Albert Short: Veteran, Crane Driver and Latter-day Saint

    by James Perry

    Albert Short

    Being no stranger to hardships and horrors, Albert Short was one of many individuals to have experienced the best and the worst that this world had to offer.  

    Born to a Latter-day Saint family on 2 March 1919, Albert was raised in West Hartlepool, a busy and industrious maritime town on the east coast of County Durham, England.  Albert’s parents, Albert and Ann Short had married and joined the Church in the years leading up to the Great War.  At a young age, Albert lost his father who died in 1921 aged 38.  At the time of his father’s death, his mother was pregnant with their seventh child, Robert.  Despite now finding herself without her husband, Ann remained faithful as she raised her children in the gospel.  On 8 December 1928, Albert was baptised and confirmed a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    When he was 14, Albert and three of his friends were involved in a horrific accident.  They were cycling two abreast along a road from Stockton-on-Tees to West Hartlepool when one of them, Tom Marker, hit the back tyre of a friend’s bicycles and fell into the road.  A bus travelling behind ran over Tom, killing him almost instantly.[1]  Although some of the details are unclear, the friends appear to have been heading home after attending a Latter-day Saint meeting in Stockton-on-Tees.

    A year or so later, around 1936, Albert began working for the London North Eastern Railway company as a crane driver.  He worked there until his military service in 1939.  In the Church, Albert served alongside many of his family, who formed a significant portion of the West Hartlepool congregation.  The family contributed to the Branch by serving in a variety of ways, with Albert providing entertainment at activities.

    The type of crane that Albert worked on

    In 1939, at the outbreak of the Second World War, Albert joined the Green Howards as a Private and was deployed to Europe.  After fighting in France and his evacuation from Dunkirk, Albert returned home safely, unlike others he knew and served with.  On 11 January 1941 he married Evelyn Burgon, who had joined the Church in 1932.  Not long after the wedding, Albert was sent to Egypt to fight the German North African army.  However, Evelyn soon found she was expecting a child, with Albert thousands of miles away fighting in a foreign land.

    Photograph of Albert in his military dress, notification in local news
    Photograph of Albert in his military dress, notification in local news

    In 1942, during the battle of El Alamein, Albert was captured and taken to Italy.  After arriving at a camp, Albert sent news to his wife:

    “Private Albert Short to Mrs. Short, 34 Duke Street, West Hartlepool — Safe and well. Do not worry. Love, you and David.”[2]

    After internment in several prison camps, he and his comrades ended up in Stalag IV-C, in Bystrice, now the Czech Republic.  Other internees serving alongside Albert reported losing their teeth and being severely underweight when released in May 1945.  In the closing stages of the war prisoners of war received limited attention and care from their captors and also suffered from friendly fire as the Allied forces sought to strike nearby targets.  Finally, he was able to return home.[3]

    In February 1950, now demobbed and integrated back into civilian life, Albert was interviewed and sketched by Kathleen Shackleton, the sister of British explorer Ernest Shackleton, as part of a commission of the Docks and Inland Waterways Executive, who wanted to “depict the men who carry out the many trades and crafts of the docks.”[4]  Albert had returned to his profession as a crane driver following his return to England. The couple talked as Kathleen sketched, sharing their experiences and upbringing. Despite the difficult and trying circumstances that he had found himself in, Albert held true to the gospel and proved to be a positive and likeable individual.

    Photograph of Kathleen Shackleton sketching Albert Short
    Photograph of Kathleen Shackleton sketching Albert Short

     

    In the spring of 1951, the Short family emigrated to the United States. Before leaving, Albert was gifted with an inscribed fountain pen by the dock-foreman on behalf of his colleagues.[5]  He had worked at the docks for fifteen years; tribute was paid to Albert’s efficiency; he was seen by his employer as a model employee.  Albert and Evelyn, with their two sons, David and Jim, set off for Utah where they settled.  In their new home, the Shorts continued to live the gospel they had clung to in Britain, including serving in the Jordan River Temple.  On 31 May 2001, Albert passed away, and five years later, on 30 August 2006, Evelyn was reunited with her husband. The couple, although separated numerous times in their life, could now be reunited for eternity.

    Green Howard Prisoners at Stalag IV-C
    Green Howard Prisoners at Stalag IV-C

    For more church history stories go to https://www.lds.org.uk/church-history


    [1] The Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 2 March 1934, ‘Swerved Into Bus’.

    [2] Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 13 October 1942, ‘War Prisoner’s Message’.

    [3] Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 30 May 1945, ‘P.O.W. For Three Years’.

    [4] The Northern Daily Mail, 14 February 1950, ‘A Room With A View’.

    [5] Hartlepool Northern Daily Mail, 1 March 1951, ‘Leaving West H’pool To Join The Mormons’.