Date of birth: 1887
Date of death: 16.08.1917
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: Duke of Cambridge’s Own
Family information: Son of Ernest and Mary Walton
Service number: 260051
On 9th December 1915 Fred Walton attested under Lord Derby’s Scheme, for the duration of the war and joined the Army Reserve. He continued to work at Lofthouse Colliery as a waggon lowerer until 21st February 1917, when he underwent a medical examination at Wakefield. Fred Walton was mobilized on the 8th March 1917, joining the 4th (Reserve) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, where he was allocated service number 205108.
On 22nd June 1917 Fred Walton was posted to France, arriving at the 32nd Infantry Base at Etaples the following day. Here, after some initial training, he was drafted to the 1/8th Battalion, Duke of Cambridge’s Own (Middlesex Regiment). Allocated the service number 260051 Private Fred Walton joined his new battalion on 17th July in the Ypres area. At this time the 1/8th Middlesex Regiment, part of 167th Brigade, 56th Division, was in their training camp at Ouderdom, preparing for the Battle of Langemarck.
On the night of 12th / 13th August the 1/8th Middlesex went into the line on the Westhoek Ridge, the 167th Brigade was on the left sector of the divisional front. The Battalion’s objectives during this attack was the high ground to the east of the Westhoek-Zonnebeke road. Nonne Bosschen Wood lay in the path of advance. These woods were only blackened tree stumps showing amidst water filled shell holes. To reach their objective the 1/8th Middlesex had to move down into the valley from Westhoek Ridge and attack the enemy on the opposite ridge. On the 14th August, the 1/8th Middlesex moved up to the front line south of Westhoek and at 20.00 hrs the following day moved into their assembly positions, where they came under enemy shell-fire.
At 04.45 hrs on the 16th August the attack began with the 1/8th Middlesex advancing in three waves, “D” Coy was in reserve. As the troops reached the low ground in the valley they found a wide sea of deep mud which halted the advance. “B” Coy were forced to the left to bypass this obstacle ad consequently, on reaching Nonne Bosschen Wood, found that they had lost touch with the battalion on their right flank. Unable to advance further, due to the mud and hostile fire from across the valley, “B” and “C” Coy’s tried unsuccessfully to consolidate their positions. By 10.00 hrs the 1/8th Middlesex had to be withdrawn to a line halfway between the jumping off point and the wood. Here their positions came under fire from enemy machine guns and was harassed by enemy aircraft. At 13.00 hrs the enemy guns opened fire on their positions and at 15.00 hrs launched an infantry attack which was stopped by the sea of mud. Early on the 17th August, the remnants of the 1/8th Middlesex was relieved and moved back to the Steenvoorde area, having incurred 220 casualties.
One of these casualties was Private Fred Walton who was killed in action, shot by a sniper, on the 16th August 1917, one month after joining the battalion. He was initially buried in a small cemetery near to where he fell, however, in 1921, Fred Walton was re-buried by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at Hooge Crater Cemetery near Ypres. There are now 5,923 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried, or commemorated, in this cemetery, 3,579 of whom are unidentified. Fred Walton is remembered on the memorials at Parkside Methodist Church, Outwood and St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood.
Fred Walton was born in November 1887, the son of Ernest Walton and his wife Mary, nee Moore, of Stubley Square, Thornes, Wakefield. Five years later, in 1892, his father Ernest Walton, who worked as a maltster, died at the age of 35 years. In 1901 Fred was living with his widowed mother and sister at Fawcetts Yard, Church Street, Wakefield. At this time Fred Walton had left school and was employed at a local mill, as a woolen dyer. In 1904 his mother, Mary Walton, married Thomas Owen, a widower and miner, from Prospect Place, Bolus Lane, Outwood. Fred Walton lived with his mother and step-father at Outwood and obtained employment as a labourer / screener at Lofthouse Colliery. When living at Outwood he became a prominent member of the Wesleyan Brotherhood.