Private 2503 William Walker

William Walker was born in Liverpool on 1st August, 1878, the son of George and Elizabeth Walker. William grew up in the Everton district, living for many years as a child in Radcliffe Street, off Brunswick Road.

Aged 19, and employed as a labourer, he attested for the 3rd (Militia) Battalion of the North Lancashire Regiment on 20th September, 1899 and was given the service number 6616. At that time he lived at 17, Aden Street, Liverpool.

He was 5 feet 4 and a 1/4 inches tall, 32inch chest, weighed 113lbs, had a fresh complexion, grey eyes, brown hair and a dimple on his chin.

Among the first Militia units to be embodied, in December 1899, were the 3rd Battalions of the South Lancashire and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments. The Loyals mobilised at Fulwood Baracks, from where they left for pre-deployment training at Shorncliffe and Lydd before sailing to Malta. The 3rd Loyal North Lancashires did garrison duty in Malta until March 1901, when they too sailed for South Africa.

The 3rd (Militia) Bn. Loyal North Lancashire Regt. in Malta, 1901

In South Africa the main task of the Militia battalions was to protect the vital but vulnerable railway lines of communication from Boer raids and sabotage, but they were also engaged in more mobile operations. In a guerrilla war of patrols, mounted infantry, armoured trains and blockhouses, they were involved in numerous skirmishes. Six of the Lancashire Militia were killed in action and 14 wounded, but a further 81 died of disease or by accident.

William Walker served with the 3rd Battalion of the North Lancashire Regiment in South Africa from 2nd March, 1901 until the 14th March, 1902. Returning to the UK he resumed his normal life and married Mary Vernon on December 25th 1902. They were married at St. Phillip's Church, Liverpool. He continued to serve in the Militia until he was discharged in September, 1906 having served his agreed term of 7 years.

William and Mary eventually had 10 children: Dorothy Ellen Walker (b. 13 October 1903), Sarah Walker (b. 9 March 1906), James Walker (b. 1908), Agnes Walker (b. 6 August 1910), Mary Walker (b. 24 October 1912), Emma Georgina Walker (b. 14 December 1917), Blanche Walker (b. 28 May 1920), Martha Marion Walker (b. 28 May 1920), Stanley Vernon Walker (b. 18 April 1923), William Walker (b. 22 December 1925). Children, Eleanor Dorothy (b.13/10/03), Sarah (b.09/03/06), James William (b.01/08/08), Agnes Ann (b.07/08/10), Mary (b.26/10/12).

In the 1911 census William and his family were living at 18 Copeland Street, Everton, and William's occupation was cited as 'House Painter'.

When the Great War began in August, 1914 William voluntarily re-enlisted, joining the 9th Battalion of the King's Liverpool Regiment at Liverpool on 22nd September, 1914. At the time of his enlistment he and his family were living at 17, Sampson Street, Liverpool. His enlistment papers describe him as 5ft 5 inches tall, 34 inch chest, good vision and he had dark brown hair.

After training at Tunbridge Wells, the 1/9th King's finally embarked for the war on 12th March, 1915 and William Walker was with them.

He was wounded at Festubert on 9th May, 1915 at the Battle of Aubers Ridge.

This account of the battle is taken from "The 9th King's in France", by EHG Roberts, an officer of the battalion:

"The disastrous enterprise of the 9th May was the first major action of the war in which the "Ninth" took part. Shattered at its inception, the whole attack soon came to an end. The lack of high explosive shells and the consequent failure of the British artillery to destroy the enemy wire entanglements were probably the main causes of the holocaust that took place on that day. Though one of the biggest disasters the British arms sustained throughout the war, it was scarcely noted in the newspapers, and would seem to a casual observer quite insignificant compared with the sinking of the "Lusitania," which had taken place some days before, although in the battle it is believed that the 2nd Infantry Brigade lost a bigger proportion of men than had ever been previously known in warfare.

