Sergeant Alfred Loft

Extract from the June 2011 edition of History Lines (No. 22)

Steve Daly starts us off this month with a photograph and article on Sergeant Alfred Loft from his Great Eastern Railway Police collection.

Some years ago a gentleman living in Sussex sent to me a copy of a photograph that he thought depicted a relative of his cousin and as he had heard that I “know a bit about the police” he wondered if I could assist him in learning more about the photograph. He was able to provide me with some very scant details including what he thought were the identities of the medals being worn by this police officer. Sadly I was unable to add anything further other than to confirm the details of the medals, until very recently.

Last Christmas I was browsing through some copies of The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, the staff journal for the company’s staff between 1911 and 1916, when there staring at me from the page was a photograph that seemed familiar. Or should I say the face was familiar… …for this was the same chap in the photograph that had been sent to me some years earlier. Reading on I was at last able to piece together some of the details of this gentleman’s story.

The gentleman on the right in this photograph has been identified as Police Sergeant Alfred C. Loft, who was an Enquiry Sergeant in the Great Eastern Railway Police, stationed at Chelmsford. The other gentleman is an RSPCA Inspector and is believed to be Sergeant Loft’s brother. The original photograph carried a hand-written inscription on the rear, “From Alf to Ted with best wishes. Christmas 1919.”

During the Boer War of 1899 to 1902, Alfred Loft served with the 8th (King’s Royal Irish) Hussars as a Lance Sergeant (Service No. 4541) and was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 with three clasps, the Cape Colony; Orange Free State; and Transvaal. He was later awarded the King’s South Africa Medal for service between 1901 and 1902.

The King’s South Africa Medal was only issued to those who fought in 1902 and had served for 18 months before the 1st June 1902. The medal was not issued alone, but always with the Queen’s South Africa Medal. Two clasps were issued with the King’s South Africa Medal, South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. Sergeant Loft has both of these clasps to his medal.

In the June 1913 edition of The Great Eastern Railway Magazine it was reported that at Chelmsford, “A plucky, though unsuccessful attempt at rescue was made recently by Police Sergeant Loft at this station. A lady tried to join a train running at speed, and Mr Loft, seeing her danger, endeavoured to release her hold. In doing so both fell, the lady unfortunately receiving fatal injuries. At the inquest Sergeant Loft was complimented on his action.”

In 1914 The Great Eastern Railway Magazine commenced publishing lists of men employed by the Company who had “Joined the Colours”. This practice was continued throughout the Great War, and on page xii of the very first supplement containing this list, issued with the January 1914 edition we find that Sergeant Loft had re-joined the 8th Hussars.

In fact Sergeant Loft served in France as a Regimental Sergeant Major, and was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal as well as the 1914 Star. According to The Great Eastern Railway Magazine of November 1918 Sergeant Loft was aged forty-two at the time of the award of the M.S.M., which judging by the ribbon was issued post-1917 when the ribbon was changed from crimson with white edges to crimson with white edges and a white central stripe.

The medals being worn by Sergeant Loft in the photograph are believed to be as follows (L to R):

Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 (plus clasps);

King’s South Africa Medal 1901-1902 (plus clasps);

1914 Star;

Meritorious Service Medal (plus clasps).

In the June 1920 edition of The Great Eastern Railway Magazine, it was reported that, “The G.E.R. Police Athletic Club have recently issued a referendum to all the staff of the Polled; department as to the advisability of reconstituting the club, and judging by the returned papers there is every prospect of the club enjoying the popularity it did before the war.” A general meeting of the Club was held in the Gymnasium at Liverpool Street station and among the Club officers voted in Alfred Loft was voted as Captain of the Tug-of-War Team.

Despite having access to a complete run of The Great Eastern Railway Magazine and its successor, The LNER Magazine, I have been unable to find any further references to Sergeant Loft, so have been unable to determine any further details of his police career. Neither does he appear in the BTPHG Personnel ‘database’. As a result, for the time being at least, the story has hit the buffers at this point, but as reaching this point has been such a case of chance who knows what the future might turn up.

Sadly the person who originally sent me the photograph and who, I am sure would be so interested in what I have found out, has passed away. However, as with so many enquiries during my police career, now I have got the bit between my teeth I will continue to search for further information to bring the story to a close.

Steve Daly

WebMasters Note:
Eagle eyed users will have noticed that a cropped version of this photograph (showing only Sgt Loft) appears in our Photo Gallery (Constituent Forces – Portraits). This version of the photo originally appeared on the history pages of the BTP website.