The loss of nine brothers in arms

In Remembrance of
- Private Harry Betts
- Private Ross Ward Betts
- Private George Betts
- Private George William Watson
- Private Thomas Edward Watson
- Private Ernest Watson
- Corporal John Walters
- Private Albert Victor Walters
- Leading Seaman Allan James Walters

Imagine, you have three sons serving in a distant war. One day you receive word that one of your treasured siblings has lost his life whilst on active service. Devastated by the loss of your son, you nonetheless continue to live a form of life in the hope that your remaining boys will be safe. This is not to be for a short while later you receive another of those dreadful emotional official telegrams informing you that another of your children has been killed. The loss of two of your sons has by this time, ripped your heart out. You wander in a devastating cloud of disbelief, and horror that two of your blood will never return to the family home. Then, the most terrible of your nightmares comes to fruition as you receive another telegram from a grateful King and Country informing you of the loss of the last of your serving sons.

Three families of Scarborough had lost three siblings during the Great War, this is their story.

Born in Scarborough during 1883 at No7 Longwestgate, Harry had been the second son of George and Annie Betts. Married in St Mary’s Parish church on Sunday the 11TH of February 1906 to Gertrude Wood, by the outbreak of war, Harry had been the father of four children [Gertrude May 1906, Charles Wilfred 1908, Elvina Annie 1910, and Kate Simpson 1913], and had been living in the town at No 30 Tindall Street, whilst working in the Huntriss Row ‘Gentleman’s Outfitters’ of Master tailor Thomas Robert Etches. [1]

Harry had enlisted into the Territorial Force at Scarborough during September 1914; soon after Britain had declared war on Germany, and had soon joined the ranks of the locally based 1ST/5TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, in which brothers William and George had already been serving. Issued with the Regimental Number of 2004, Betts had trained as a drummer and had gone abroad with his battalion in this capacity [which had also been doubled with the role of stretcher bearer during battle], during April 1915.

The Fifth Battalion had duly received its ‘baptism of fire’ in Flanders, on St Georges Day, Friday the 23RD of April 1915, when the untried, and barely prepared for battle unit had been cut to pieces in an attack on enemy positions near to the village of St Julien that had cost the unit over one hundred casualties. Private Edwin King, a survivor of the vainglory attack, would later descrided the ‘small hell’ into which Private Betts and his comrades had been pitched into during that day;

‘We advanced in showers of shrapnel. The Regulars praised us afterwards unstintingly, stating that they would not have cared to advance under such a fire, but of course we had our orders. It is a miracle that we lost very few under the shellfire. After advancing about half a mile the bullets came and men began to drop…we went a cross a field where the Germans turned several Maxim [medium machine guns] on us. We ran across the field our platoon leading and, although there were bullets, and thousands of them, whizzing by, our platoon managed to cross without a single casualty. How we did it I do not know; we could feel the bullets passing by our heads on all sides of us… [2]

The attack had taken less than five minutes and during that short space of time the 5TH Battalion had suffered over sixty casualties. Faced with this impenetrable wall of enemy fire the Yorkshiremen had duly begun scratching out defensive positions just to the south of St Julien with nothing more than their inadequate entrenching tools.

These scrapes in the ground had been held by the surviving men of the 5TH Battalion until the night of the 27TH of April when the unit had received orders to relieve another unit further to the northeast, where once again the Battalion had been ordered to hold these positions ‘at all cost’ for a further two days under a constant and intense enemy shellfire that had inflicted yet more casualties on the Battalion.

Amongst a number of stretcher bearers that had been that had been wounded whilst carrying wounded from the battlefield, Harry had been hit in the head by a German sniper’s bullet during Thursday the 29TH of April, and despite being evacuated to an intensive care unit at the British 11TH General Hospital at Boulogne, the drummer had died from the effects of his wounds at the age of thirty one years, during the 1ST of May 1915.

News of the Fifth Battalion’s gallant actions at St Julien had inevitably reached Scarborough by the beginning of May 1915, and while at first this had caused much jubilation in the town, soon cloud despair had been cast over the proceedings, as information regarding the cost of the battle had become known. The first extensive casualty list of the ‘Great War’ that would appear in the local press during the ensuing three years of conflict, had been featured in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 7TH of May 1915 and had included the names of one officer [West Ayton’s Captain Geoffrey Carew Barber] and three local men that had recently also their lives, along with those of a further one officer [Captain Stuart Grant-Dalton and twenty six other ranks that had been wounded.

In those early days of the war, before the extensive name only casualties lists of the Somme Offensive of 1916, it had not been unusual for ‘The Mercury’ to include a lengthy account of a soldier’s death as reported in letters from a comrade of the fallen soldier. The reporting of Harry Betts’s death had been no exception, younger brother, William, having written a letter to relatives in Scarborough that had eventually also been featured in ‘The Mercury’ of Friday the 7TH of May 1915 under the banner;

‘Drummer’s death - Like a soldier and a man - just a few lines to let you know that I am alright. I suppose by the time you get this letter the sad news of my poor brother’s death will have reached you. I am glad to say that his death was instantaneous, and he suffered no pain. I was close by at the time. At present we are relieved from our position in the firing line, and I expect we shall have to rest for a few days now. Do not fret about Harry. He died like a man and a soldier, doing just what was just right for any dutiful son towards his parents, relations, and friends’. To that end, the letter continues, his self sacrifice has gone, and the letter concludes: ‘May he be rewarded for his actions in the next world is the earnest wish of his brothers and others out here’… In another letter to a young lady Private Betts says that his brother was shot in the head. ‘We are giving the Germans something to go on with. I wish the brutes were all wiped off the earth’…

A short while after the above letter had appeared in the local press Private Betts's wife had received official confirmation of her husband’s death. The news had also bee reported in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’;

‘Official intimation of Drummer Betts’s death - Mrs. Betts, 60 Tindall Street, received on Tuesday [the 4TH of May] morning official intimation from the War Office of the death of Private [Drummer] Harry Betts, of the 5TH Yorks [Territorials]. The communication states that death occurred at No 11 General Hospital, Boulogne, on May 1ST, as a result of a gunshot wound in the head.

The sympathy and regret of the Army Council are conveyed and the following is enclosed.

