|The Manchester Historical Society was recently honored to receive 12 letters written by Alfred Edwin Roberts during his tour of duty in France to his family in Manchester. This timely gift came from his daughter, Janice Roberts Cable, and included uniforms, medals, photographs, and war artifacts.
Roberts, who had been born in England in 1899, came to Manchester in 1910 after his father was employed in the marble business. He attended the East Manchester school, a one-room school located on the corner of what is now named East Manchester Road and Route 11/30. In the summer he and his brother Jim worked as caddies at the Ekwanok Country Club golf course.
In June 1916, he left Burr and Burton to enlist in the Vermont National Guard and was assigned to Company A of the First Vermont Infantry. After the U.S. declared war on Germany, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the National Guard into federal service and the First Vermont Infantry became part of the 26th Division, called the Yankee Division because it was formed out of National Guard units from the New England states. His final assignment was to Company B of the 103rd Infantry. Along with thousands of other American soldiers, he sailed for Liverpool, England, in September 1917. One month later, young Alfred was in France.
After spending the winter and spring months being trained by seasoned British and French officers, the 103rd, along with other units of the American Expeditionary Forces, were finally thrown into combat in what would be the final months of the war. Alfred was gassed on July 21 in the opening days of the Aisne-Marne Offensive and spent six weeks in Base Hospital No. 28 in Limoges. He was back with his unit in time to take part in the St. Mihiel Offensive in September and the famous Meuse-Argonne Offensive in October and November, considered to be the greatest American battle of World War I.