Albert Charles Amsler was born around 1886 in Besançon, France; the son of Auguste and Annie G. Amsler. By the time of the 1891 census, the family was living in Walthamstow, North London, where Auguste Amsler was a merchant’s clerk. Five-year-old Albert was listed, along with his father, as a French citizen. Another son, Arthur, was born to the family about 1896 and by 1901 they were living in Lewisham: Albert is then described as a student. The 1911 census has all four members of the family living at Pearfield Road, Forest Hill, which was to remain their home for many years. Albert, now a 25-year-old bachelor, was registered as a Professor of Music, though the college is not specified. As an unattached member of Durham University Albert Amsler matriculated in the Michaelmas term of 1912, but did not gain a degree.
Amsler enlisted in the Army on 24 July 1917 at Camberwell, London, and was posted to 8th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. The descriptive report which accompanies the enlistment paperwork describes him as 6 feet in height, weighing 165 lbs and with a chest measurement of 40” expanding by 3”. He was medically classified as B1.
In October 1917 the 8th Battalion of the Cheshires was posted to India as part of the India Expeditionary Force, leaving Devonport on 8 October. The journey must have included a stop-over in South Africa, since on the morning of 19 November 1917 Private Amsler failed to return to Congella Camp in Durban, when he was due to leave for India. He consequently missed the steamer, H.M.T. “Empress of Britain”. He was under arrest until 20 December when he was tried for desertion by the D.C.M. at Durban. He was sentenced to undergo detention for 1 year: the sentence was confirmed by the Base Commander on 21 December 1917.
He subsequently left for India on 7 January 1918, disembarked at Bombay on 23 January and was admitted to the Calabar War Hospital on the same day. During the spring and summer of 1918 he was continually admitted to and discharged from hospital, with a fracture to the left tibia, occasional diarrhoea, and an injury to his lower shins which required a splint. On 7 August 1918 he was again admitted to hospital suffering from diarrhoea and was still there on 13 August when influenza was diagnosed. In September he was transferred from the Hislop War Hospital to the Section Hospital where he was under observation for mental trauma. His health seems to have deteriorated over a long period and on 18 October 1918 he died at Secunderabad of influenza, aged 32.
Albert Amsler is buried in Bolarum Cavalry Barracks Cemetery, India, and commemorated in several locations: Durham University’s roll of service (1920); the First World War war memorial, in Forest Hill, Lewisham, and the 1914-1918 war memorial at Madras.