Private Walter Henry Vickery

Date of Birth c 1882
Age at Death 35
Date of Death 24 April 1917
Service Number 6994
Military Service 1st Battalion East Surrey Regiment
Merton Address 3 Crown Lane Morden
Local Memorial St. Mary's Church, Merton Park

Additional Information

Born in Croydon during the early part of 1882, Walter was the youngest child of baker, John Vickery and his wife Sophia. The couple had four older children, Mary, George, John and Florence. In 1885, when Walter was three years old, his father died in Hampstead Hospital. His mother, Sophia, later married William Allum and set up home at Crown Cottages, Morden, together with her stepson, Henry.

Having finished his education, Walter joined the East Surrey Regiment in 1901 and was based at Kingston Hill Barracks. However by 1911 he had returned to civilian life and was working as a bricklayer. The census shows that he was boarding at 3 Crown Lane, Morden, together with his stepbrother, who was now married with four children.

By this time, Walter’s mother was resident at a workhouse in West Croydon. It is not clear whether this was due to financial hardship, or poor health – some workhouses also provided medical support for people from poor backgrounds.

By 1912, Walter was working as a bricklayer and general labourer. He married Emily Whatmore at St. Mary’s church in Merton on 26 October.

Following the outbreak of war, Walter re-joined the army, enlisting as a Private in the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. This unit joined the British Expeditionary Force and embarked for France on 15 August 1914, just ten days after the start of the conflict. Walter and his comrades fought in several major offensives during the early stages of the war, including the Battles of Mons ( 23 August 1914,) Le Cateau (26 August 1914 ), the Battle of the Marne ( 5 – 12 September 1914 ) and the Battle of the Aisne . By the spring of 1915, Walter and his battalion were in Ypres. In April of that year, they were involved in the historic defence of Hill 60, a strategically important man-made feature, some 150 feet high. During fierce fighting the hill changed hands several times. On April 17th the British detonated six huge mines below German lines, inflicting heavy casualties, before seizing the advantage. A deadly German counter attack followed on 21 and 22 April, including the first use of poison gas against Allied troops.

At the time of his death in 1917, Walter’s battalion was part of the 5th division in the 95th brigade. His unit was involved in fighting at Arras and saw particular action in the battle for La Coulotte which started on 23 April. Walter was killed the following day but his body was never identified. He is one of 34,785 Allied servicemen commemorated on the Arras memorial to those killed between Spring 1916 and August 1918. His name also appears on a memorial at St. Mary’s Church, Merton Park.


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