Shrewsbury School

The news this week 100 years ago: Old Salopians in WW1

Tuesday 14 October 2014

In August we launched a four-year joint project with St Chad's Church in Shrewsbury to commemorate all former boys and masters of Shrewsbury School who gave their lives in the First World War. This is the latest instalment in our weekly commulative archive that records the progress of the First World War and the names of the Salopians who were killed.

For more information about the project and to view the weekly news reports posted since August, please see The News 100 years ago - OS in WW1 section of the website.

This week we remember:
Second Lieutenant Reginald Fydell Walker, 2nd Bn. Manchester Regiment.
Ingram’s, Maths Scholar, Head of House for more than two years, 1st XI football in 1912, and was Choregus. Left in 1913. He was gazetted from Sandhurst just as war was declared.
Died of wounds in France, 21st October 1914, aged 20
Buried at Guards Cemetery, Windy Corner, Cuinchy, France. Grave VII. F. 39.

He wrote a letter to The Salopian which was published on 10 October 1914:
“Here I am now at the front and have been since about Sept. 10th. I am at present some 5 miles from the actual firing line in reserve. We came here on Thursday morning. Tuesday evening we spent in trenches 500 yards from the Germans. … At 8pm on Wednesday night we sallied out to within about 400 yards of he enemy and dug trenches till 2.15am. … We are now in billets. Food is very good here but there is a dearth of note paper so if you want letters you must send an envelope and paper for reply!!”

He fell, mortally wounded, in the charge upon Les Trois Maisons. His Company Commander writes “He did most excellent work, so good indeed, that I intend to bring his name before the Commanding Officer…He led several bayonet charges, and inflicted heavy losses on the enemy.”

His obituary, written by Headmaster Alington, appeared in the 7 November edition of The Salopian: “…he was a boy with many friends, as was inevitable for anyone so cheerful and so good natured. He had that charmingly happy-go-lucky manner which attracts us all when we meet it, and makes us all better content with the world. …  It is no surprise to hear that his Regiment had already learnt to value him, and that when he was mortally wounded he was leading his men in the charge and that “he bore his pain most bravely and cheerfully….”

In the photo below, Walker is seated far right. Three other members of that 1912 team were killed in the War: Matthews (14 April 1916), Dwyer (17 November 1916) and Partridge (20 January 1918).

 

The news 100 years ago: 15th October 1914
On the Western Front the Indian Expeditionary Force has arrived in France to great fanfare from papers at the time. The Times hails their arrival, as the rest of the Empire girds itself for war. French and British troops begin a series of skirmishes which are intended to unsettle the German forces before pushing forward.

Italy, despite being allied to Germany, has so far stayed out of the conflict. This is partly to do with calculation as Italy is the weakest of the colonial powers at the time but the delay is far more to do with Italy’s political strife. Both the King and Parliament wish to act but are hamstrung by radicals within the Italian legislature.

Grim news, however, is coming out of the Eastern Front where pogroms are reported to be taking place. Jews are being attacked indiscriminately by Russian troops whose anti-semitism perceives the Jews as a threat to their military.

The German commander, Moltke, is convinced that the Allied forces are one push away from the retreat. Pressure is mounting on him from the Kaiser and his more gung-ho officers to launch an all out attack in order to break the allied lines and march on Paris. However the Allied retreat is over and the running counter-attack along a long front from near Reims to near Oostende leads to the first battle of Ypres.

Extracts from the History of the 2nd Bn. Manchester Regiment
On 4th September the division marched through the night to reach Touran, only 15 miles from Paris. In the afternoon of that day the men heard the news that the retreat was over and the advance north began two days later. On 13th September, the brigade crossed the Aisne on rafts with the Manchesters leading and attacked St Marguerite, which was taken with little loss. The battle of the Aisne came to an end on 28th September. On 12th October 1914, the battalion marched off and that evening formed a line near the La Bassee Canal.

On the 13th a general advance was ordered on Richbourg l'Avoue; the advance was slow as every yard of ground was fought for. The village became a ruin as it was fought over for the next two days but on the 16th, patrols reported the Germans had withdrawn, and the division was to advance again. By the 19th the battalion was at Les Trois Maisons and was attacked in force by the Germans. On the 20th there was heavy fighting all day, including two gallant bayonet charges by the men of A Company. At dusk the battalion withdrew to their support trenches.

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