‘The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow. —Lord Kitchener’…

Shortly after his death, the remains of Harry Betts had been interred in Boulogne’s Eastern Cemetery, a large civilian cemetery containing the graves of over five thousand Commonwealth servicemen of the Great War, which according to the records of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, is located in the district of St Martin Boulogne, just beyond the eastern [Chateau] corner of the Citadel [Haute- Ville]. Harry’s final resting place is to be found in Section 8, Row B, Grave 19.

By the beginning of 1916 Harry’s widow, Gertrude Betts, had been residing in Scarborough at No 4 Mill Yard, Mill Street, off the town’s Victoria Road, where she had given birth to the couple’s fifth child, Harry James Betts.

Born in Scarborough at No.26 Longwestgate during 1893 [baptised in Scarborough’s St Mary’s Parish Church on the 23RD of August] Harry’s younger brother, Ross Ward Betts, had enlisted into the army at Scarborough during March 1915 to eventually serve as a Private [Regimental Number S/10375] with the 18TH [Service] Battalion of the Prince of Wales’s Own [West Yorkshire Regiment], a second battalion of so called ‘Bradford Pals’ that had been raised for war service only in the West Riding city during January 1915, which had been attached to the 93RD Brigade of the 31ST Division.

Initially sent for training with the 3RD [Reserve] Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regimental at the Regimental Depot at York’s Fulford Barracks, after eight weeks of ‘square bashing’, during May 1915, Ross Betts had been posted to France, where he had joined the ranks of the 18TH Battalion, which had recently arrived on the Western Front after service in Egypt. Ross and a number of other replacements had joined the Battalion whilst the unit had been resting in billets at Bus- les-Artois following a period of particularly harsh period of front line service in trenches in the nearby Colincamps Sector located on the Redan Ridge, which between the 17TH and 24TH of May had seen the battalion lose a good number of its original complement to enemy shellfire and snipers bullets.

The 31ST Division had been sent to France as part of the general building up of the British Expeditionary Force in readiness for the start of a new offensive that had been planned to begin in the Somme Sector of Northern France during June/July 1916. In anticipation of this, on the 20TH of June 1916 the 18TH West Yorkshire had left its trenches in the Colincamps Sector to march twenty dusty miles to the village of Gezaincourt, where Betts and the remainder of his unit had begun an intensive course of battle training to prepare for the forthcoming ‘Big Push’.

Soon after dawn on Sunday the 25TH of June 18TH battalion had left its training area at Gezaincourt to begin its march to their old billets at Bus-les-Artois, along the way Betts had inevitably seen the huge preparations going on behind the British front line preparatory to the start of the Somme Offensive which had initially been planned to begin at 7-30am on Thursday the 29TH of June. However, the start of a heavy downpour of rain along the line of attack had seen this date being scrapped in favour of Saturday the 1ST of July 1916, a date that would become immortal in the history of the British Army and the Great War.

On the opening day of the offensive the 31ST Division had been given the task of capturing the heavily defended village of Serre, and at Zero Hour on the 1ST of July Ross Betts and the remainder of 18TH West Yorkshire had left their assembly trench to walk to wards the enemy’s positions soon after the whistles ushering the men over the top on that brilliantly sun lit day had quit their shrill song. However, faced almost from the outset by a hurricane of enemy machine gun and rifle fire, few of the West Yorkshires had made little progress into No Man’s Land. A German machine gunner that had taken part in the massacre of the once proud unit would later describe;

‘There was a wailing and lamentation from No Man’s Land and much shouting for stretcher bearers from the stricken British. They lay in piles but those who survived fired at us from behind their bodies. Later on, when the English tried again, they weren’t walking this time; they were running as fast as they could but when they reached the piles of bodies they got no further. I could see English officers gesticulating wildly, trying to call reserves forward, but very few came. Normally, after 5,000 rounds had been fired we changed the barrel of the machine gun. We changed it five times that morning’… [3]

On the 1ST of July the 18TH battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment had gone into action with strength of twenty two officers and six hundred and seventy five men, by the afternoon of that tragic day the unit had lost nine officers killed, thirteen wounded, one hundred and eighteen other ranks killed, three hundred and seventy five wounded. Amongst the latter, with the arrival of darkness, the grievously injured Ross Betts had been gathered up from the battlefield in front of Serre by stretcher bearers, and had eventually been transported amongst the thousands of wounded of the first day of the Somme to overworked and overcrowded Casualty Clearing Stations located behind the British line that had done so much magnificent work in the hours and days following the disaster of the 1ST of July.

Amongst over fifty seven thousand casualties of the first day of the Somme Offensive, it had at first been believed that Ross Betts would survive his wounding, nevertheless, a few days later the young soldiers injuries had turned gangrenous, and despite extensive surgery twenty two years old had passed away in the 7TH Casualty Clearing Station located at Merville, during Thursday the 27TH of July 1916.

Unlike brother Harry, few words had been spoken in Scarborough’s press about the death of Ross Betts, his name only appearing in an extensive casualty list that had been featured in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 11TH of August 1916. No further information regarding the young soldier’s loss had ever appeared in print.

Soon after his demise, the remains of Ross Betts had been interred in the Communal Cemetery at Merville [a town in Northern France located 15 kilometres north of Bethune, and about twenty to the south west of Armentieres] where his final resting place can be located amongst the graves of over a thousand Commonwealth casualties of the Great War, in Section 11, Row A, Grave 16.

And so the war had continued. The battles of Arras, Passchendaele, and Cambrai of 1917 onwards towards the German Spring Offensive of 1918, each had extolled a seemingly larger proportion of casualties. Fortunately, although slightly injured in various scrapes whilst on active service, none of the three remaining Betts brothers had been featured in any of the lengthy casualty lists that had appeared in the local press. However, towards the end of April 1918 a horrified Annie Betts had received another of those dreaded buff envelopes containing a telegram with the news that another of her sons had become a casualty of the war. ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 7TH of June 1918 had duly reported;

‘Two brothers killed and one missing - News has been received by Mrs. Betts, 3 Regent Street that her son, Private George Betts, East Yorks, was posted as missing on 25TH April. Private Betts had been wounded and had trench feet and returned to the front about Good Friday. Altogether he had been at the front about two years. He is 21 years of age.

Two brothers, Drummer Harry Betts, and Private Ross Betts have fallen in action. Another brother, William, who is discharged, had been twice wounded.

