Private Walter Ellwood, 40975, Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), 9th Battalion
Walter Ellwood was born in Leeds in 1885 the second child and only son of Arthur Ellwood and his wife Rachel (nee Clayton) who married at St George’s Parish Church, Leeds on the 25th December 1883. The couple were to have four children, all born between 1884 and 1889.
Arthur Ellwood was the son of a shepherd and worked as a cart man. He and his wife were both born in Cambridge and came to Leeds in the early 1880s. In 1891 they lived in West Leeds with their four children, who were all born in Leeds.
By 1901, the Ellwood family had moved to live at Storrs Hill, Ossett, close to Jenkin Lane and the Half Way House public house. Arthur was working on his own account as a farmer whilst Walter Ellwood and one of his younger sisters, Maud, worked in the local athletic works as stitchers.
By 1911, Arthur Ellwood had given up farming and was again working as a carter. The whole Ellwood family had moved to 17, Intake Lane, Ossett. Walter, now aged 25, was still working as a football stitcher and his three sisters all worked as weavers.
Walter enlisted at Ossett and first joined the the Yorkshire and Lancashire Regiment with service number 22502, before later joining the 9th (Service) Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), which was formed at Hamilton in August 1914 as part of K1 and came under orders of 28th Brigade in 9th (Scottish) Division. The battalion moved to Bordon and in March 1915 went on to Bramshott. They landed at Boulogne on the 12th May 1915. On the 6th May 1916 they transferred to 27th Brigade in same 9th Division. On the 5th February 1918, the battalion transferred to 43rd Brigade in 14th (Light) Division and then on the 21st April 1918 they transferred to South African Brigade in 9th (Scottish) Division. Finally, on the 12th September 1918 they transferred to 28th Brigade in 9th Division.
The 9th Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) during their short time with the 43rd Brigade in the 14th (Light) Division in 1918 were involved in the Battle of the Avre on the 4th April 1918 and it is thought that Private Walter Ellwood was wounded and taken prisoner during this bitter defensive battle to stem the German drive to capture Amiens.
By the 4th April, 17 German divisions were disposed along a 15-mile front south of the Somme threatening units of the French First Army and British forces covering Amiens. Just after 5am on the 4th April, in drenching rain, an intense German bombardment pounded allied positions. In dank mist German infantry attacked across sodden ground at 6.30am. In the British sector, 18th and 14th Divisions, with 9th Australian Brigade, repelled three serious German assaults, but around 10am an enemy break-in on 14th Division’s front, forced anxious withdrawals to positions barely a mile east of Villers-Bretonneux. North of the Roman road the British defence held all day, but serious problems unfolded to the south during the afternoon. In the wake of a strong attack around 4pm against 18th Division the enemy penetrated Lancer Wood pressing defenders back; a gap was punched in the line and the way to Villers-Bretonneux lay open. Crucially, at 5.45pm, a determined counter-attack by 36th Australian Battalion stopped the German onrush; the line north of the railway was consolidated and the defensive perimeter east of Villers-Bretonneux re-established. The German drive towards Amiens had been stopped far short of its objectives; attacks would be renewed the following day.1
Friday 5th April 1918 saw German attacks renewed both north and south of the Somme in desperate attempts to redeem the failures of the previous day. By far the heavier German infantry advance over a captured trench and ferocious assaults took place north of the river, against formations of Byng’s Third Army aligned along the River Ancre. These intense though sporadic onslaughts (indicative of the failing strength of the enemy offensive) sought to renew an advance on Amiens (this time from the north-east), and to obtain, a foothold on the Artois plateau.
Above: British Lewis Gun team in action April 1918
Walter Ellwood's army service record has not survived, but he was posthumously awarded the British and Victory medals. He did not serve overseas until after 31st December 1915.
The "Ossett Observer" had this report about Walter Ellwood's death from wounds:2
"During the week official news has been received from the military to the effect that Private Walter Ellwood (31), Scottish Rifles, of 17, Intake Lane, Ossett, died in Mauberge military hospital on April 14th last year. Deceased who was wounded during in fighting in 1917, was taken prisoner in the March offensive of last year, when he sustained wounds in the right knee and upper arm, from which seemingly, he never recovered. Before joining the army he worked as a football stitcher for Messrs. J. Clegg and Son, athletic goods manufacturers, of Park-square, Ossett."
Private Walter Ellwood, died of wounds on the 14th April 1918, aged 32 years, the son of Arthur Ellwood, of 17, Intake Lane, Ossett. He is buried at grave reference A. 24. at the Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery,3 Nord, France. Maubeuge is a large town in the department of the Nord. Maubeuge-Centre Cemetery stands inside the Communal Cemetery of Maubeuge on the route de Mons (N2).
Maubeuge possessed a French military aerodrome, and it was H.Q., R.F.C., from the 16th to the 23rd August 1914. It was captured by the Germans on the 7th September, 1914, and it remained in their hands until it was entered by the 3rd Grenadier Guards in the early morning of the 9th November, 1918. The 5th, 47th Casualty Clearing Stations were posted in the town for different periods between the end of November 1918, and the middle of May 1919.
The "Cimetiere Communal du Centre" one of the town cemeteries, was used by the Germans; it contained at Armistice the graves of German soldiers and British, French, American, Russian, Italian and Rumanian prisoners. These have been to a great extent regrouped, removed, or increased in number by concentrations from other burial grounds; and the British and other war graves are now mainly in the South part. One hundred and five were brought in after the Armistice from the battlefields West of Maubeuge.
There are now 185 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-1918 war commemorated here, 6 being unidentified. There are a further 65 Commonwealth burials of the 1939-45 war commemorated in this site. From the 1939-45 War, three United Kingdom graves could not be precisely located and are commemorated by special memorials, inscribed "buried near this spot". There are 105 French and 1 Russian burials here.
Thanks to Anne-Marie Fawcett for additional information.
2. "Ossett Observer", 15th February 1919