Claro Times - 27th March 1915
Driver H B Walker, son of Mr and Mrs L B
Walker, of Ardlui, Harrogate, writes to his mother as under :
"The great battle at Neuve Chapelle is now
over.. we have gained much ground and are holding it, so are
victorious; but at what a price! I have been talking to some men of
the Grenadier Guards, who entered the battle 800 strong, and
returned with only 500! Two officers returned out of eleven. Another
lot of men in certain billets here, lost half their number, and some
went mad! And this is victory!
Our troops commenced fighting at 8 o'clock on the
morning of March 10th, by storming the enemy's line with big guns,
of which we now have got plenty at the Front, and then at a fixed
moment our infantry jumped out of the trenches, made for the
Germans, and got them on the rum, only halting at a position ordered
for the whole line. Everything worked exactly to a pre-arranged
time-table. The Germans had a time-table once - but their results
were slightly different!
In a ten minutes charge we have turned the Germans
out of a position they have been preparing for three months, and
proved to the world the rottenness of 'their' army. Anyhow we have
done all we set out to do. Hundreds of German prisoners have passed
through this place and hundreds more are to follow. I hear there are
nearly two thousand of them in all.
We have many wounded Germans in our hospital; in
conversation with them I find them a very poor sample of manhood.
Many are too old and many more are far too young for the work of
soldiers; they seem to have lost all 'sparkle' and 'spring', and
look wearily relieved to have the comfort of English attention and
care. None of them seem confident of German success, but say 'No one
We have kept eight horse ambulances and four motor
ones going backwards and forwards between our hospital and the
fighting line the whole time during this long battle, and we take it
in turns to work for a twelve hours' stretch. I was on night duty on
Thursday and Saturday nights and when not driving, I get some food
and sleep, attend to the horses at rest after their spell of
overwork, or assist in the hospital. Our eight doctors are kept
going at full pace dressing wounds, and are glad of any help we can
give. After receiving first-aid at our hospital, many of the cases
are fit to be moved to another hospital further back, which sends
its own ambulances to convey them. On Friday I took away to the
cemetery in a waggon, eight dead men (seven English and one German),
who all died in hospital. They are all sewn up in blankets and
covered with a Union Jack. A proper graveside service is held
according to the religion of the man.
Some of the patients in hospital go off their heads;
it took three of us yesterday to keep one man down. Later, we had to
take a stretcher into a place filled with 500 German prisoners to
fetch a man in a fit; we had to force our way through the pack of
I had a queer experience on Thursday. I was passing
a small cottage near here, when a bang occurred, and a window fell
out. I looked around for a bomb hole, but found none; then I entered
the house which was all in disorder. After a few minutes I found the
only occupant of the house in a back room, all in a heap on the
floor. I laid him out and found his right hand was blown clean away
from the wrist. I got a Frenchman to help me put the old man (about
65 years) on his bed, and I strapped up his arm to stop the
bleeding, but he died in about five minutes, probably from shock.
From clues, I made out that he must have been holding a hand bomb
near the fire, or trying to open it, when it exploded. The damage
was too local and limited to have come from the Germans miles away.
We have passed 1,400 cases through our hospital, and the enemy's
casualties will be many times greater than ours. They are very
treacherous fellows. Our stretcher bearers, carrying wounded Germans
on stretchers to our dressing station, were stabbed by them!
A company of Germans surrendered, and when an
English officer and two men went to examine them, the other Germans
(not surrendered) opened fire on their own 100 men and our three,
and mowed them all down. Some of our men, looking through their
field glasses, saw Germans slowly prodding with their bayonets,
English prisoners they had made, to a slow death.
Such are a few from thousands of yarns we hear from
the men who have seen them. One sees and hears the enemy's shells
flying; but any risk is minimised if you are fairly quick to get
into a ditch when you hear them coming, for they give you plenty of
notice by their whistle, and you become able to judge if they are
coming your way. I saw an ambulance waggon knocked about the other
day when collecting wounded, and that is a near as I have been to
the German souvenirs.
There would be no war at all if the people of the
countries concerned could spend a week like the past week has been,
on the field and in the hospitals. Think of the few details I have
given you - and that these things are happening in these days of
prevention of cruelty to animals, and painless killers for cattle!
How many people when they read of this week's work at the Front will
say, 'What a glorious and powerful people we are' and gloat and
chuckle and then retire to bed mechanically repeating 'Thine is the
Kingdom and the Power and the Glory!' A victory? Yes, but at what
Now Mother, I don't want you to waste any sympathy
on me, as I can stand it all quite well, and almost without a
tremor, for there id so much of it; I am quite well and vigorous and
we of the Royal Army Medical Corps Transports have not to take as
much risk as many of the fellows out here. I am looking forward to
meeting you all at home again when the war is over, and I feel quite
confident that the final issue of the great conflict will be
favourable for the Allies. In the meantime I shall continue to do my
duty in the work of trying to save life. Good-bye love, for tonight.
Write me as often as you can, for home news is very sweet.
Your affectionate son,
Harold B Walker"
Claro Times - 26th November 1915
Photo - Driver Harold B Walker, of the Royal
Army Medical Corps, 24th Field Ambulance, 8th Division, serving in
the North of France, died in hospital on November 16th, after a
short illness, of peritonitis.
Driver Walker, who was 24 years of age, was
the son of Mr and Mrs Lewis B Walker, of Ardlui, Tewit Well
Road, Harrogate, and was formerly manager of the Harrogate branch of
Messrs Hepworth's, in Beulah Street, being subsequently transferred
to manage their Exeter branch.
Soon after the outbreak of war he enlisted, and
after about six weeks' training was sent out to Flanders, where he
was actively engaged in the battle of Neuve Chapelle and elsewhere.
On Sunday last his parents received letters from the
sister-in-charge of the hospital, and from his most intimate friend,
conveying the sad news. The latter writes : "Will you permit me
to add that I feel it a privilege to have known your son as a
friend, straightforward, honourable, and clean living; though he
made few friends in the unit, he was respected by all, but only
those who knew him intimately could appreciate his real sterling
Driver Walker was confidently expecting to be granted
leave home before Christmas, having been at the Front over a year
without a break.