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Walter Goldthorpe

Walter GoldthorpePrivate Walter Goldthorpe, 3275, King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, 1st/4th Battalion

Walter Goldthorpe was born at Horbury in early 1895, the son of Joseph Hodgson Goldthorpe (born 1862) and his wife Caroline (nee Harrison), who married in 1882. Walter was baptised at Horbury St. Peter & St Leonard on the 15th May 1895.

In 1901 Joseph and Caroline are living at Northgate Horbury with five children, Martha (born 1884), Alfred Harrison (born 1889), Walter (born 1895), Frank (born 1898) and Joe (born 1900). Joseph was an iron worker and he and his family are living in a three-roomed home. His neighbour on one side was his father, Joseph Goldthorpe, a 67 year-old widower, and on the other side was his brother, William H. Goldthorpe aged 41.

Caroline Goldthorpe died in December quarter 1909 at the age of only 47. Her death was registered at Dewsbury, suggesting that the family had moved from Horbury by this time. In 1911, the Goldthorpe family had definitely moved and Joseph was the head of a large "extended" family of 13 people living in a four roomed house at 87, South Leigh, South Parade, Ossett. Joseph was still an iron worker and he had remarried in 1910. In the Goldthorpe household are his new wife, widowed Louisa (formerly Wherrit, nee Collinson) with his sons, Walter, a coal hurrier, Frank and Joe, father-in-law, George Collinson, son-in-law Thomas Haigh and his wife Martha Haigh (nee Goldthorpe) plus their children Carrie and Ephraim. There are also three boarders: Eva Perkins and her two children. It may be that the family and the boarders had spread beyond the confines of the four roomed house referred to in the Census because South Leigh, South Parade was once a farm and it may be that some of the family were living in converted out-buildings.

1st/4th Battalion of KOYLI was formed in August 1914 at Wakefield as a part of the 3rd West Riding Brigade, West Riding Division. They moved on mobilisation to Doncaster and in November 1914 to Gainsborough, then on to York in February 1915. On the 12th of April 1915 they landed at Boulogne and on the 15th of May 1915 the formation became the 148th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division.

The Territorial 1st/4th Battalion of KOYLI arrived in France in April 1915, and was within three weeks, in the thick of the fighting at Hooge. Walter Goldthorpe would have taken part in the Battle of Aubers Ridge (also known as The Second Battle of Artois) which took place near Lille in the Artois region of north-east France on the 9th May 1915. The British launched their infantry attack on the morning of 9th May 1915 after a 35 minute artillery bombardment. The Germans were however well-prepared for this second attack (the first had been two months earlier). Their reinforced positions and heightened state of readiness meant the British offensive would capture no territory, while losing over 10,000 men. The survivors were trapped in a muddy, bloody quagmire of a no mans land for many hours. Having survived the carnage, Private Goldthorpe would probably have been in trenches at the front when he was killed by a German sniper on the 31st May 1915.

The "Ossett Observer" 1 had this report of Private Goldthorpe's death:

"On Monday morning, Mr. Joseph Hodgson Goldthorpe, of South Leigh, South-parade, Ossett received a letter from Mrs. Haslegrave, of Wakefield (wife of Colonel Haslegrave), intimating that his son, Walter Goldthorpe, of the 4th Battalion, K.O.Y.L.I., had been killed in action at the front a few days before. The deceased, who was 20 years of age and unmarried, enlisted in the army during last November, and had previously worked at the Old Roundwood and the Crigglestone collieries. The family have resided at Ossett Common for about six years, and prior to that in Horbury, the father of the deceased having been for many years employed at the Horbury Junction ironworks.

A few days before his death was notified, the young soldier wrote home, asking his people to keep up their spirits, as he said he would probably be home again before very long. He added that he was keeping 'in the pink' though he admitted that out there where he was it had been like 'hell upon earth' lately.

Confirmation of the news of the soldier's death was contained in a letter from Private Roland Heald (son of Mr. John Heald, of 1, Teall-street, Ossett Common), a comrade of the deceased. In asking his mother to acquaint Mrs. Goldthorpe of his comrade's death, Private Heald says: "I did not know whether it would be right or not, but I have considered not to tell her myself, knowing that you will break the news the best you can. Make it as light as possible. This morning Walter and another two went out of the trench, and he had only been out about five minutes when a bullet hit Walter. He screamed, and in about five minutes was dead, shot through the lungs the bullet also having touched his heart. You can tell Mrs. Goldthorpe that he died without much pain and is buried in a little churchyard near where we are. I was only five yards away when he was shot, and shall never forget it as long as I live. Don't bother about me."

Private Walter Goldthorpe died on the 31st of May 1915, aged 20 years, the son of Joseph H. Goldthorpe, of 87, South Parade, Ossett, Yorks. He was a native of Horbury, Yorkshire.

Walter’s War Service record has not survived but his Medal Card reveals that he embarked for France on the 13th of April 1915 and he thus qualified for the 1915 Star medal in addition to the British and Victory Medals.

Three of Walter Goldthorpe's brothers, Alfred, Frank and Joe were of an age to serve in WW1. Alfred was a hurrier in a coal mine and may have been excepted. Frank Goldthorpe was born in 1897 and served in the British Army, losing his life on the 11th of October 1918, just one month before the Armistice and six days after Germany first sought peace terms.

Joe Goldthorpe, the youngest brother, was a signaller in the Northumberland Fusiliers before transferring to the 1st Battalion of the Argyle and Southern Highlanders (96380) and he luckily survived the war. At the age of 18, he married Mary Elizabeth Kershaw (19) at the Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett on the 27th October 1919. Joe was now working as a hurrier in a coal mine and Mary was a rag sorter, living with her parents at 18, Little Town End, Ossett. The couple had two sons who were named after Joe's two dead brothers: Walter Goldthorpe born in 1920 and Frank Goldthrope born in 1922, both born in Ossett.

Walter Goldthorpe is buried at grave reference I. 12. at the Bois-Grenier Communal Cemetery 2, Nord, France. Bois-Grenier is a village in the department of the Nord, 3.5 kilometres south of Armentieres. The Communal Cemetery is at the southern end of the village.

Bois-Grenier remained in British hands, though close to the front line, from October 1914 to April 1918, and the earliest British burials were made in the Communal Cemetery. There are now 121 Commonwealth burials of the 1914-18 war commemorated in this site. Of these, eight are unidentified; three in Row K, were brought in after the Armistice, from the North side of the village. There are also four unidentified French burials here.


1. "Ossett Observer", June 19th 1915

2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site