Walter Thomas Hurl

Walter Thomas Hurl

Born in St Ives in 1889, Walter was the third eldest of nine children, one of whom died in infancy, born to Arthur and Emma Maria (nee Mapperley). 

The family home was at The Bell, on The Waits, St Ives. Arthur was the landlord. In 1891 Arthur's occupation was licensed victualler and carpenter. The Bell was also a lodging house, offering cheap rooms for the very poorest of lodgers and travellers. It was amongst a motley collection of neighbours that the Hurl children were raised.

Both Walter and his older brother William worked for their father as carpenters. Walter was sporty, an amateur boxer who also played football for St Ives Town.

Walter joined the 2nd Battalion, the Bedfordshire Regiment, soon after outbreak of war. After some months of training he took part in major battles at the Front in 1915, including the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March, the Battle of Festubert in May, the Second Action of Givenchy in June and the Battle of Loos in September.

One of the most prolific letter writers to be published by the Hunts Post, Walter kept his family and residents of St Ives up to date with news of his experiences. He wrote home about another soldier's death, published on 25 June 1915. He then wrote about life in the trenches, published 23 July 1915. Walter sent home a German helmet, as mention in the Hunts Post of 19 November 1915. More of Walter's news was published on 26 November 1915. He then sent Xmas greetings, published 24 December 1915. Walter finally wrote of another soldier's death, published 3 March 1916.

In 1916 Walter was involved in several phases of the Battle of the Somme. Three million men took part and one million were wounded or killed, making it one of the bloodiest battles in human history. The Battle of Delville Wood was a series of engagements commencing in July 1916. British attacks and German counter attacks took place over seven weeks. The German positions were finally captured and held, although at some cost.

On Sunday 30 July at 3.30am Walter's Company attacked German positions at Maltz Horn Farm. The assault was a great success, up to eighty Germans being killed. Once the German trenches had been cleared they returned to their original position, suffering thirty casualties in the operation.

At 5.45am they moved up to Trones Wood and in the following hours completed a number of further advances. Dense fog caused some confusion. British positions were heavily shelled throughout the day and they were constantly under rifle and machine gun fire, causing further losses. The total casualties for the day was 192. There's a link to a detailed account of the day's events from the Battalion War Diary under 'Source materials'.

Walter was one of those killed, aged 27yrs. A German shell landed directly in his trench, killing him and his companions. First news of Walter's death was published in the Hunts Post on 1 September 1916, with more news on 8 September 1916. He has no known grave and is commemorated on Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

The Hurl brothers, St Ives
Sergt. William. Hurl, Sergt. Walter Hurl, Pte. Albert Hurl, Pte. Howard Hurl and Bugler Ernest Hurl
Five of the six Hurl sons served in the War, as published in the Hunts Post of 7 May 1915. The other four survived to the end. The above photo of the brothers was published by the Hunt Post on 6 August 1915. The newspaper incorrectly assigned 'Sergt.' to Walter. At the time of death he was a Lance Corporal.

A letter from Albert was published on 17 August 1917. Albert was shortly after awarded the Military Medal for bravery. Details of his award were published on 31 August 1917 and 7 September 1917. Howard was reported as a casualty on 19 October 1917.

Do you have any additional information about Walter? If so . please get in touch via the make contact page.

Source materials
1891 Census
1901 Census
1911 Census
1916 Battalion Diary Extract
Commonwealth War Graves Register
Commemorative Certificate

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