Alick Todd was born at Penshaw, County Durham, in the summer of 1892, the second son and fourth of eight children of Edward Todd, a dental anaesthetist, and his wife Annie. He attended a boarding school in Scarborough, at 10 West Street, and then went on to Durham Grammar School, entering School House in May 1909. There he rowed in the Third Crew, and excelled at rugby, making the first team in 1911. He was also a school monitor in his final year.
He matriculated at Durham University in Michaelmas term 1912 as an Arts scholar in University College. A Lyndsey and School scholar throughout his time at the university, he was awarded his B.A. (in litteris antiquis), 2nd class, in 1914. Todd was also a fives and rugby player and a shooter, winning the Gee Cup in 1914, captaining his college’s rugby team, and serving as Secretary of the Durham Colleges R.F.C. in his final year. He also sat on the Students’ Representative Council from 1914-1915.
In August 1914 upon the outbreak of war Todd was commissioned Second Lieutenant with the 4th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, his probationary period concluding with confirmation of his rank in March 1915. He went with his battalion to France in 1915. He was wounded that year at Richebourg l'Avoue on 17 May. Promoted to lieutenant on 16 March 1916, in October that year he won the Military Cross for conspicuous gallantry. The citation read as follows.
"He went over our barrier in broad daylight to reconnoitre the enemy's barrier 50 yards away. On the two following days he organised and carried out two successful bombing attacks. He had to go a long way under heavy shell fire while making the arrangements with another unit, and was without food for 24 hours or sleep for 28 hours."
Supplement to the London Gazette no. 2973, p. 10192, 20 October 1916
This must have occurred while Todd temporarily held the rank of captain while commanding a company, between 14 September and 24 October. He was wounded again on 6 January 1917. The Durham University Roll of Service records that Todd also served with the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment in 1915, and the 10th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, but these appointments are not recorded on his medal card. By March 1917 Todd was attached to the Royal Flying Corps, serving in 18 Squadron as an Observer/Gunner.
Lieutenant Todd was shot down whilst escorting a photographic reconnaissance patrol on 12 April 1917, a day when heavy blizzards restricted flying all day. He and his pilot, Lieutenant O.D. Maxted took off from Bertangles at 08:50, flying FE2b4984, and were engaged by Vizefeldwebel Schorisch of Jasta 12 over Dury-Eterpigny. While Maxted survived, Todd was badly injured, and died of his wounds in captivity four days later, aged 24. He is buried at Sauchy-Cauchy Communal Cemetery Extension, Pas de Calais, France. His family were then living at Sidney Villa, Shiney Row, Penshaw, and they chose as an inscription ‘Rest dear son, thy labour is o’er, thy willing hands will toil no more’ for his headstone.
Alick Todd’s sacrifice is commemorated in several places: Durham Grammar School’s War Record (1919) and chapel, a plaque at the church of St Margaret of Antioch in Durham (formerly Durham School’s chapel), a stained glass window at All Saints’ Church in Penshaw, and a war memorial, roll of honour, and plaque at Shiney Row. His younger sister Nora also gave to the church of St Oswald at Shiney Row on 1 November 1918 a chalice and paten dedicated to him