Saturday, 19 January 2019

Private Alfred Walton, of the Suffolk Regiment

The mortal remains of a soldier lie in a little graveyard in St Neots. The grave's white stone is slightly weathered, with traces of mould forming a green haze near its base. As a Commonwealth War Grave, it dominates the other graves in the graveyard.

The inscription reads:

30299 PRIVATE 
19TH JANUARY 1919 AGE 20

My family was doubly blessed: although we had family members serve in both world wars, as far as I am aware we lost no-one to that conflict. Therefore I find war graves somewhat poignant: we were lucky when so many were not.

But this is an unusual grave: not just because it is on a route I walk regularly, but because of the date of Private Walton's death. The First World War ended on the 11th November 1918, so he died a little over two months later, presumably whilst still in service.

So how did he die? Accident? The great Spanish flu?

Fortunately the Internet gives a few answers.

According to the website, his name was Alfred William Walton:

Alfred William enlisted in the 3rd Battalion of the Bedford Regiment in October 1915, and in May 1916 was transferred to the 2nd Garrison Battalion of the Suffolk Regiment (service number 30299) and served at Landguard in Felixstowe, but was taken ill with tuberculosis of the lungs and was discharged in August 1916 as no longer physically fit. It was also found that he had enlisted when only 17, when the minimum age for service was 19. He died from TB on 19th January 1919 and was buried on 23rd January in Eynesbury Old Cemetery.
He is commemorated on the Eynesbury War Memorial, but was not entitled to any medals as he never served abroad.
He must have been a brave young man, volunteering to fight in the war at a time when the horrors of that conflict were first becoming known, and whilst a couple of years younger than the minimum enlistment age. Like so many other young men, he must have lied about his age in order to fight.

Yet he never did get to fight, and tuberculosis laid him low.

So on this day, 100 years after his death, I remember and salute Private Alfred Walton, and indeed all the victims of that war.

No comments: