For King and Country

Person Details

WOOLFORD, Walter Thomas Gillman


Name: Cookham Bellringers Sutton Road, Cookham
NIWM Ref: 7929
RBWM Ref: WM149
Name: Holy Trinity Bell Ringers Sutton Road, Cookham
NIWM Ref: 7926
RBWM Ref: WM150
Name: Cookham School Lane, Cookham
NIWM Ref: 7925
RBWM Ref: WM151

Person Details

Date of birth: 24/08/1899
Place of birth: Childrey, Wantage
Gender: Male
Date of death: 18/09/1918
Place of death: Vis-en-Artois, France
Manner of death: Killed in action
Age at death: 19
CWGC Ref: 1750516
TWGPP Ref: 1527427
Address: Chieveley, Courthouse Road, Furze Platt, Maidenhead
Address: Police Station Station Hill Cookham Rise
Address: 4 Sandford Cottages Boyn Hill Maidenhead

Military details

Military Organisation: Army
Military Unit/Group: 8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment
Rank: Private
Service Number: 29395
Military Organisation: Army
Military Unit/Group: 22nd Battalion, London Regiment
Rank: Private
Military Organisation: Army
Military Unit/Group: Royal Army Medical Corps
Rank: Private


Father Thomas Walter Gillman WOOLFORD
Mother Lizzie WOOLFORD
Brother Albert Edward WOOLFORD
Brother Reginald James WOOLFORD

Additional information

Walter's battalion fought in many of the major battles of the war and gained immortality when they dribbled footballs across No Man's Land during 1st July 1916, the opening day of the Battle of the Somme, and went on to lose 446 men killed, wounded or taken prisoner on the same day. The Battle of Epehy was one of several forming part of the allied assault on the Hindenburg Line in the final stages of the war. The 8th Surreys were part of the attack so it is likely that Walter Woolford was one of the many casualties on the first day of the successful allied assault on the village of Epehy. His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Vis en Artois Memorial some 20 miles to the north west of Arras (Panel 6.) Walter is also mentioned on the brass memorial in Holy Trinity Church, Cookham, as well as the Cookham War Memorial because he was a bell ringer.
Walter Woolford was born in Childrey, near Wantage, on 24h August 1899. His parents were Thomas Walter Wiliam and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Woolford. They were just 19 or 20 at the time and within two years they had moved to 4, Sandford Cottages, Boyn Hill, Maidenhead, by which time father Walter was a Constable in the Berkshire Police. By 1911 he had taken up the post as Cookham Constable and we assume the family moved into the new Police Station in Cookham Rise. This was built in 1913 and now serves as Elizabeth House, Cookham's Day Centre. Two brothers followed Walter, Albert Edward and Reginald James. Walter attended Primary School in Cranbourne (though it is not clear whether this was the Cranbourne between Windsor and Maidenhead and, if so, why, as it was some distance from his home) and moved on to Cookham Rise Secondary School. He left on 8th October 1913 having reached the age of 14. The school register states he was subsequently "at home." He joined the Royal Army Medical Corps when he was 16 although it is not clear whether he joined before or after conscription was introduced. He later transferred to the 22nd Battalion, London Regiment and finally to the 8th Battalion, East Surrey Regiment. This was a service battalion, part of K2 within Kitchener's new Army, formed at Kingston upon Thames in 1914 and deployed to France in late July 1915. Walter's brother Albert served in the Royal Navy and survived the war. Both of their parents died in the first half of 1943.
A report in the Maidenhead Advertiser states: "He was killed instantly with a machine gun bullet…his last postcard home said he was quite well and about to be discharged. Young Woolford was a very popular lad. He joined the RAMC when only 16…he then transferred to the Infantry (23rd London)…trained with them on Salisbury Plain…Learned musketry for only three weeks and was sent to France. Spent his 17th birthday in the trenches near Arras. Soon after he was ordered home as he was under age and returned to civilian life as a motor mechanic for Baylis in Maidenhead. Did this till he was 18 then joined up again to his old regiment. Sent back to France and became a gunner on the Lewis Machine guns.''

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