Family story contributed by Brian Gudgeon
Walter Daniel Day was born in the spring of 1890, to Alfred John Day and Alice Louisa Day (nee Gaunt), in Nunhead (now in the London Borough of Southwark). The family had moved to Croydon by the time of the 1901 Census.
He enlisted in the colours on 8 March 1909, at Croydon, aged 19, joining the 4th Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment for a 4 year engagement (no. 1760). In the 1911 Census, he is shown working as a General Clerk (Fish Merchant), living at parents home, 116 Birchanger Road, South Norwood. The family is not sure as to how he was in the army and registered in the Census as at home, [but, one explanation could be that he was home on leave at the time, and simply recorded as being at that address on the day the Census was taken]. He re-engaged on 8 March 1914 and 8 March 1915. He transferred to 1st London Division, Signal Company, Royal Engineers, as a Lance Corporal, on 28 August 1914. On 15 April 1916, after serving 7 years and 39 days, he was discharged upon ‘Termination of Engagement’. He was 26.
He married Nellie Maille on 17 May 1916; they lived at 147 Portland Road, South Norwood. On 10 June 1916 he re-enlisted as a Rifleman in the Royal Irish Rifles (no. 44720) and went to France on 31 January 1917. He was reported missing on 26 March 1918, presumed killed.
His son, Ronald Walter, was born early in 1917. Whether Walter saw his son before he embarked for France, is unknown. No further details have been found about Ronald. His mother didn’t remarry and one wonders if he was ‘adopted’ elsewhere in the family or with family friends. Walter’s death obviously had a devastating effect on his family. His sister, Alice Florence (Brian’s maternal grandmother), told her daughter Iris (Brian’s mother), he was a most handsome man and his loss was deeply felt by the family and his brothers, William, Arthur, Alfred, Herbert, Sydney and Fred, who all served in and survived the Great War.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission entry states: ‘44720 Rifleman Walter Daniel Day, Royal Irish Rifles, 11th/13th Batallion, attached to 22nd Entrenching Battalion* died 27 March 1918. He is commemorated on Pozieres Memorial, France, panel 74 to 76’ (actually panel 75). The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties who have no known grave and died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918.
*22nd Entrenching Battalion was formed in early February 1918. Officers and men arrived from the 11/13th Royal Irish Rifles, making an ‘extremely strong and well-equipped unit’, according to one of its officers. Another officer reports the battalion never actually used the title 22nd Entrenching Battalion. The battalion was at first positioned at Essigny and Grugiers, both in the area of the 36th (Ulster) Division south of Saint Quentin but moved to Douchy on 11th February. There it worked on cable trenches. The battalion then moved on 17th February to Misery, an aptly named village between Chaulnes and Peronne. Working parties were sent to Marchelepot, Brie and Villers-Carbonell, where the battalion was put to work under Canadian Railway Engineers. Unfortunately during this period the battalion had its Lewis guns taken away. It was involved in the fighting against the German spring offensive, being ordered early on 24th March to move to Guillancourt and dig a defensive line from Rainecout to Rosieres (Wally died on 27th). The left hand company then took part in a counter attack at Framerville. The battalion CO, Lieutenant Colonel Philip Blair-Oliphant, died of wounds on 8th April, a result of injuries he sustained in this action. In the withdrawal that followed, the battalion ended up near Hangard with its right flank next to a French unit. – this information courtesy www.1914-1918.net
Read the stories of his brothers here: