Prior to enlisting in the army, Dixon Alston had worked in the Co-operative Wholesale Society Building Department in Manchester. He was despatched to the Western Front as a rifleman in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 3rd Battalion, and arrived in France on 9 February 1915.
Rifles were one of the main weapons used throughout the First World War. They provided a portable alternative for foot soldiers to the weighty machine guns and mortars. The British Vickers-Maxim machine gun alone weighed 54 kg, whereas a Lee-Enfield rifle weighed only 4kg, making it much easier to use in a mobile battle.
During the early part of the war, the British valued accurate marksmanship to take out enemy soldiers, and thus the rifle remained in common use. However, the development of trench warfare led to the increased use of machine guns to defend positions. In 1915, the Germans recognised that a high volume of fire concentrated in the area of the attacking troops could exact heavy casualties. On 9 March 1915, just one month after disembarking, Alston was killed in action by enemy fire. Although little is known of the circumstances of his death, he may have been subject to these new tactics. His death was reported in the Co-operative News.
Co-operative News, 17 April 1915, page 499.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.