Headstone for an unknown Australian soldier representing Pte Albert E. STAPLETON 1885-1916
Fromelles Association of Australia

Albert Edward STAPLETON

Regimental Number
War Service
Egypt and the Western Front
Prior Military Service
27 Jul 1915 at Cootamundra, NSW
13 Oct 2015 from Sydney, NSW, on the HMAT A17 Port Lincoln
Next of Kin
Mother - Ellen Stapleton, Oakfield Road, Long Lane, Finchley, England
Date & Place of Birth
1885, Finchley, Middlesex, England
William and Ellen (nee PLANT) STAPLETON
Marital Status
Eighth of nine children
Physical Description
5 feet 6 1/2 inches, 155 pounds (168.9cm, 70.3kg)
Eyes dark blue, Hair dark, Complexion medium dark
Church of England
Killed in Action, 19 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France - aged 30
Place of Burial
No known grave
V.C. Corner, (Panel 9), Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified

Albert Stapleton

Can you help to identify Albert?

Albert’s body was never found after the battle. There still is a chance he might be identified, but we need help.

A mass grave was found in 2008 that the Germans had dug for 250 bodies they had recovered after the battle. To April 2023, 173 of these soldiers have been identified and given proper burials and recognition through finding family DNA donors. 77 soldiers remain and some identifications are highly likely. We just need to find DNA donors.

Albert did not have any family in Australia that we know of, but it is clear that he had strong ties to his family back in Finchley, UK.

If you know anything of Albert’s contacts here in Australia or his relatives in England we would like to hear from you.

See the DNA box at the end Albert’s story for what we do know about his family.

Early Life

Albert Edward Stapleton was born in Finchley, Middlesex, England in late 1885. He was the eighth of nine children born to William and Ellen (nee Plant) Stapleton, four girls and five boys:

  • Ellen (1874)
  • William (1875)
  • Jane (1876)
  • Walter (1878)
  • Florence (1881)
  • George (1882)
  • Peter (1884)
  • Albert (1885)
  • Frances (1887).

Albert attended Saint Mary's school in Finchley, London and then, like his father, became a nurseryman/florist. In 1908, at the age of 23, he emigrated to Australia and settled in the Cootamundra, New South Wales area.

946-Albert Stapleton -image1png
St Mary’s, the parish church at Finchley, where most of the Stapleton children were baptised.


According to his sister Ellen in the UK, he wanted to join in the war efforts early, enlisting on 28 July 1915. He was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 11th reinforcements and shortly afterwards he embarked from Sydney, 13 October 1915, headed for Egypt.

946-Albert Stapleton -image2png
A souvenir picture of the troopship for the 11th reinforcements, 4th Battalion published in the newspaper in February 1916. Albert’s signature is circled in red at bottom right.

Albert had training and assignments in Zeitoun, Tel-el-Kebir and Ismailia, Egypt. In February 1916, he was reassigned to the newly formed 53rd Battalion, part of the reorganisation to accommodate the new recruits coming in from Australia.

In mid-June 1916, the 53rd was preparing to join the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front. Albert left Egypt with the 32 officers and 952 soldiers of his Battalion on the “Royal George” on 19 June and he arrived in Marseille on 28 June 1916.

Albert had written his sister while he was in Egypt that he had hoped to be able to get back to England, but she later noted that instead, “the ‘Great Push’ of July claimed them.”

The Western Front / Fromelles

After arriving in Marseille on June 28th, they had a 62-hour train ride to Thiennes. It was noted that their “reputation had evidently preceded them”, as they were well received by the French at the towns all along the route. After several days of marching the 35 kilometres to Fleurbaix, they were settled into billets on 16 July and by 0300 on the 17th they were into the front lines.

946-Albert Stapleton -image3png
Map of the scene of the Battle of Fromelles showing troop placements.
source Michael Senior, Fromelles 1916, Pen & Sword Books, Barnsley England. Reproduced with permission

On the 18th, they took over the trenches held by the 54th, with the River Layes and the 60th Battalion on their left. There was severe bombardment all night by both the British Expeditionary Force and by the Germans. At 4:00pm, the 54th Battalion rejoined on their left.

The Australians’ attack began at 5:43pm. There were four waves from the 53rd attacking while they were only 15 yards from the German trenches. They initially took the German first and second line trenches, linking up with the 54th on their left, but no one could be found on the right. The battle continued and their lines were held through the night, but the Germans were counterattacking on their front and right flank and the trenches that were captured had to be given back. It took until midday on the 20th for the artillery bombardment to quieten down.

