AFS Fireman Albert Alfred Savill

Whilst researching the life of AFS Fireman Albert Alfred Savill, I have been extremely fortunate in being able to make contact with two of Albert Alfred Savill’s descendants, who have kindly sent me a vast amount of documents, letters, photographs and newspaper cuttings about their ancestor. With Special thanks to Alf Saville and Keith Dye who have both generously allowed me to use the images and tell the story of their ancestor Albert Alfred Savill. Also additional thanks to Alf Saville who has kindly enhanced a lot of the images that are contained below.

The following extremely detailed research into the life of AFS Fireman Albert Alfred Savill has been carried out by researcher Fiona Smith.

Albert Alfred Savill was born on 27th September 1906 in Hackney in London and he was baptised on 29th October 1906 at St Andrew’s Mission, St John, Hackney. His parents were James William Savill, a labourer, and Alice Sophia Savill (nee Mitchell). At the time of Albert’s Baptism the family were living at 56, Palace Road, Hackney.

At this point it’s worth noting that Albert Alfred Savill was christened as Savill which later evolved with the addition of the letter E, to Saville in more recent times.

Baptism Record 1906 Albert Alfred Saville h

(Albert’s Baptism)

Birth Cert 1906 Albert Alfred Savill

(Albert’s Birth Certificate)

Albert Alfred Savill’s parents married at St Thomas Church, Bethnal Green, Tower Hamlets on 20th July 1891. James William Savill was recorded as a bachelor and carman aged 21, of 3, Diss Street Bethnal Green and Alice Mitchell, a spinster and laundress aged 20 of 7, Diss Street Bethnal Green.

Albert Alfred Savill was one of twelve children (eleven of whom survived beyond infancy) who were all born in Hackney:

William James Savill was born in Hackney in 4Q 1891.

John Henry Savill was born in Hackney in 1Q 1893.

Alice Hannah Savill was born in Hackney in 3Q 1895.

Charles Frederick Savill was born in Hackney in 4Q 1897. 

Joseph Thomas Savill was born in Hackney in 1Q 1900.  However Joseph died before his first birthday.  The death of Joseph Thomas Savill aged 0 was registered in Hackney in 4Q 1900.

Elsie Louisa Savill was born in Hackney in 4Q 1901. 

Martha Lilian Savill was born in Hackney in 2Q 1904.

Albert Alfred Savill was born in Hackney in 4Q 1906.

Arthur George Savill was born in Hackney in 1Q 1909.

Edward E Savill was born in Hackney in 1Q 1911. 

The 1901 Census shows Albert’s father William Savill, a bricklayer’s labourer aged 30, living at 56 Palace Road, Hackney with his wife Alice aged 28 and their children William aged 9, John aged 8, Alice aged 5 and Charles aged 3. 

The 1911 English Census shows Albert Savill, as a schoolboy aged 4, living at 12, Victoria Grove, Morpeth Road, South Hackney with his father James, a bricklayer’s labourer aged 40, mother Alice aged 37, and siblings William aged 19, and John aged 18, both of whose occupations were recorded as van guard, railway company, Alice an assistant in confectionery aged 15, Charles a schoolboy and milkboy aged 13, schoolgirls Elsie aged 9 and Lilian aged 8, Arthur aged 2 and Edward aged one month.  The family’s home was recorded as having 4 rooms. Like many families of the time, the families were large and the houses cramped.



Albert Savill 1911

The 1911 census records that Albert’s parents had been married for 19 years and that they had had 10 children of whom 9 survive. As mentioned above, the child who did not survive was Joseph Thomas Savill.

After the 1911 census, Albert’s parents had two more children, James Harold Savill born in 1913 in Hackney and Florence Violet Savill, born in 1915 in Hackney.

Thanks to the recent launch of the 1921 census online we are able to add an update to the story of Albert and his family and we find the Saville family all living at 12, Morpeth Grove, Morpeth in East London. Aged just 14 years and 9 months you Albert is already out at work, earning his corn as a Van Guard for Carter Patterson in the City. Carter Patterson were a haulage firm closely associated with the Railway Industry.

Census 1921 12 Morpeth Grove, Hackney

Albert Alfred Savill married his sweetheart Louisa Branch on 15th June 1929 at the parish church of St John of Jerusalem, South Hackney, London. At the time Albert was aged 22, a bachelor and builder, of 58 Palace Road, whose father was builder James William Savill. Louisa Ellen Branch was aged 22, a spinster and box hand, of 56 Palace Road, whose father was clerk Henry George Branch (deceased). So our Albert literally married ‘the girl next door’.

