This is one of a series of posts about local men named on the Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour.
As a child, Walter Clarke had been under the care of the Keighley Union Guardians before he served in the Great War.
Lance Corporal, 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment Service number 10558.
Walter was born on 29th November 1898 in Keighley and his parents were Arthur and Emma Clarke. He was baptised at St Andrew's Church in Keighley on July 26 and they were living at 55, Oakworth Road. His father Arthur worked as a fettler, using files and a grinder to clean up metal castings at a local foundry.
By 1901 Walter was 2 years old and they had moved to 90, Oakworth Road with his sister Edith aged 4 and a brother James aged 3 months, although he sadly died the next year aged 1.
Their mother Emma died a year later aged 30 years and this must have been very hard for the family.
In 1911 their father, Arthur was working at Stalybridge near Manchester, whilst Edith aged 13 was with her widowed Aunt Miranda Smith at 12, Harcourt Street, and working as a worsted spinner, whilst Walter aged 12, was in the Central Children's Home at the end of Rydall Street in Keighley. Arthur would certainly have been liable for the costs of keeping Walter at the children's home but we don't know if he ever returned to honour this debt. We cannot find him in any court records and while not exhaustive, this suggests he did repay the debt to the Guardians.
Walter was later at 18, Clarendon Street which is another Keighley Union Workhouse home. He was a member of St. Peter's Church congregation and was involved with their choir and Sunday School.
Walter enlisted in the Army at the beginning of the war in 1914 and after training he arrived in France with the 2nd Battalion, West Riding Regiment on April 29, 1915. He served with the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment until April 23, 1918 when he was shot by a sniper and killed during the period of the Battle of the Lys near Armentieres in Northern France.
War diary entry for the 2nd Battalion West Riding Regiment:
20th April 1918.
Battalion moved by march route to GONNEHEM. Lt. Brown RAMC attatched to Battalion.
21st April. GONNEHEM.
10th Infantry Brigade in reserve. Battalion reorganising, working parties being provided.
22nd April. GONNEHEM.
Stil in reserve, nothing to report.
23rd April. GONNEHEM.
Enemy shelled the village during night 22nd/23rd. Casualties: 2 other ranks killed and 4 wounded. Two companies (no's 4 and 2) went into the line and occupied part of BOIS du PACOUT under orders of 11th Brigade. 4th Division mentioned in despatches 22/4/18.
No other man has been found in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records, for this date and for this battalion of the West Riding Regiment.
Walter was buried in grave 13, row F, plot IV of St Venant-Robecq Road British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France and the inscription on his Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone, written by his sister Edith, reads: From Memory's Page. Time Cannot Blot. These Little Words. Forget Him Not.
Keighley News May 18, 1918 page 3:
News has been received that L/Corporal Walter Clarke of the West Riding Regiment, who formerly resided at 18, Clarendon Street, has been killed by a sniper. He was well known in St Peter's parish, having been a member of the choir and Sunday School before enlistment. The vicar (the Rev. R. Stansfield) has received a letter from a pal, who says: "I am very sorry to inform you of the death of one of your old scholars. He was hit by a sniper on April 23, and died in my arms. I might say that he was one of my dearest pals, and was well liked by all the boys in the platoon." L/Corporal Clarke who enlisted at the beginning of the war, was well known and highly respected in St. Peter's parish.
Walter is remembered in Keighley's Great War Roll of Honour book, in Keighley Library; Also on the St Peter's Church War Memorial; and on the Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour, which is held at Cliffe Castle Museum.
England and Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
West Yorkshire, England, Church of England Births and Baptisms, 1813-1910
1901 England Census
1911 England Census
UK, World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Keighley News archives at Keighley Library
Keighley Union Workhouse roll of honour held at Cliffe Castle Museum, Keighley
National Library of Scotland mapping.