Lance Corporal Charles Betts, another brother, has also been twice wounded’…

Born in Scarborough during 1897at No 1 Lower Mill Street, George had been the Betts’s youngest son who before the coming of war had been an apprentice groceryman at the newly refurbished [1914] Co-Operative tea and provision store located on the corner of Scarborough’s Victoria Road and Belle Vue Street that would be severely damaged during the German bombardment of the town. Well experienced in the ways of war by 1918, contrary to the above newspaper report, George had in fact been a veteran of over three years of service on the Western Front by this time.

A pre 1915 ‘Saturday night soldier’ in the Territorial Force 1ST/5TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment [Regimental Number 1641], George had gone abroad with brothers William and Harry during April 1915 to serve with his battalion throughout its ‘baptism of fire’ that had claimed the life of elder brother Harry in the fighting around St Julien. Following this action George had continued to serve with the 5TH Battalion throughout the remainder of the Second Battle of Ypres, and the Somme Offensive of 1916 where he had been wounded in action during September 1916 whilst taking part in the 5TH Battalion’s operations that had taken place between the 15TH and 19TH of September between High Wood and Martinpuich.

Amongst over two hundred and fifty casualties suffered by the Fifth Battalion during those four days, Betts had been wounded sufficiently enough to warrant evacuation to Blighty where he had remained out of action throughout the remainder of 1916, and had not returned to France until March 1917, by which time, he had found himself being transferred to the 1ST Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, a Regular Army unit that had been attached to the 64TH Brigade of the 21ST Division.

Issued with the new Regimental Number of 220447, George had been amongst a large group of replacements that had joined the 1ST East Yorkshire on the 15TH of April in the Arras Sector at Adinfer, where the remnants of the Battalion had been recuperating after been involved in especially bitter fighting during the First Battle of the Scarpe, where, during the snow shrouded 9TH and 10TH of April, in an assault on the formidable Hindeburg Line, the battalion’s complement of 19 officers and 521 other ranks had been halved.

A veteran of almost a year’s arduous service with his new Battalion, by April 1918 George Betts and the remainder of 1ST East Yorkshire had been serving in Belgium to the south of Ypres in the area of Kemmel Hill, where as part of their Spring Offensive on the Lys, on the 17TH of April the Germans had launched an extensive attack on the Ridge that would cost the 1ST East Yorks dearly.

At the time manning a ragged line of fortified farms and shell holes on the hill during the early hours of the 16TH the East Yorkshire positions had been deluged with High Explosive and Gas shells. Half an hour after the start of this tornado of steel the Germans had sent their infantry into the attack, which, despite being severely outnumbered had initially been beaten back. However, with all communications severed and blinded by smoke and gas the few remaining soldiers had eventually been driven out of their positions. Fighting had, nevertheless, continued throughout the remainder of that day, the East Yorkshire beating off least six enemy attacks on their improvised entrenchments on the North West side of Kemmel Hill.

Relieved during the 19TH of April, Betts and the few other surviving members of the gallant 1ST East Yorks had made their weary way to billets near La Clytte, where a post battle calling of the Battalion’s Rolls had shown the unit had lost over two hundred officers and men in the action that would later be named ‘The First Battle of Kemmel [17-19 April].

Rested until the 22ND of April, that night Betts and the remainder of his unit had returned to the front line to take over positions on Wytschaete Ridge, a low hill two miles in front of Kemmel Hill, where, during the early hours of Thursday the 25TH the Germans had launched a second assault on Kemmel Hill. The artillery barrage had begun at around 2-30am; Wyrall describes the inferno that Private Betts had been embroiled in;

‘Shells of all calibre rained not only upon the forward trenches, but also on all the communications behind the front line and in the valleys behind the Hill. Gas shells were used freely, and for the first time the enemy made use of a new kind of gas—blue Cross. In less than half an hour, all telegraph wires had been cut, and even a heavy leaded signal cable, buried eight feet deep in the ground, was wrecked. Telegraphic communication gone, attempts were made to get through to the forward Companies by means of runners, but these also failed, the runners becoming casualties. Gas, smoke and bursting shells added to a thick early morning fog, created the utmost uncertainty as to what was happening in the front line’…[4]

Soon German patrols had begun to trickle forward over the brow of the hill, their silhouetted figures making fine targets for the East Yorkshire’s riflemen. Nevertheless, once again vastly outnumbered, the outcome of the battle had been predictable, and soon the order had been given for the few remaining East Yorks to retire.

Virtually wiped out during this episode, of the 500 or so officers and men of 1ST East Yorkshire that had gone into the line during the 22ND of April only three officers and thirty other ranks of the had succeeded in the reaching safety by the fall of night on the 25TH. Possibly amongst this small band of survivors, the badly wounded Betts had died from the effects of his injuries during Saturday the 27TH of April. George’s remains had subsequently been afforded a grave in a small battlefield cemetery, after the war these few burials had been relocated by the Imperial War Graves Commission to a newly created and larger burial ground known as ‘Oosttaverne Wood Cemetery’. Located some six kilometres to the south of the city of Ypres, this cemetery contains the graves of over one thousand casualties of the Great War [783 of which are unidentified] George Betts’s final resting place is located in Section 2, Row E, Grave 4.

[Interesting the ‘Roll of Honour’ of the East Yorkshire Regiment also includes the name of 21565 Private James Frederick Betts. Born at Hull during 1896, Betts had been the son of James and Ursula Betts of 38 Wyke Street, Hedon Road, Hull. Also attached to the 1ST Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, James had lost his life at the age of twenty-two years, on the 22ND of March 1918 and possessing no known grave is commemorated on the Pozieres Memorial in France].

Born in Scarborough at No16 St Thomas’s Walk during 1860, Annie Drummond had been the daughter of Sarah Ann, and ‘Joiner’ Thomas Drummond. Inevitably badly affected by the loss of three of her sons, shortly after the death of George, Annie Betts had also become a casualty of the war when she had passed away at the age of fifty eight on Wednesday the 4TH of September 1918, reputedly from the effects of a broken heart. ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the sixth of September had reported her demise;

‘A mother of soldiers - The death took place on Wednesday, at 3, Regent Street, of Mrs Betts, aged 58. Few persons in Scarborough, if any, had suffered more in consequence of the war, in which five sons served, three being killed and two wounded. One of the wounded sons is on the Military Police staff at Newcastle and the other has been discharged. Mrs. Betts leaves five daughters and three sons. Her health had been seriously impaired as a result of bereavement and anxiety, and her death followed upon a somewhat lengthy illness’…

Annie Betts’s remains had been interred with those of her husband [George Betts had died at the age of fifty years on the 19TH of February 1910] in Scarborough’s Dean Road Cemetery during the afternoon of Friday the sixth of September 1918. Sadly, the pair’s final resting place, located in Section E, Row 20, Grave 9, goes unmarked.