Marriage Cert 1929 Albert Alfred Saville & Louisa Ellen Branch h

The Church of St John of Jerusalem, Hackney, London, c1850.

(The Church of St John of Jerusalem, Hackney, London, c1850.)

Albert and Louisa only had one child together, their daughter Eileen Gladys Saville was born on 24th January 1931 in South East Hackney. Not long before the birth of their daughter, the young family moved into their new family home, which was recorded in the electoral registers and on Eileen’s Birth Certificate. The 1932-1939 London Electoral Registers show Albert Alfred Saville and his wife Louisa Ellen Saville living at 54 Harrowgate Road, Hackney.

Eileen Saville Birth

54 Harrowgate Road, Hackney

Electoral Roll 1938 Louisa Ellen Saville h

Electoral Roll 1939 Albert Alfred Saville h

The 1939 Register shows Albert Savill, born 27th September 1906 as a married builder’s labourer and ‘full time AFS’ living at 11 Morpeth Road, Hackney.  The address was home to a total of seven individuals of whom three were noted as being ‘full time AFS’. The other two full time AFS at the address were not among those killed in the Old Palace School Bombing. The 1939 Register also shows that at 12 Morpeth Road, Hackney lived Albert Savill’s father James W Savill, born 17th February 1871, a widowed sanitary engineer, and Albert’s unmarried brothers Arthur Saville, born 31st December 1909, a motor driver mechanic, and James Saville, born 14th May 1913, a credit collector drapery salesman.  Four other individuals, apparently unrelated to the Saville family, also lived at No 12.  

This area would have been at the heart of the traditional ‘East End’ of London, a community that ‘looked after their own’. They didn’t have a lot, but they never asked for anything either, what they had they worked hard for, but they also wouldn’t see a friend or neighbour go without. Morpeth Road was situated just across the road from Victoria Park, which would have been packed during the summer days, full of families enjoying the open space, a far cry from their packed and cramped living conditions. With the park being a stones throw from where the Saville family grew up, I am certain that they would have spent many hours enjoying this wonderful park and all it had to offer.


(Victoria Park)


(Victoria Park Lido)

1939 Register Albert Saville h

(1939 Register)

The 1939 Register shows Albert Alfred Saville’s wife Louisa E Saville, who was born on 27th July 1906, as a married woman doing unpaid domestic duties and living at 3 Dering Terrace, Pluckley, Ashford, Kent. Apart from Louisa Saville, and one married couple, who appear first on the Register at the address, 3 Dering Terrace appears to also have been home to two other married women of around the same age as Louisa but, as with Louisa, not their husbands. In the Register each of the married women’s entries are followed by between one and three individuals whose details have been redacted. We suspect that these are the women’s children.  Louisa Saville’s entry is followed by one individual whose details have been redacted. We suspect that this is Louisa’s daughter Eileen who would have been about 8 years old.  There are two plausible explanations for this; Could the women and children have been in the village of Pluckley to participate in the local hop picking?  Or had they been evacuated to Pluckley from the East End of London? (Note – The television series The Darling Buds of May was filmed in Pluckley in the 1990s.) 

1939 Register 3 Dering Terrace, Pluckley, Kent h_2

(1939 Register)

Dering Terrace, Pluckley *

Albert’s service record with the fire brigade shows that he had his fire brigade medical on 29th March 1939 and he commenced his initial basic training on 4th April 1939. He completed his training on 18th July 1939 and the service record also shows that his occupation was a Builder’s Labourer. He was assigned to station 23 at Homerton in Hackney, London and the record also shows that he was killed by enemy action.

Albert Alfred Saville AFS War Record h

(Fire Service Record for Albert Alfred Saville)

The blurry image below, we are led to believe, is the Homerton Fire Brigade, but if you know this picture is of another Station, then please let me know.

Keith Dye Doc 20

Below is a picture of a group of men from Homerton Fire Station, smiling and proud to be serving their Country, little did they know what fate had in store for some of them just around the corner.

Keith Dye Doc 21

,Below is the one picture that we have of Albert Saville, an extremely proud man, the smile that shows a man happy in his work and happy to be serving his Country when it was needed. Albert and his colleagues gave the ultimate sacrifice for their King and Country and we will all be forever grateful to them for their courage and dedication to duty. Like so many of this generation, they did not ask why, they just did their job, in their eyes they were doing ‘their bit’ for the Country.

