This story is the result of an investigation of documents held by Surrey History Centre. The file (SHC ref. CC7/4/4, nos. 1-50) contains correspondence and insurance claims on behalf of Surrey County Council Education Department employees who had been killed in action during the Great War. The cases date from 1915 to 1918.
Name: Walter Percy Hayes
Occupation: General Office, County Hall
Birth Place: Teddington, Middlesex
Date of Death: Killed-in-Action 6th October 1915
Age: 19 years
Regiment: 1/1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders)
Regimental Number: 2033
Walter was one of seven children of Samuel and Sarah Hayes of “Kildare”, Gloucester Road, Hampton, Middlesex. In the 1901 census, Samuel described himself as ‘a secretary of a public company’.
Walter was born in late 1895, being baptised on 22nd November of that year. He had four sisters, Florence (a school governess), Ethel, Nellie and Mary, and two brothers, Charles and Walter.
Before the war he was employed by Surrey County Council in their General Office, County Hall, Kingston. He is likely to have joined the council very young. In the 1901 census, when Walter was just 16, he described himself as a ‘Clerk – County Council’.
The City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders) was originally formed for service in the Boer War as the 20th Battalion Imperial Yeomanry. In 1902 it became a regiment and was renamed the City of London (Rough Riders) Imperial Yeomanry, taking the name ”Rough Riders” after a body of volunteer horsemen who had fought under Colonel Theodore Roosevelt in the Spanish-American War of 1898.
With the creation of the part-time Territorial Force (T.F.) in 1908 for the purposes of home defence, the 1st City of London Yeomanry became one of its formations. It is possible, judging by Walter’s regimental number, that he was already in the T.F. before the war. Confirmation of this comes through the Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser of Saturday, 14th November 1914 which listed all Surrey County Council staff that had joined the forces by that date. It describes Walter as a pre-war member of the Middlesex Yeomanry (Territorials), a part-time soldier.
Walter was mobilised on 5th August 1914, and as the T.F. was established for ‘Home Service’ only, T.F. soldiers, including Walter, had to volunteer for overseas service.
The early months of Walter’s war were spent with his regiment in East Anglia. On the 11th of April 1915 they left the U.K., arriving in Egypt in May 1915. On the 14th of August he began his journey to Gallipoli on board the HMT Caledonia. The Yeomanry transferred to the HM Cruiser Dora on the 17th of August, arriving in Suvla Bay the next day. Throughout its time in Gallipoli, the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry would fight as dismounted infantry, its horses being left behind in Egypt.
It was back on 25th April 1915, that British and French troops as well as divisions of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) had launched an amphibious invasion to seize the Gallipoli peninsula from the Ottoman Empire, a German ally. By mid-October, Gallipoli had turned into a war of attrition with the Allies bogged down suffering heavy casualties. It would drag on until the troops were evacuated in December 1915 and January 1916.
On the 18th August 1915, the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry war diary makes the remark that they were shelled immediately upon arrival in Gallipoli, and from that moment the regiment appears to have been in almost continual action. Daily shelling, snipers, attacks, patrols, work parties, and then the men had to deal with harsh conditions. On 20th September, the war diarist writes ‘the daily loss of men to shrapnel is getting serious. The men are rather weak, and the diarrhoea is very prevalent’. Walter fought a very tough war.
Although not mentioned by name, it is highly likely that Walter fought in places that have been become synonymous with the brutal fighting at Gallipoli, including Chocolate Hill, Hill 50, and Scimitar Hill. In the days leading up to his death, the regiment was in trenches near a place called the ‘Black and White House’, which was still being used by Turkish snipers, and another building called ‘Owl’s Barn’. On the 3rd of October, the war diarist described the hellish conditions around the 1/1st City of London Yeomanry lines, ‘smell very bad from bodies lying in and around the gulley and all over the fields in front’.
On the evening of 5th October 1915, the War Diary reports that a work party was supporting Royal Engineers in erecting ‘wire entanglement round the end of our line’. Two patrols, one of which included Walter, crawled out ahead of them to provide protection. At some point, the Turks opened fire and the work party and patrol withdrew. In the confusion two men were reported missing, Corporal Austey from the work party and Walter from the patrol. On the morning of the 7th, a Sergeant Garrish bravely crawled out to where Walter was last seen. His body was found, but not recovered – only his personal effects made it back to the line.
After his death, Walter’s family pursued an insurance claim with Surrey County Council, who had taken out an insurance policy on behalf of Walter. His family would have eventually received approximately £100.
Walter is commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey (including Gallipoli).
He was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
Surrey History Centre CC7/4/4 file 1
Regimental War Diary – 1/1st City of London Yeomanry (Rough Riders)
Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser, 14th November 1914: ‘Roll of Honour: County Council Staff with the Colours’
Commonwealth War Graves Commission – https://www.cwgc.org/
Ancestry website – https://www.ancestry.co.uk/