On the 8th May, the Battalion took up its battle position in rear of the Rue du Bois at Richebourg l'Avoue, and there awaited the attack on the morrow. The detail that obtained in battle orders of later dates was wanting, in view of the fact that greater responsibility was in the early days placed upon Commanding Officers. The Battalion was to support the attack as the third wave. The flanks were given and in the event of an advance the Battalion was to keep Chocolat Menier Corner on its immediate right. The fight commenced with an ordinary bombardment of forty minutes chiefly by field pieces, which according to the text book are primarily intended not for bombardment but for use against personnel. A battery of heavy howitzers was also in action. The ordinary bombardment was followed by an intense bombardment of ten minutes.

At 5 30 a.m. the Battalion advanced to the third line of trenches immediately in rear of the Rue du Bois, and several losses attributable to machine guns and shells were sustained. At 6 0 a.m. the Battalion was continuing the advance to the support line when the 2nd King's Royal Rifles asked for immediate support in the attack. The Battalion therefore passed over the support line and quickly reached the front line. The advent of a fresh unit made confusion the worse confounded. The trenches which afforded little shelter were filled with men and the enemy was using his artillery freely. Machine guns in profusion were disgorging their several streams of bullets. Communication trenches had been blotted out. Despite the lessons of Neuve Chapelle there was no effective liaison between artillery and infantry as the telephone wires were soon cut and as a consequence the inferno was intensified' by the short firing of the British artillery a battery of 6 inch howitzers being the chief offender.

Numerous casualties had been suffered and among them was the Commanding Officer: who was killed. The command then passed to Major J. W. B. Hunt, who decided that it was useless to attempt to assault the enemy position without further artillery preparation, as the enemy's barbed wire was practically intact, and the only two gaps that were available were covered by enemy machine guns. A report on the situation was made to Brigadier General Thesiger, and instructions were received that on no account was the Battalion to leave the front line, and it was to hold the same against a possible and probable counter attack by the enemy.

At 10.00 a.m. the Battalion was ordered to Prepare to take part in a second attack to be launched at 11.15a.m. Half an hour later a further order postponed the second attack until 12.30p.m. Thousands had failed to take the objectives in the early morning, and it was unlikely that hundreds would succeed in the afternoon. This attack was ultimately cancelled, and at 4.0p.m. the Battalion was withdrawn. A further attack was delivered in vain at 4.30 p.m. by other regiments in the Division. Though the Battalion unfortunately accomplished little, it sustained almost a hundred casualties, but it was fortunate in that it escaped the same fate as befell four of the Battalions in the Brigade which were almost annihilated. The battle from almost every point of view was a dismal failure, and the rate of casualties was perhaps the highest then recorded. It was during the 4.30 p.m. attack that the men were privileged to witness one of the most magnificent episodes of the war; which was the advance made by the 1st Battalion Black Watch and the 1st Battalion Cameron Highlanders. This was carried out with parade like precision in face of a most withering rifle and machine gun fire, out of which scarcely half a dozen of those brave fellows returned."

William was wounded by an artillery shell during the day. The explosion of the shell caused fragements to burst in every direction and one of these struck him, becoming embedded below his right shoulder. The shells exploded on impact with the ground and threw up a large quantity of earth. William was buried by the blast. As well as the shrapnel wound, his right knee and side were badly swollen. He was evacuated from the battlefield and through various medical facilities until he arrived at one of the large military hospitals on the French coast. He was treated there until, on the 20th May, 1915, he was evacuated to England on board a hospital ship. He had only spent 70 days in France, but for William, the war was over.

On 28th June, 1916, William was transferred to the 3/4th Battalion, King's Shropshire Light Infantry, being given the new number 5341. At this point he was recovering from his wounds and was probably considered to be making a reasonable recovery. At any rate, the decision hadn't yet been made to discharge him from the Army.

However, on the 13th July, 1916 he attended a Medical Board at Swansea which made the decision to discharge him from the Army due to "synovitis, right knee" which was noted as having its origin in May, 1915. The notes of the board read: "Buried by shell explosion. Shrapnel embedded below right shoulder. Wears knee bandage. Pain on marching. Rheumatic pains back". The piece of shrapnel could be felt below the surface of his skin.

He was finally discharged from the Army at Shrewsbury on 27th July, 1916 being "No longer physically fit for war service".

William died on 19th December, 1939.

He was entitled to wear the Queen's Mediterranean Medal for his service during the Boer War, and the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory medal for his Great War service.