Albert Alfred Savill AFS Photograph h

The following Air Raid Warning document is dated 19th April 1941 and I have transcribed the whole document out due to the poor image quality;

19th April

Fires caused by enemy action – “A busy night but the fire situation was not on the same scale as on 16th April. A total of 612 fires of which, 1 was major, 7 serious, 85 medium and 519 small. The districts most affected were West Ham, East Ham and Barking, to whose assistance 7 officers, 219 pumps, 5 fireboats, 6 turntable ladders and 2 canteen vans were sent. Small contingents were also sent to Carshalton, Croydon and Erith and 12 pumps stood by in London in Barnes, Beckenham and Mitcham. The fire situation in London was never really serious and sufficient appliances were always available to meet the demand. No difficulties were experienced in obtaining water supplies. A great number of high explosive bombs were dropped, particularly in the “C” and “D” districts. Four L.F.B Stations received direct hits, namely 24U Old Palace School, St, Leonard’s Street, E3. 30 Y Stewart Headlam School, Somefrod Street, E2, 42 Sub-District Station, Woolwich, and 42 W Aulgrave Place L.C.C. School, Rectory Place, SE 18. At 30Y and 42 the damage was not serious and there were no major casualties. At 24U four pumps from the Beckenham Fire Service were standing by as a regional move and 21 Beckenham firemen are missing in addition to the London Station Officer, 12 men and 2 women. of the total of 36, 11 bodies were recovered by 20th April. At 42W, which received severe damage a few weeks ago, 5 persons were trapped under debris and then extricated, 3 were dead and 2 injured. An L.F.B sub-officer is believed to have fallen overboard from a fireboat and to have been drowned. The boat which was proceeding to Hay’s Wharf got into difficulties athwart a number of barges and the sub-officer was found to be missing shortly after he had been observed attempting to free the boat.”

19th April 1941 Air Raid Warnings h copy

UK World War II Civilian Deaths 1939-1945 shows Albert Alfred Saville, aged 35, Fireman AFS (father James William Saville) of 54 Harrowgate Road, Hackney, husband of Louisa Ellen Saville, died 20 April 1941 at Old Palace LCC School.

Death Record 1941 Albert Alfred Saville (Fireman) h

Death Cert 1941 Albert Alfred Saville

Albert’s death certificate shows a cause of death as “due to war operations” and he was living at 54, Harrogate Road, Hackney, his occupation was listed as a Fireman A.F.S and a Builders Labourer.

As is often the case with families during war time, Albert’s brother, James Harold Saville was killed on 15th June 1943 during a bombing raid over Munchengladbach whilst serving as an RAF Lancaster Bomber rear gunner. He is buried in the Rheinberg War Cemetery in Germany.


The image below would indicate that a group of fire brigade personnel restored a fire service vehicle that was destroyed by the bomb blast at the Old Palace School and was restored in the memory of the Millborne Crew who were in attendance on that fateful night in April 1941. Dedicated to the memory of; Barrel, Jones, Mead, Campbell Savill Rashbrook. The restoration is also dedicated to Mr & Mrs Somerville. Sadly we don’t have a picture of the restored vehicle, but if you are reading this and have a copy of the picture, then we would love to hear from you.

Keith Dye Doc 22

Albert Alfred Saville’s widow Louisa did not remarry after his death and she died aged 88 in Waltham Forest in 1994. One can only imagine the pain and loss of losing your Husband so young, their journey had barely started in life, for it to be cut down so tragically short. For some the loss and grief is impossible to overcome.

The following press cuttings were kindly sent to me by Keith Dye;

AFS In memory of those who died

Keith Dye Doc 19

AFS Down Memory Lane 'The Night 34 Died' copy

AFS 'Town's Tribute to the Brave' h copy

Keith Dye Doc 1

Keith Dye Doc 2

Keith Dye Doc 10b 

Keith Dye Doc 3

Keith Dye Doc 5

Of all the documents that I have received or uncovered, whilst researching the events surrounding the Old Palace School Bombing, the document below, simple in its entirety, sums up what took place on that awful night. So many lives changed forever that night and so many families were torn apart by the loss of their loved ones. Their lives would never be the same again, all their hopes and futures were cruelly taken from them by the hands of the Luftwaffe.

“All services required urgent! Place on Fire Old Palace School St. Leonards Street”

AFS All Services Required Urgent

AFS Trapped h

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