Of the two other sons of George and Annie Betts that had served during the war; the twice wounded 2004 Private William Betts, had been slightly wounded and affected by gas whilst serving alongside brother George in the Fifth Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment’s operations at St Julien. Wounded once more in operations between High Wood and Martinpuich during September 1916, one of William’s legs had been so badly injured by shrapnel that after extensive surgery and a lengthy stay in hospital he had been discharged from the army as ‘unfit for further service’ during 1917, and had eventually married Flora Kemp at Scarborough’s St Mary’s Parish church during 1922.

The Betts’s eldest son, Charles, already a veteran of twelve years of service with the West Yorkshire Regiment, including the Boer War, had quit his job as a Scarborough Tram Conductor to re-enlist at the age of thirty two years and three months into the army reserve at Scarborough, on the 2ND of May 1912, and had still been a reservist at the outbreak of war. Although also wounded during 1916, Charlie had survived to serve throughout the remainder of his war in the Labour Corps, being finally discharged from military service during 1919 having attained the rank of acting Quartermaster Sergeant.

The article in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the sixth of September had reported that few persons in Scarborough other than Mrs Betts had suffered more as a consequence of the war. In fact, not so far from Regents Street, another family had suffered the same losses as the Betts. Indeed, the Watson family had lost three of its siblings in the space of five terrible months that had spanned that dreadful summer to autumn that had been the Somme Offensive of 1916.

Married in Whitby during 1872, by the 1880’s ‘Tailor’ George, and Barbara Sophia [formally Driver] Watson had been living in Scarborough’s Longwestgate, at No.4 Adelaide Place where their third son, George William Watson, had been born during Thursday the 9TH of July 1885. [5]

Aged fifteen at the time of the 1901 Census, at this time George had been employed at an errand boy for fish merchant J. Sellers & Sons. Working alongside Scarborough’s then large fishing fleet, Watson had soon been attracted to a life in the fishing industry and had eventually become a fireman who had working in the boiler rooms of a number of the town’s Steam Trawlers in the years to come.

By 1912 George Watson had worked his way to the exalted position of ‘Chief Engineer’ in the Steam Trawler Otter. Married late that year at Scarborough’s St Thomas’s Parish Church to Miss Alice Binks, the Watson’s had subsequently resided in the town at No. 37 Britannia Street, where their children, Mary and Sydney, had been born during 1913 and 1915 respectively. A member of the Firemen’s football team that had lost 4-1 to the Fishermen during the football match that had [and still is] been played before a packed crowd on Scarborough’s South Beach on Boxing Day 1914, shortly after the end of the game, during February 1915, George Watson had enlisted into the West Yorkshire Regiment at Scarborough.

Issued with the Regimental Number of 17693, Watson had initially been sent for training at the West Yorkshire Regimental Depot at York’s Fulford Barracks, and after just eight weeks of training he had been deemed fit enough for service overseas, however, for some reason George Watson had remained in England until April 1916, when he had finally been sent abroad to serve with the Regiment’s 1ST Battalion, a pre-war Regular Army unit that had served in France and Belgium since September 1914,which, at that time, had been serving in the infamous Ypres Sector of Western Flanders.

Attached to the 18TH Brigade of the 6TH Division, at the time that Watson had joined the unit, the 1ST West Yorkshire had been enduring harsh conditions in waterlogged trenches to the north of Ypres, near to the village of Boesinge, where, on the 24TH of May 1916 the 1ST Battalion had received orders to seize during the night of the 3RD/4TH of June, enemy held positions known as ‘The old British Trenches’, which had been evacuated by the British some time earlier, and had supposedly, at that time, been ‘lightly held’ by the enemy.

Following a ‘close reconnaissance’ the assault had duly been launched at Zero Hour

[9-30pm] during the night of the 3RD/4TH of June and at first the West Yorkshiremen had met little resistance from the enemy. By midnight all their objectives had been taken without loss. However, throughout the remainder of that night, the Germans had subjected the victors to an incessant and heavy barrage of machine gun and rifle fire that had killed one officer, five sergeants, and five other ranks, in addition the enemy had wounded a further two sergeants and twenty four other ranks.

Amongst the five men that had been killed, the news of George Watson’s death had reached Scarborough by Friday the 9TH of June 1916, that day’s ‘Scarborough Mercury’ had reported;

‘Still another Scarborough casualty - Former Trawler Engineer killed in action - News has reached Scarborough of the death in action of Private G. W. Watson, 1ST West Yorks., formally Chief Engineer of the Scarborough Trawler Otter.

Referring to his death, Private James Douthwaite, writes to his [Douthwaite’s] wife, who lives at 4 Batty Place, as follows; ‘I want you to break the news. We were side by side when he fell, struck by a bullet. He died instantly and without pain. I will see his bits of things are sent home.

Private Douthwaite, who was a close friend of Watson—known as ‘Dogger’—was also formally an engineer on a local Trawler.

Private Watson who was about thirty leaves a wife and two children, who reside at 37 Britannia Street. His mother lives at 24 Longwestgate.

Both the men referred to left excellent berths to join the army’…

As soon as it had been safe to do so, the blanket shrouded remains of George Watson, along with those of the officer [2ND Lt. C.T.K. Newton], five sergeants, 2 lance corporals, and three other privates [including Whitby born Private William Brewster] that had been killed during the operations of the 3RD –5TH of June 1916, had been evacuated for burial to a cemetery that had been attached to an Advanced Dressing Station located in dugouts near the Yser Canal that had been known to the British as ‘Essex Farm’.

Named, probably by men of the Essex Regiment, after a small cottage that had once stood beside the nearby road to Boesinge, Essex Farm Cemetery is reputedly the most famous and frequently visited Cemetery in the Ypres Salient due to it being the place where Canadian army doctor, and amateur poet, Captain John McCrae had been inspired to pen the now famous ‘In Flanders Field’. Containing the graves of over one thousand British, nine Canadians, five Germans, and nineteen unnamed casualties of the Great War of 1914-1919, Private George William Watson’s final resting place is located in the Cemetery’s Section 1, Row P, Grave 39, alongside those of many of the comrades that had also died in the taking of ‘The old British Trenches’.

