When I first started researching Walter I wasn’t convinced I had the right man, until I found the newspaper report of his death in the Derbyshire Times. Walter spent a short period of time in Whittington and Brimington, although he was born in Brimington, but someone felt quite rightly that he deserved to be on the Old Whittington War Memorials.
Walter Reynolds was born in Brimington in 1878. He was the second child for Walter and Elizabeth Reynolds, they already had an older child Lenora. Walters parents originally came from Bury St Edmunds and I can only assume that his father must have come to Chesterfield for work as Lenora was also born at Brimington and baptised at Brimington Church. The baptism register shows the family were living at 10 New Brimington and Walter senior’s occupation was Furnace man.
There is no baptism record for Walter either in Brimington or Bury St Edmunds and by the time Walters younger sister was born in 1880, the family were living back in Bury St Edmunds.
The 1881 census shows where the family lived in Bury St Edmunds.
By 1891 Walter was still living on Cemetery Road Bury St Edmunds and was working as an errand boy, at the age of 13! I have been unable to trace Walter in 1901 but according to a newspaper report at the time of his death he had been called up from the National Reserve. The National Reserve was made up of ex-serviceman and there is a good chance he could have been serving in the Boer War at the time of the census. This is only a suggestion as I have no definite confirmation. More information on the National Reserve can be found here
Wherever Walter had been in 1901, in 1906 he married Alice May Scarfe in Bury St Edmunds. Their daughter Ethel May was born in Bury St Edmunds in 1909, however the family must have moved not long afterwards as the 1911 census shows the family are living at 242a Prospect Road Old Whittington. Walter’s occupation is listed as a Mineral checker for the Railway Company.
Prospect Road is in the area known as Broomhill Park.
Walter was called up with the National Reserve in September 1914, he joined the 9th Suffolk regiment as a Sergeant, Regimental number 3/9784. He arrived in France in August 1915.
Picture courtesy of Wikipedia.org Cap Badge of the Suffolk Regiment
Below is an account taken from http://www.stedmundsburychronicle.co.uk/galleryww1/galleryww1page_03.htm
of what Walter would have been faced with when he first arrived in France:
“The 9th battalion of the Suffolk Regiment left England for France on August 30, 1915. By the time they arrived, on the morning of September 25, the battalion had marched for four nights in succession, covering a distance of 70 miles. The night marches, frequently in rain, had left the men exhausted. Despite this the battalion moved off to the front line at noon. At 8 p.m. the advance began in the Battle of Loos. The 9th Suffolk’s battalion were in the front line of the attack launched by the 24th Division. During the attack the battalion suffered 135 casualties. Just 25 days after arriving in France the 9th battalion had been sent into battle.”
The Battle of Loos continued until 8th October 1915. It was the biggest British attack at that time and the first time the British Army used poison gas. The Allies were contained by the German Army and the British casualties were twice as high as the German losses.
By all accounts it would appear that Walter Reynolds was involved in much heavy fighting. Walter was an experienced soldier and as a Sergeant he would be responsible for a number of men.
In October 1915 the Suffolks were transferred with 71st Brigade to 6th Division and in 1916 were involved in the Battles of Flers-Courcelette, Morval and Le Transloy.
“The History of the Suffolk Regiment 1914-1927” by L Col C R R Murphy , contains some information on the 9th Battalion.
Page 125″ On May 14th Lt Col W H A de la Pryme DSO was wounded by shrapnel at about two o’clock in the morning while going round the front line trenches at Forwards Cottage” (Ypres)
Page 194 “The 9th Battalion…reaching Albert sector on the 4th [August 1916]..remaining there until the 28th [August 1916]….On September 13th the Battalion took part in an attack by 6th Division on the Quadrilateral. the 17th Bde being on the left, and the 16th Bde on the right. The 9th Bn attacked with three companies in the front line and one in support, zero being 6.20 a.m.”
Page 196. “On September 15th the offensive was resumed…Thus opened the battle of Flers-Courcelette.The final objective assigned to the 71st Bde was the occupation of the ridge between Morval and Les oeufs. But the task of the 6th Div on that day was an unenviable one and the goal beyond their reach; for immediately in front of them lay the Quadrilateral, still intact, bristling with machine-guns and absolutely barring the way”
Page 197 “On September 17 the battalion moved into trenches which they were holding when the 6th Div captured the Quadrilateral on the following day…which had cost the Division upwards of 3500 casualties.”
(Information courtesy of the Great war Forum)
Walter Reynolds was one of those casualties, he was killed in action on 16th September 1916, having been at the Front for 13 months, he was 38 years old.
The Quadrilateral referred to was a German trench network at Ginchy, highly fortified!
Walter was buried where he fell along with other men of the 9th Suffolks.
He was later re-buried at Guillemont Road Cemetery, Guillemont. More information can be found at
Guillemont Road Cemetery Photo courtesy of www.ww1cemeteries.com
Photo courtesy of TWGPP
Photo taken from Bury Free Press 18th November 1916.
The Derbyshire Times (October 14th 1916) report states:
“That war-worn soldier, Sergeant W H Reynolds of the Suffolk regiment, was killed on September 16th after being at the front 13 months. According to a letter from a fellow Sergeant received by Mrs Reynolds, who lives at 238 Prospect Road Old Whittington, Sergeant Reynolds was accompanying the Colonel and both were killed simultaneously, the Sergeant being shot through the head. Called up with the National Reserve in Sept. 1914 he leaves three children.”
It would appear from the report that the family had moved to a different house on Prospect Road after the 1911 census was taken.
Alice must have decided to return with her children to Bury St Edmunds after Walters death and in 1919 she married James Copping. The personal effects record below (dated 22.10.19) confirms that Walters effects were to go to his widow Alice who by then was Alice Copping.
Alice continued to live in Bury St Edmunds.
Walters medal card showed that he received the 14/15 Star, British War and Victory medals.
Walter is remembered on the Old Whittington War Memorials and in the Book of Remembrance at Suffolk Archives.
This can be viewed online at https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/collections/getrecord/GB173_A2_1_4_2_281