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peter monahan

Berkshire Yeomanry POW - Private Andrew Osmond Walter (1891-1966)

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There were only 5 Berkshire Yeomanry POW in Gallipoli so its quite special and there are 4 pages of Red Cross Papers - which is a bonus

 

Private Andrew Osmond Walter (1891-1966)

Andrew Osmond Walter was known as Osmond (Not Oswald) and was the youngest son of his parents Thomas Walter and mother Hanor Walter of Moon Lane, Hungerford, Berkshire who were farmer landowners. Osmond attended School at?

Osmond was one of 13 children born in Hungerford, of which 5 were boys. Three of the brothers serve in WW1, while the other two were too old to enlist. Osmond's four older brothers were

·       Shadrack Walter (1870-1938) too old to serve in WW1

·       Eli Charles Walter (1874-1958) too old to serve in WW1

·       Leonard Thomas Walter (1885-1972) was known as “Tommy” and joined up at the age of 30 on 22nd June 1915 three weeks after his marriage to Edith Amy Purton. He was a platelayer on the Great Western Railway GWR and went to France to build the railways there between 1915 and 1919. He joined the Royal Engineers (RE) Railway Construction companies and spent the War making railways to lead from the supply heads to the trenches.

·       Henry Walter (1877-1915) was a musician in the Royal Berkshire Regiment and was killed in France near Fleurbaix

 

1806 No3 (Hungerford) Tp of  C (Newbury) Squadron of the Berkshire Yeomanry.

Osmond enlisted in the Berkshire Yeomanry, (army number 1806) in the spring of 1913, when he was 21 years old. He is seen in photo, attended camp in June 1914 (and almost certainly the previous year in 1913).

Declaration of war

Prior to the outbreak of war being declared, each Yeomanry regiment had a ‘Mobilisation plan  which they had previously prepared and involved one of their four Squadrons being disbanded to bring the three remaining Squadrons up to its wartime establishment. At the time the British army was a 100% volunteer establishment so only those who volunteered for overseas service and were declared medically ‘A1’ fit to fight, were assigned into 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry, while the remainder were to form the newly established 2/1st (Reserve) Berks Yeomanry Regt. In the Berkshire Yeomanry Regiment it was ‘C’ Squadron, which was disbanded and of those Hungerford men who volunteered from of No.3 Troop, of C Squadron, they were mostly placed  into B Squadron (Reading) for the war.

The regiment mobilised on 4th August 1914 and every man from the regiment reported to their local drill halls within the first 24 hours. From these drill halls they were issued equipment and formed as Squadrons, then rode by horse to Reading, where each squadron formed with the Regiment. The Regiment then proceeded by train to Churn on the North Berkshire downs, where they joined their Brigade.

Each Squadron moved towards Reading Railway Station, a route which was well known to members of the Regiment, as Churn had been a regular location for previous annual camps. At Reading they had a good send-off from family and friends as well as the local residents when they departed. The Mayor Mr Sutton had two sons in the Berkshire Yeomanry Regiment.

From Reading they moved by train to Churn, which was on the north Berkshire downs. The Berkshire Yeomanry spent the autumn of 1914 exercising on the Downs, north of Blewbury and Didcot on Churn land.

 

At Churn they joined the rest of their Brigade and practiced manoeuvres with the 2ND South Midlands Mounted Brigade. While there they were inspected by King George V, who commented very favourably on the progress they had made in such a short time. There were strong historical links between this Brigade and the King, due to their geographic location to Windsor. A number of the officers were also well known to the king as they were land owners and neighbours to the King land. These officers had hunted with hounds together with The King, so he regarded the Berks and Bucks Yeomanry favourably. There are a number of quotes to this effect. In April 1915 the King telegraphed the Brigade and apologised for not being able to see them off, when they left to go overseas and said “Im sure you will do your regiments proud”. Soon after their first enemy contact in Gallipoli he visited the picture of ‘A’ Squadron of Berkshire Yeomanry, presented to Windsor Guild Hall, where it was pointed out to him that several of these Windsor men, who had recently been killed, had served in the Royal Household, and were known to him.

 

In October 1914 the 2nd South Midland Mounted Brigade was assigned to duties in Norfolk to protect the South coast from a feared invasion from Germany. The German navy had shelled some coastal towns and there had been several Zeppelin airship raids which made this a likely site for invasion from Belgium. The Yeomanry were frustrated from not being sent overseas, because most everyone believed the war would be over by Christmas 2014.

 

They were sent to Egypt and left Avonmouth Docks on 12th April onboard HMT Menominee, which docked at Alexandria on 21st April 1915. This is confirmed by his Medal Index Card

In Cairo they settled into Barrack duties with much grooming of horses, guards and inspections. Again the men became restless for the opportunity of action. This was soon to be given them as the decision was taken to deploy the Yeomanry to Gallipoli. Roughly 110 men remained behind in Egypt to mind the horses. Although the yeomanry were a mounted regiment, the decision was taken that they would fight on foot as infantry and on 14th August 1915, 314 men and 9 officers sailed from Alexandria aboard the SS Lake Michigan to Mudros, which was a Greek island harbour, from here they transhipped to low birth coal schooners.

 

17th August 1915 at Mudros, transhipping to shallow boats for landing at Suvla - SS Sarni

 

The regiment were landed at Sulva Bay on the Gallipoli peninsula on 18th August, when they received their “baptism of fire”, as they were shelled during their landing, but fortunately did not have any casualties. They initially dug in near the shore and moved the next day to an improved position to dig in again. On their third day ashore they were ordered into action and fought in one of the bloodiest of battles in the Dardanelles.

The approach required the Yeomanry to cross an open flat dried up salt lake in daylight and in full view of the overlooking enemy artillery.

They were shelled for nearly two miles, under the watchful eye of their commander who later reported “they marched as if soldiers on parade, not a man hung back and when a gap appeared in their line, men moved forwards to close the gaps. When they reached the shelter of Chocolate Hill (hill 60) which was held by the regular British troops, who cheered them in. They were only there for 15 minutes when the decision was made for them to go into action.

 

The battle for Hill 70 (known as Scimitar Hill due to the shape of the feature, which later became known as “Burnt Hill”, as the naval shelling set the scrub on the hill on fire prior to the famous attack) is well documented. The Brigade commander was Brigadier Lord Longford and the Berkshire Yeomanry were given the honour as the lead regiment in this attack. The regiment were split into two ‘com[panies’ with A Squadron on the left and B Squadron on the left (D Squadron were split between these two). The decision was made to move their approach more left than the previous attacks, which afforded them a small amount of cover 600 yards from their objective. The advance was murderous and described as “like driving the devil out of Hell itself!” as many of the men were cut down before they reached the cover, 600 yards short. This attack was being watched by allied troops from the adjacent hill and was reported “they rose as one” and charged in for the final assault. The first Turkish trench line had been abandoned and the second line was taken at the point of the bayonet. Major Gouch, who commanded the Berkshire Yeomanry on the day was the first man in the enemy second trench closely followed by his men, when bitter hand to hand fighting was all around. Major Gooch was wounded in the head.

 

By this time the Bucks Hussars Regiment had caught up with the Berkshire Yeomanry and they managed to secure the front two trench lines, some Turkish managed to escape over the hill towards their reserve trenches. The Turkish reserve trenches were well defended, as their numbers were bolstered by those who had escaped from the captured forward trench positions. The Turkish held onto their remining reserve trenches with great tenacity, as from here they had no remaining safe place left to them, apart from leaving the hill across open ground. It’s reported that a small force of Yeomanry followed the retreating Turkish, over the top of the hill and down the other side towards the reserve trenches. However these Yeomanry were too few in numbers to successfully assault the Turkish reserve Trenches and it was reported that none of these Yeomanry were to return. Most were killed, overpowered by sheer numbers or cut off from the main part of their regiment, and were left behind when the regiment withdrew.

 

By the night of 21st and 22nd August and the remaining yeomanry were too few in numbers to secure their position and it was realised that come daylight, they would be in full view of the Turkish artillery, who still occupied the overlooking hills. A runner was sent back to the British at Chocolate Hill to report their predicament and await orders. The other attacks on that day had failed so the order was given to the Yeomanry to withdraw from their captured positions. The surviving yeomanry were reported to withdraw in good order, taking with them as many wounded as they could carry. There were 325 strong going into action and of those who went, only 4 officers and 150 men returned.

There were five men from the Berks Yeomanry regiment who were made Prisoners Of War (PoW’s):

1.     1636       70149    Sergt William James Babister      PoW      B Sqn (Reading), 1/1st BY 4th Troop

2.     2110       70206    Trooper Archibald W Calder        PoW      D Sqn (Wantage), 1/1st BY

3.     1752       70288     Trooper Percy Frank New           PoW Wounded D Sqn (Wantage), 1/1st BY. also a Hungerford man and enlisted a few months before Osmond Walter.

4.     1806       70296    Trooper Osmond Andrew Walters PoW   B Sqn (Reading), 1/1st BY

5.     1083                       Trooper William Charles Collins died while in captivity POW A Sqn (Windsor), 1/1st BY 4th Troop and had been wounded during the left flank approach.

 

Sgt WJ Babister, Tpr O. Walter and Tpr Percy New, were part of the right flank approach during the assault, Reading men with Hungerford & Wantage men were on same approach during the attack on Hill 70. Being at the front of the attack and having made it past the second Turkish trench lines, with full hearts and in the heat of battle, a group of men continued their attack over the top of the hill and down the reverse side, to attack the reserve trenches at the rear of the hill.  It’s likely they were cut off, left behind and then captured.

 

Note: Sgt Babister was Walter’s Troop Sejant, and after the war Babister was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (MSM) for his services whilst in captivity. This gallantry award was well deserved as during his time in captivity Sgt Babister was reported to be totally selfless and a true gentleman, who carried a man during the long march to captivity, befriended the enemy and worked to improve conditions for his men, who had appointed him their leader.

This link below mentions Babister and the Berkshire Yeomanry. http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/_transcript/2012/D16835/a3901.htm

 

In 1917 he Osmond Walter re-numbered to 70296.

Osmond was held prisoner in Turkey for the remainder of the war. There are few details recording his captivity apart from a newspaper article in April 1918 asking for provisions, which were sent out by the Berkshire yeomanry Comfort’s Fund. It is documented that the prisoners were held in people’s homes in Turkey. Osmond survived and was released in 1918 and returned to Britain by 10th January 1919.

He married Daisy Litten and had 5 children one of whom Andrew Osmond died in infancy.

He worked as a farm foreman.

 

Osmond Walter died of a heart attack in Aylesbury on 14th June 1966 aged 74 years old

 

61806TPRO.WALTER1.thumb.jpg..jpg

HungerfordJune191.jpg

Scimitar Hill.JPG

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Excellent post Peter. Well researched and nicely written. 

Hosting a POW in your home must have been interesting... 

Cheers

Edited by SemperParatus

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7 minutes ago, SemperParatus said:

Excellent post Peter. Well researched and nicely written. 

Hosting a POW in your home must have been interesting... 

Cheers

I take no credit at all for this.  I was simply re-posting a very interesting topic which was accidentally posted in the wrong spot.  But, yes, great Post.

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Hello,

The post was mine and mostly my work, however it is based on re-work done by the Berks Yeomanry museum volunteers (Andrew French and myself) in support of an enquiry from Berkshire public, who happens to be a family relative of Trooper A.O. Walter.

I was fortunate to buy the medals by chance this year from a medal dealer online, and of course informed the family for information.

I learnt from the research myself and now review Red Cross POW for all survivors, and have found several others I was not aware of

Thank you for positive reply

Wayne

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