[Despite being wounded twice during the war George Watson’s ‘close friend’; 17675 Private James Douthwaite, had survived the war and had left the army during 1919 with the rank of Corporal].

A year after the death of her beloved son George Watson’s mother, Mrs. Barbara Sophia Watson, had included the following epitaph in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 1ST of June 1917;

‘In ever loving memory of my dear son, Private George William Watson, who was killed in action June 4TH 1916-- He rests in peace; his country called, he heard and hearing, gave his life, his youth, his all. Our nations name to save. Our tears are mingled with our pride. What more could mortal give? With other heroes side by side he died that we might live…His sorrowing mother, brother, and sisters’…

Shortly after the death of George Watson, with the dawning of Saturday the 1ST of July 1916, further to the south in Picardy, Mrs. Watson’s youngest son had been making preparations to receive his ‘baptism of fire’ in the Somme Offensive that had begun that day.

Born in Scarborough during 1890 at No.24 Longwestgate, by the outbreak of war in August 1914, Ernest Watson had been residing in Leeds with elder brother Thomas Edward Watson, the pair working in the city at the Leeds Iron Works. A volunteer into Kitchener’s ‘New Army’, Ernest had enlisted for war service at Leeds during 1915, and by the summer of 1916 the twenty six years old Watson had been serving with the 10TH Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Own [West Yorkshire Regiment].

Commanded at the time by Lieutenant Colonel Sydney Spencer Hayne, the unit had been another of the so called ‘Service’ Battalions that had been raised in Britain at the outset of the war, the 10TH D.O.W.’s had been formed at Halifax during September 1914 and had been attached to the 69TH Brigade of the 23RD Division. Landed at Le Havre during late August 1915 the Battalion had duly served on the Western Front from August 1915. Amongst a draft of replacements that had joined the unit during the spring of 1916, Watson [Regimental Number 12700] had duly been thrust into the inferno of the Somme Offensive on the 4TH of July.

During the following day he had taken part in operations to capture a strongly held enemy position known as ‘Horseshoe Trench’. The attack had begun at Zero Hour [4am] on Tuesday the 5TH of July. Spearheaded by the 10TH D.O.W.’s and 11TH West Yorkshire, this initial attack had been beaten of superior German firepower. However later in the day the two battalions had renewed their assault, and by the fall of night the two units had achieved all their objectives, albeit after sustaining heavy casualties. [6]

Three days after the completion of the above operation the men of 69TH Brigade had been marched to the comparative safety of billets in Albert. However, the unit had shortly received word that the Brigade was to take the fortified village of Contalmaison.

Situated some four miles to the north east of Albert, Contalmaison, a village in name only by this time, had been expected to fall on the first day of the Offensive, however heavy casualties that day, and a defiant defence by men of the elite Prussian Guard had seen the heaps of bricks that had once been a peaceful village being denied from the British, nevertheless, during Monday the 10TH of July 1916, the ‘top brass’ had insisted that the assault be continued.

Although spearheaded by the 8TH and 9TH Battalions of the Yorkshire Regiment, the 10TH Duke of Wellington’s had, nonetheless, played a prominent part in the attack on Contalmaison. The unit’s ‘War Diary’ has this to say;

‘About 6pm A and B Companies moved up to the trenches [from its assembly positions in ‘Lozenge Wood’] occupied by C and D Companies and just at this point the enemy placed a heavy barrage on the ridge and heavily shelled the now crowded trenches causing many casualties. C and D Companies advanced on Contalmaison and were followed later by A and B Companies. Our H.Q. assisted by a carrying party of the Duke of Lancaster’s Own, carried stores, ammunition, bombs etc. straight by the road to Contalmaison and assisted in the consolidation of the captured positions. A large quantity of 4.2 shells & stores of other descriptions were found in dugouts, they having been abandoned by the enemy in his flight. Our artillery kept up a continuous barrage & we held the position.

About 3am [on the 11th] our machine guns were in action against a small party of the enemy, who it is thought were coming to surrender. Our men did not leave anything to chance, as the light was bad their intention could only be assumed. They however returned. Judging from the appearance of the captured village, the enemy did not intend to leave this position and was probably under the impression that it was impregnable. The artillery worked magnificently. They were called upon to make a great effort & responded to it. It is impossible to speak too highly of that branch of the service’… [7]

Relived during the morning of the 11TH of July the 10TH Duke of Wellingtons had duly marched to the north west of Albert, where in a field the unit had been assembled for the customary post battle calling of the Battalion’s rolls which had found the unit had lost sixteen non commissioned officers and other ranks, including Ernest Watson, during the operation at Contalmaison.

Amongst twenty one officers and four hundred and nineteen other ranks of the 10TH Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment that had become casualties during July 1916, Mrs. Watson had at first received a telegram from the War Office reporting Ernest as ‘missing in action’. She had received no further news regarding her missing son until the spring of 1917, by which time another of her sons had lost his life to the war.

Thomas Edward Watson had been born during 1880 also at No.4 Adelaide Place, and had been the Watson’s second son. Like the remainder of the Watson’s children Tom had been a pupil of St. Thomas’s Parish School located in Scarborough’s Longwestgate, however, by the turn of the century the twenty-one years old had been working as a waiter in the Constitutional Club in Huntriss Row. Nevertheless, by 1911 Tom Watson had been residing in Leeds, where he had worked at the Leeds Iron Works. Married to Eliza Mary Lee in the Hunslet area of the city during that year, the couple had subsequently resided at No.6 Hall Street, Low Road in Hunslet, where their two daughters, Evelyn and Lily, had been born during 1913 and 1915 respectively.

Tom had enlisted into the West Yorkshire Regiment at Leeds during January 1916 and had had eventually been posted during July to the veteran 9TH [Service] Battalion of the Regiment, which had recently arrived in France having served on the Gallipoli Peninsular, and Egypt.

Watson had joined the 9TH Battalion in France on the 15TH of July 1916 and had soon become embroiled in the Battalion’s preparations to enter the two weeks old Somme Offensive.

Attached to the 32ND Brigade [consisting of 8TH Duke of Wellingtons, 9TH West Yorks, and 6TH Yorkshire] of the 11TH [Northern] Division, the 9TH Battalion had been considered ready for active service ‘on the Somme’ by September 1916; on the 14TH of the month Watson had taken part in the Brigade’s operations near Thiepval to capture a strongly held enemy fortification known as the ‘Wundt Work’ [Wonder Work].

