Cyril Walker

Cyril Walker
Born at Needingworth Road, St Ives in June 1896, Cyril was the eldest of eight children delivered to Arthur, a farm horse keeper, and Emma (née Cook). It seems Cyril spent most of his childhood living with grandfather George, a farmer. In 1901 they lived at Guanockgate Farm, Sutton St Edmund, Lincolnshire. By 1911 they had moved to Wissington, Stoke Ferry, Methwold, Norfolk. Cyril worked on his grandfather's farm, subsequently working for J R Bennett, JP, of Downham.

Cyril enlisted in October 1914 with the 7th Battalion, Norfolk Regiment at Norwich. After training he was posted to France in May 1915. Within a month he was in the front trenches. From 30 September 1915 Cyril's company fought in the Battle of Loos. It was the first time British forces had used poison gas. Trying to break through German defences and restore movement to the War, the Germans contained the attacks. There were 60,000 British casualties, almost a quarter of those for the whole of 1915 on the Western Front.

On 13 October 1915 Cyril's Company were part of an attack on Hohenzollern Redoubt, a German defensive strongpoint. Allied artillery bombardment was meant to subdue the German defences but failed. Immediately before rising from the trenches, murderous machine gun fire raked the British positions from German trenches just 200 yards away. What must have been going through the minds of those British soldiers, knowing they had to rise and walk into that hailstorm of bullets?

British soldiers at the Battle of Loos
British soldiers walking into the fog of chlorine gas at the Battle of Loos
Going over the top wearing gas masks, the chlorine gas blew back onto the advancing soldiers and traces hung around in shell holes and shallows where those soldiers sheltered for cover. Many of the 3,643 casualties of the engagement were slaughtered in the first few minutes of the attack, which was a complete failure. Cyril's Company was almost completely wiped out.

Cyril was reported missing. His family would have endured months of agony, hoping for a postcard confirming he was a prisoner of war. The authorities confirmed his death almost six months later, assumed killed in action on Wednesday 13 October 1915, aged 19yrs. This news was published on 21 April 1916. Cyril has no known grave and is commemorated at the Loos Memorial, France. He is also commemorated on Downham Market War Memorial. Cyril was mentioned during the funeral service for George Dellar, reported on 15 December 1916.

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Source materials
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