydney Road in 1901 via Inverness Avenue in 1904 to Lausanne Road by 1911, they always remained within North London.
Upon leaving Hornsey school Alfred started his career as a civil service clerk, working in the Land Valuations office, and is recorded as still living at home as a “Civil Service Boy Clerk” in the 1911 census. His sense of duty led him to joining up with the 15th Battalion of the London Regiment in May 1913, more commonly known as the Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles. This gathering of men from the same working background served as a precursor to the later ‘Pals Battalions’ and Army training would take him around the South of England to Dorking, Watford and Winchester in this period.
Away from the rugby field his athletic prowess is certainly not in question. He was to serve as a Swedish Drill instructor, mastering the mixture of aerobic and gymnastic exercises used extensively before and throughout the war to keep troops fit and supple.Due to his prior military training experience, Alfred was immediately made part of the general mobilisation of the British Army on the fateful day of August 4th 1914, as Britain declared war on Germany and her allies.
We will continue to update the history of the Saracens players over the course of the centenary commemorations. Please follow his history as it unfolds on this Saracens World War 1 Project website…
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