The attack on this most formidable of defensive systems that had also included a revolving machine gun platform that had had the ability to 'disappear’ when the British artillery had bombarded the position and ‘pop up’ again when danger had passed, had been launched during the early hours of the 14TH of September 1916, when at 6am the preliminary bombardment of the position had opened, eight minutes later 20 officers and 780 men of the 9TH West Yorkshire had ‘gone over the top’.

The official version of the attack on the Wonderwork says very little of the struggle for what had supposedly been a difficult nut to crack which that day that had caused the 9TH West Yorkshire to lose over three hundred men that day. Gallipoli veteran Sergeant Edward Miles of the 8TH Duke of Wellington’s, had given a far more graphic account of the action in a letter written to his wife after the battle;

‘September 17TH phew! Those three days seemed like an hour’s nightmare. We went up on the night of the 14TH with three days rations in our haversacks, and on our way up we passed field guns wheel to wheel from Crucifix Corner to Railway Alley [a trench leading up to the front line]. There must have been a thousand guns there, and I think it was that that gave us victory. We lost about two hundred [out of 500] killed and wounded and unfortunately my chum was amongst the wounded, being hit in the elbow soon after we went over. There was a tremendous amount of old iron thrown about but I was lucky enough to be missed. The chief praise is due, I think, to one of our companies and a company from the West Yorks who as we went forward, came behind and dug a communication trench from ‘Jerry’s’ front line to our own. How those poor devils worked while we held on was marvellous. The Brigadier General, as we came out of the line, shook hands with each of us [those that were left]. Of course it was a feather in his cap, but we didn’t get anything. Still, who cares, we get a shilling a day’… [8]

Amongst the few fortunates to survive the attack on the Wonder Work fairly unscathed, Thomas Edward had been amongst the handful of survivors of the 9TH West Yorks that had marched wearily back to the comparative safety of dugouts at Crucifix Corner where they had rested before moving on to billets at Hedauville.

Out of action until the end of September, the 9TH Battalion had, in the meantime, received large drafts of replacements for the casualties of the Wonder Work and Contalmaison operations and by the 21ST of the month the Battalion’s strength had been around twenty two officers and five hundred and eighty other ranks. This period of relative calm for Private Watson and his comrades had come to an end on the 26TH of September when the Battalion had received orders to proceed to Crucifix Corner preparatory to moving up during the following day to trenches near the infamous Mouquet Farm, from where the unit had been given orders to mount an attack in conjunction with the 6TH Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment, that same afternoon on an enemy position known as ‘Hessian Trench’.

The assault on Hessian Trench had duly been launched at 2-30pm on Wednesday the 27TH of September and at first all had gone well, the enemy’s artillery ‘not causing many casualties’. However, soon the attackers had met a mass of barbed wire defences around an enemy position known as the ‘Zollen Redoubt’, which had caused the Battalion to lose direction that had resulted in the unit attacking, and eventually capturing, the ‘Stuff Redoubt’ instead of ‘Hessian Trench’. Of this episode the 9TH Battalion’s War Diary records;

‘This was effected quite alone, as soon after the Bn had advanced from High Trench sudden orders were received that the attack was postponed for an hour, the 6TH Yorks Regt on the left were caught in time and stopped but the Bn had been launched to the attack several minutes before the receipt of these orders and it was impossible to recall the Companies. The Stuff Redoubt was held and consolidated and at 4pm the 6TH Yorkshire Regiment advanced to their objective, which they found to be already held by the Battalion. As both these units were now mixed up in the redoubt the senior officer took command of the composite force, which had been reinforced on the 28TH by a company of the 8TH West Riding. The officer in charge of the redoubt was Capt. [A.C.T.] White of the 6TH Yorks Regt’… [9]

The most ferocious of fighting had continued in and around ‘Stuff Redoubt’ until the 1ST of October, and the time that the almost annihilated 9TH West Yorkshire had been relieved around midnight, the unit had consisted of just one officer and twenty-four other ranks.

During the operations at Stuff Redoubt the 9TH Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment had lost one officer who had died of wounds, whilst another twelve had been wounded. The other ranks had lost 28 men killed and 177 wounded. A further 59 men including Thomas Edward Watson had been listed as missing in action. [10]

The news of Tom’s ‘loss’ had inevitably been at first received by his wife. However, by the end of October the news had reached his mother in Scarborough who had seen that her son’s name had been included in a lengthy casualty list that had appeared in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 27TH of October 1916,coincidently a month after the action. The same newspaper had also featured;

‘Son killed and two missing. Blows for Scarborough woman - Official news has been received that Private Thomas Ed. Watson, whose mother lives at 24 Longwestgate, is missing. Private Watson, who is married, had worked for some time at Leeds before joining the [West] Yorkshire Regiment.

A brother, Private George William Watson, West Yorks., was killed in action on June 4TH. Another brother Private Ernest Watson, West Riding Regiment, has been missing since July 10TH. A fourth son of Mrs. Watson is Lance Corporal J.R. Watson, who is at the front with the Royal Engineers. Grief and suspense regarding her sons has had a distressing effect upon Mrs. Watson for whom there is much sympathy’…

No more information regarding the fate of her two sons had been received until the following year, when the War Office had informed Mrs. Watson during July 1917 that; ‘as no further news had been received regarding the whereabouts of your son, Private Ernest Watson has come to hand it is with regret that it must therefore be assumed that he had been killed in action on the 10TH of July 1916. The War Office expresses its deepest sympathy’…

Three months later the family had also received confirmation that it must be assumed that Thomas Edward had also been killed in action on the 27TH of September 1916. ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 10TH of October 1916 had duly reported;

‘Scarborough family’s sacrifice - Three sons killed in four months - News has been received by his mother, Mrs Watson, 24 Longwestgate, that after being missing for a period of ten months her son, Private Thomas Edward Watson of the West Yorkshire Regiment, has finally been reported as killed in action September 27TH 1916’…

Mrs. Watson must have already known that her sons had been lost, because on the first anniversary of Thomas’s loss ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 27TH of September had included the following in its ‘In Memoriam’ section;

‘In loving memory of my dear sons Private Thomas Edward Watson, West Yorks, killed in action September 27TH 1916. Also Private Ernest Watson, West Riding Regiment, July 10TH 1916, previously missing’…

Two unknown graves what a bitter blow, none but aching hearts can know. They nobly answered duty’s call, gave their lives for us all…From mother, brother, and sisters’…

Amongst over 72,000 officers and men of the British and South African armies that had lost their lives in the Somme Sector before the 20TH of March 1918, no remains of Ernest and Thomas Edward Watson had ever been recovered from the detritus of frightful Somme battlefield. Their names had eventually been included amongst those of the other missing servicemen on the massive Thiepval Memorial the Missing that had been built between 1928 and 1932 that had been unveiled by the Prince of Wales on the 31ST of July 1933. Ernest’s name can be found amongst those of the missing of the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment that are included on Pier and Face 6A and 6B of the Memorial, whilst Thomas Edward’s can be located on Pier and Face 2A, 2C, and 2D.

Born at Middlesborough during 1878, despite numerous close shaves with enemy bullets and shells the Watson’s eldest son John Robert had survived service with the Royal Engineers [Regimental Number 59457] throughout the war and at the time of his demobilisation during 1919 had attained the rank of Sergeant. A married man he had duly returned to Leeds to live with his wife and six children.

Mrs Watson had never forsaken her beloved sons. Each anniversary of one or the other of her sons death she had dedicated an epitaph that had appeared in ‘The Scarborough Mercury closest to the day of his demise, this had gone on until the day she had died.

Following the death of her husband at 24 Longwestgate on Sunday the 6TH of October 1912, Barbara Sophia Watson had continued to reside in this house until her own demise on Friday the 19TH of May 1922. Aged seventy years at the time of her death, Sophia had been born in the Chelsea area of London during 1852, and had been the eldest daughter of ‘Confectioner’ Thomas and Sophia Driver. By 1870 Sophia had arrived in Scarborough, where she had working as a’general domestic servant’ in the home of Banker John Woodall and family, that is now acting as the town’s Town Hall. Sophia’s funeral had taken place in Scarborough during the afternoon of Friday the 25TH of May 1922.

Following Britain’s declaration of war against Germany at 11pm on the 4TH of August 1914 many of the young men from Scarborough and its surrounding district had flocked to join their country’s armed forces some firmly in the belief that they had better get a foot in fast before the war had ended that Christmas. With an army woefully inadequate for a sustained war, despite the general consensus that the conflict would be all over by Christmas, some in the British Government had more realistically believed that the conflict would last a little longer, perhaps three years, and just twenty four hours after the start of the war the government had therefore begun to stage manage the largest propaganda campaign that Britain had thus far ever seen to entice men into so called ‘Service’ Battalions of infantry of a ‘New British Army’.

Spearheaded by the country’s new Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, whose plan had called for the increase of Britain’s puny Regular Army by seventy full Divisions consisting of roughly half a million men. Recruitment of these men had duly begun two days after the declaration of war and soon streets in every corner of Britain had contained posters bearing Kitchener’s famous moustachioed face and the pointed finger extolling the ‘First Five Thousand’ men to join the army.

By the end of August 1914 over 300,000 aged nineteen to thirty years had joined the colours. Amongst them had been Albert Victor Walters. Born in Scarborough during 1898 at the time of his enlistment at Burniston Road’s Northern Cavalry Depot on the 31ST of August 1914, ‘Bertie’ although he had given his age as nineteen years and six months, had in actual fact been aged just sixteen years. The youngest son of Janet and Frederick Walters, the Verger of St. Mary’s Parish Church, at the time Bertie had been residing in the town at No.33 St. Mary’s Walk. [11]

A former pupil of St Thomas’s Parish School, located in Scarborough’s Longwestgate, the thirteen years old Bertie Walters had left Headmaster Mr. Herbert’s institution during 1911 to become a trainee warehouseman in the bottling department of the North Street located Scarborough & Whitby Brewing Company, where he had been working at the outbreak of war.

Initially, Walters had enlisted into the for three years service with the colours under a ‘Short Service’ contract. At first issued with the Regimental Number of 12668, Bertie had duly been posted for training to the 1ST Reserve Cavalry Regiment stationed at Aldershot. However, his stay with this unit had been short lived for during October 1914, the authorities had found that Bertie had been under aged and had duly been discharged. However, by January 1915 he had re-enlisted into the Yorkshire Regiment and been posted to Aldershot where he had joined the ranks of the newly formed [September 1914] 9TH [Service] Battalion of Alexandra Princess of Wales’s Own [Yorkshire Regiment].

Attached to the 69TH Brigade of 23RD Division, the 9TH Battalion had spent the Christmas and New Year at Aldershot, however, shortly after Walters had joined the unit, during February 1915 the Battalion had been considered fit for war service and on the 15TH the 9TH Battalion, along with the remainder of 23RD Division, had been marched to Folkestone. Averaging between sixteen and twenty five miles per day the unit had duly arrived at Folkestone on the 29TH of February, after having being inspected along the way by the unit’s creator; Field Marshall Lord Kitchener.

By then issued with the Regimental Number 15344, Walters had spent the summer of 1915 at in an encampment at Bramshott, a village located in Hampshire, where during July he had been promoted to Lance Corporal and put in charge of one of the Battalions Maxim machine gun sections. Shortly afterwards, on the 23RD of August, the 9TH Battalion had received orders to prepare for embarkation to France. Consisting at this time of thirty officers and nine hundred and ninety five men, the bulk of the unit had embarked at Folkestone on the 26TH, and by the early hours of the following morning had arrived at Boulogne.

The Battalion had duly marched to a rest camp at Ostrahove, however, that same night Walters hand his comrades had boarded trains at Pont-de-Briques that had taken them to Watten, from where the Battalion had marched to Northbecourt, where Bertie had remained in billets for a week before being moved to Vieux Berquin, where the 9TH had begun to learn the arts of trench warfare.

By the end of September 1915 the 9TH Yorkshire had been considered fit enough to man a section of trenches ‘on their own’, and had duly taken their place in trenches in the La Vesee Sector, where, on the 28TH of September the unit had suffered its first casualty of the war; one ‘other rank’ being wounded by shrapnel.

Stationed in this relatively calm area of the Western Front to the south of Armetieres throughout the remainder of 1915, whilst further to the south, thousands of British troops had been committed to the horrors of the Allied offensive around the mining town of Loos, and in the Champagne region of France, the 9TH Yorkshire had remained fairly unscathed. Of this period in the Battalion’s history Wylly reports;

‘The Battalion remained for some considerable time in the Bois Grenier sector, south of Armentieres, the small drafts which arrived from time to time being sufficient to replace the trifling wastage experienced in a comparatively quiet part of the line’…[7]

Amongst one officer and eight other ranks of the 9th Battalion that had lost their lives during October 1915, Bertie Walters had lost his life during Saturday the 16TH of October 1915. His demise had eventually been reported in an unusually lengthy account that had appeared in ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 22ND of October;

‘Scarboro man killed - Victim of sniper - Danger of getting over parapet’ - High praise from officer. Mr F. Walters, 33 St Mary’s Walk, Verger at the Parish Church, and an ex Coastguard, has received a letter from Lieut. M. McCall, 9TH Yorks Regiment, in which he says; ‘I deeply to say that I have very bad news for you. Your son Lance Corporal A. E. Walters was killed this morning [October 16th]. I am afraid it is impossible to give the exact details, as nobody actually saw him hit. The section was having breakfast a little after eight o’clock this morning, and your son went out on the front of the parapet before the rest had finished. We can only suppose that he had dropped something over and went to get it thinking he would not be seen as it was a misty morning. The next thing they saw was when he crawled back over the parapet was that he was mortally wounded, and died a few moments later.

He is being buried this evening in the Cemetery at the back of our lines and we a re doing the best we can to mark the grave in an appropriate manner. It only remains for me to express the deepest sympathy with you and Mrs. Walters, not only on behalf of myself, but also for the whole machine gun section of this Battalion.

Your son, as you doubtless know, was the No.1 of the first gun team, that is, the best shot in the Battalion. He knew his gun from end to end and was certainly the most promising gunner I had.

He was exceedingly popular with the others in the section, and his cheeriness under all conditions endeared him to us all. It was always seems to be the best that have to go. We shall always miss him and look back upon him as a good comrade and a brave young soldier. I enclose a letter that came for him this evening’…

‘Lance Corporal Walters enlisted after the outbreak of war. He first joined the 18TH Hussars, and being discharged he joined, two days later, the 9TH Yorks. He was about 20 years of age.

Mr. F. Walters has another son also a machine gunner, Private J.G. Walters, at the front with a Lancashire Regiment. He also another son in the Navy. For six years, Mr Walters, himself, was stationed at Scarborough as Chief Boatman of the Coastguards, and retired, 14 years ago, after 31 years service. He holds the Long Service Medal’…

[Seven days later ‘The Scarborough Mercury’ of Friday the 29TH of October 1915 had included a photograph of the youthful and fallen ‘best shot in the Battalion’].

The remains of the seventeen years old Bertie Walters had been taken to a burial ground close to the village of La Chapelle-D’Armetieres that had been close to the site of a farm ‘known to the British as ‘X Farm’. One of the Commonwealth War Graves smaller Cemeteries on the Western Front, ‘X Farm Cemetery’ holds the graves of over a hundred casualties of the Great War of 1914-1918; Bertie’s final resting place is located in Section E, Grave 13.

Whilst younger brother Bertie had still been training in Britain; 237375 Leading Seaman Allan James Walters had been serving with the Royal Navy thousands of miles away in the South Atlantic, in a 14,600 tons obsolete cruiser named H.M.S. Defence.

Born at No.1 Coastguard Cottage in the North Yorkshire town of Saltburn on the 18TH of April 1891, Allan had been Frederick and Janet Walters’s sixth child. Aged eight by the time the family had arrived in Scarborough at the turn of the century, like the Walters’s other siblings Allan had attended St Thomas’s Parish School in

Longwestgate until the age of thirteen, when he had left education to become an errand boy for grocer and tea dealer Mr. George Blades, whose shop had been situated in Scarborough’s Durham Street. However, two years later, during 1906, the fifteen years old Allan had followed in his father’s footsteps by enlisting for twelve years of service into the Royal Navy.

Sent for training to Suffolk to the recently opened [1905] and already notorious Boy Seaman Training Establishment named H.M.S. Ganges located at Shotley Point, Walters, rated as a ‘Boy Second Class’, had spent possibly the toughest twelve months of his life at this establishment in a regime of rigorous training that had begun well before dawn each day and had ended at 9-30pm with the shrill of a boatswain’s call ordering the Barracks to ‘pipe down and turn out lights’.

Despite the poor diet, and the general harshness of the life of a ‘Nozzer’ at Shotley, Walters had survived the training and instruction, and by the end of his time there during 1908, had been promoted to the rank of ‘Boy First Class’ and considered fit for service with His Majesty’s Royal Navy. Selected to specialise in the Gunnery Branch, Walters had also undergone a course of training under the equally strict regime of H.M.S. Excellent the Royal Navy’s gunnery school located on Portsmouth’s Whale Island. At the end of this course of training Allan had been posted to his ‘Home Port’ of Devonport [better known as ‘Guzz’ to the Matelots], where he had joined the first of numerous warships in which he would serve for the next six years of his life in the various global stations of the mightiest navy in the world at that time.

At the outbreak of war in August 1914, Walters, by then promoted to the rank of Able Seaman, had been serving in the Mediterranean in H.M.S. Defence, the Flagship of the 1ST Cruiser Squadron.

Completed at Pembroke Naval Dockyard during February 1909, the 14,000 tons H.M.S. Defence had had a length of four hundred and ninety feet at her waterline and a width of seventy-four feet six inches. Completed as a ‘First Class Cruiser’ and armed with four 9.2 inch guns mounted in two turrets fore and aft plus numerous lesser calibre weaponry, the four funnelled Defence had once achieved over twenty three knots at the start of her life, however, five years of sea service and general wear and tear had seen this speed being considerably reduced by the outbreak of war, this, along with her outdated weaponry had seen the ship being considered by many as obsolete. Nevertheless, the old girl had still cut a fine dash, and would prove her worth two years on.

Walters had first come into contact with the enemy on the 4TH of August 1914. Commanded by that time by thirty eight years old Captain Stanley Venn Ellis, the cruiser had also been the Flagship of Sir Robert Keith Arbuttnot’s First Cruiser Squadron, and on that day Defence had been off the coast of French Algeria in company with the remaining three ships of the Squadron along with the old Battlecruiser H.M.S. Inflexible. This force had eventually come across two German warships, the Battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau that had been shelling French shore installations shortly before Britain had officially declared war on Germany. With no orders to open fire the British had therefore been forced to take no action in the matter. However, later that day Britain had declared war, but by this time the moment had been lost the Germans having slipped away under the cover of darkness.

Following this disappointing episode in the in the Mediterranean Defence had next been sent to the South Atlantic whe

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