Wednesday, May 28, 2008

frank walker

I’ve been spending a little time, this wet half-term, researching the First World War exploits of my grandfather, Frank Sydney Walker (1897-1984). Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August and Frank entered the “theatre of war” in France/Belgium on 19 August – so he was clearly involved from the very early days. He was a member of the 8th Brigade Royal Field Artillery (regimental no. 78965) and, like many others, clearly joined up under age (he was 17 – the minimum qualifying age was 19). I managed to track down his medal roll index card from the war (really spooky to actually see this via the internet!). He received three war medals: Victory Medal, British Medal and Star Medal but, crucially, the Star medal included the “14 clasp” which was awarded only to those who had served their unit in France+Belgium between 5 August and 22 November (and “given to all who served under fire”).
Family “history” speaks of him being involved in the First Battle of Ypres (October-November 1914), the Battle of the Somme (1916) and the Battle of Passchendaele (July-October 1917 – certainly my brother Alan was aware of him experiencing mustard gas attacks in some form or other). The casualty figures for these three battles alone are staggering: 54,000 at First Ypres; 420,000 at the Somme; and 310,000 at Passchendaele - sombering to appreciate that, if he hadn't survived against the odds, I wouldn't be here! The “clasp 14” service medal would certainly seem to indicate that he could have been involved at Ypres in 1914, but there’s a limited amount of other stuff that I’ve been able to uncover on the internet and, I suspect, that a trip to the National Archives is the only way I’ll ever be able find out further details!
He never spoke to us about the war and, having discovered a little more about his involvement, I can perhaps understand why.
Photo: Corporal Walker.


Ellen Loudon said...

wow. what an amazing story. Do keep us posted! xxx

alice said...

It's frightening stuff isn't it dad? Is this the same grandfather who Alan said worked in leyland on the motors for a bit? Think it was for Morris rather than Leyland.

alan broadway said...

in connection with this there was a programme on bbc 4 sunday - 'what did you do in the great war daddy'.1/2 million children lost their fathers. haven't yet watched it on the iplayer...3 days left!

i have grandads medals, because i always expressed an interest, but of course they belong to all 'the family' and are always available to have and hold. 16 years ago i had a trip booked to the battlefields, but lesley got pregnant! our cousin david has expressed a desire to visit...we must all go to mark the centenary.

bigdaddystevieB said...

ALICE: I THINK this was Fred Broadway - but I'm not sure, so Alan may have to clarify!

ALAN: Many thanks for this - I've just watched the programme on iplayer (poignant stuff!). Yes, think we SHOULD make book that trip for 19 August 2014! You're DEFINITELY the one to hang on to the medals (I would have lost them by now!).

Ian Adams said...

Fascinating and moving Steve. Have you seen the brilliant books by Peter Barton published by Constable with the Imperial War Museum? He's done one on the Somme and another on Passchendaele. Full of maps, panoramas, descriptions of the battles, and crucially the testimonies of the men who were there. [I can bring them next week when we get together if you like.]

Anonymous said...

Hello, just came across this blog. My grandfather Alec Fletcher (Reg no 49758) also served with the 38th brigade of the Royal Field Artillery. He also had a 1914 star. He landed in France on 11th Sept 1914 according to his medal index card. He also joined up in Birmingham, in 1908. He was gassed too. My grandfather reached the rank of corporal. Would be very interested if you have any other information on the 38th bde RFA.

bigdaddystevieB said...

Hello Anonymous!
All very interesting stuff. I'm assuming you've seen my other blog "Tracking Frank":
This is very much an "in progress" project but, as the name suggests, tries to track his whereabouts through the Great War (the map links for each year are really useful).

Thus far, I've been able to follow (more or less) his locations from the start of war in 1914 through to the end of 1916 - using the fascinating War Diaries at The National Archives at Kew (just a brilliant place and well worth a visit if you've not been!) follow these links:

I'd be fascinated to learn more about anything you've learnt about the 38th Brigade (my grandfather was posted to No.2 Section 42 DAC on 27/10/1917).
If you haven't already done so, I would highly recommend paying £30 and obtain relevent documents from your grandfather's service file from: Army Personnel Centre, MS Support Division, P+D Branch, Historical Disclosures, MP555, Kentigern House, 65 Brown Street, Glasgow G2 8EX - enclosing relevant forms - downloadable from the internet (can't remember the link but probably Google something like "WW1 Service Records"!).
Trust this helps

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the advice Steve. Visiting Kew would be awkward as I live in the middle of Ireland. I might try that address. My grandad Alec was recruited by the new Irish Army in 1922. I was told Military Archives in Dublin would have the WWI records of veterans who joined Irish Army.

Anonymous said...

I will post whatever I have discovered about the 38th bde RFA on your 'Tracking Frank' blog, Steve. The 38th bde were based in Fermoy, Co Cork in early 1914. Alec married my grandmother in Jan 1914 and Fermoy was given as his residence on his marriage cert. As he was an 'Old Contemptible' he was awarded the 'rose & clasp' with his '14 star. I wonder did our grandads know each other? Its a possibility.