By 9:00am on the 20th, the 53rd received orders to retreat from positions won and by 9:30 they had “retired with very heavy loss”. By 4:30pm the remains of Brigade assembled at HQ. Of the 984 men who had left Alexandria just weeks earlier, 372 were killed or missing and 335 were wounded.

On the 21st, stretcher parties were given a chance by the Germans to collect the wounded, but Albert was not among them.

Albert’s Fate

Albert had been shot during one of the charges and as he was returning, one of his mates said, “What, ‘Mother’ (his nickname), have they got you?” Albert’s reply was, “Yes. They’ve done for us this time.”

946-Albert Stapleton -image4png
Evidence by Private 4802 Harry W. KNIGHT having seen Albert returning wounded to the Australian lines. More than one soldier referred to Albert by the nickname “Mother”.
source AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – 3440 STAPLETON, Albert Edward, p. 8

According to the reports, he had been shot in the shoulder and had been heading back to the dressing station for treatment in a “lively fashion”. However, before he got there, both Private 3425 Reignor PINCHEN and Private 3238 Headland F. BARNES reported that a ‘star’ shell (flare) had exploded, killing him instantly, still only yards from the German lines. Both Pinchen and Barnes had been with Albert in the 4th Battalion before transferring to the 53rd, and their signatures also appear in the earlier souvenir photo of the troopship.

946-Albert Stapleton -image5png
Evidence by Private 3425 Reignor PINCHEN from Cessnock, NSW that Albert was killed.
source AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – 3440 STAPLETON, Albert Edward, p 2

A Court of Enquiry, held in the field on 2 September 1917 pronounced his fate as 'Killed in Action, 19 July 1916'.

His sister Ellen in England had been in regular contact with the AIF and the Red Cross trying to find out about Albert. Albert had written home from Egypt, but the first news the family had of him being in France were the reports that they received that he was missing.

946-Albert Stapleton -image6png
One of Ellen’s many letters seeking news of her brother, Albert, this one dated 14 September 1916.
source AWM: Australian Red Cross Wounded and Missing Files – 3440 STAPLETON, Albert Edward, p 10-11

With the confusion from the severity of the battle, there were later reports that Albert had survived and had been treated in England and went back into training. Ellen was advised of this, but with the caveat that these reports may be unreliable - as was later proven to be the case, as it did not relate to Albert.

Memorials and medals

Albert’s remains have not been found but he has been commemorated at the V.C. Corner memorial, panel 9, near Fromelles, France and the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, Roll of Honour, panel 158. He was awarded the 1914-15 Star and the British War and Victory medals and these were sent to his mother as his next of kin, as well as a Memorial Scroll and Memorial Plaque.

946-Albert Stapleton -image7png
Plaque at VC Corner, Fromelles, showing Albert’s name.

Albert’s brother, Lance Corporal Walter Richard Stapleton of the London Regiment County of London Artists’ Rifles Battalion (service number 764670), was also killed in action during the war. Walter, married with two children, died aged 39 at the Somme on 30 December 1917. Like Albert, he has no known grave but is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.

His youngest sister, Frances (service number 731), also served in the Queen Mary’s Army Auxiliary Corps during the war. This corps was formed in 1917 recruiting the first women to serve in non-nursing roles in the British Army. Thousands of women enlisted to provide clerical, catering, storekeeping and vehicle maintenance services for the army to free up more men for combat. Like her two older brothers, Albert and Walter, Frances was awarded the British War and Victory medals.

Albert and Walter Stapleton - known unto God. Lest we forget.

Mt DNA samples are being sought from ancestors and descendants of Ellen Jane PLANT

SoldierAlbert Edward STAPLETON 1885 - 1916
ParentsWilliam Thomas STAPLETON 1848-1924 – England and Ellen Jane PLANT 1844 - 1926 – England
SiblingsEllen Jane 1874 - 1940 (married William HUTCHINSON)
William Jethro 1875 –
Jane 1876 – (married John W. READ)
Walter Richard – 1878-1917 (married Ivy Winifred Weeks HAZELL)
Florence Mary– 1881-1962
George Arthur – 1882 - (married Edith R RUDD nee BARKER)
Peter Kay – 1884-1929 (married Dorothy STALHAM)
Frances Elizabeth– 1887-1986
PaternalJethro STAPLETON 1823 – 1884 – England and Jane BRIGGS 1820 – 1883 - England
MaternalJohn PLANT - England

Seeking DNA Donors

Fromelles Association of Australia


The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).


The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).