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The S.S. Maplemore on the eve of departure from Australia
S.S. Maplemore
image: State Records NSW
H.M.H.S Oxfordshire
H.M.H.S Oxfordshire
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Webb, Walter Sydney

Walter Sydney Webb
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Squadron Cpl Major Walter Sydney Webb (2052)
Killed in Action on Sunday 19th May 1918
Etaples Air Raid, aged 37
Son of Robert & Annie Webb
Father's occupation: Veterinary Surgeon
Born 29th December 1880 at Hurst
8 sisters, 3 brothers, position in family: 7
Relatives: Wife - Olive Webb, nee Sansum m. Q2 1909
Infant School:Boys School, Reading
Senior School:Hurst Boys
Admitted:10th April 1894
Age on admission:13
Local address: Lee Cottage, Hurst
Pre-war occupation: Soldier
Enlisted:London, 21 June 1898
Regiment:Life Guards
Battalion:1st Bn.
Division:Guards MG Regmt
Went overseas:Tuesday 6th October 1914
Died:Sunday 19th May 1918
Cause:Killed in Action
Action:Etaples Air Raid
Battalion at:Etaples
Commemorated:Grave at Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais

Walter Webb was born in Hurst on 29th December 1880 to Robert and Annie Webb and on January 17th 1882 he was christened in St. Nicholas Church, Hurst. He was the seventh of twelve children and had three brothers and eight sisters. His father came from Devon and was an Estate Agent at the time of Walter's birth.

Ten years later his father had become a Veterinary Surgeon and the family had moved to Lansdown Place, Twyford. Walter attended the Boys School in Reading but in April 1894 when he was thirteen, the family moved to Lea Farm, Hurst and Walter became a pupil at Hurst Boys School for his final year of education.

Walter enlisted in the army at Regents Park barracks on 21st June 1898 and signed up with the 1st Life Guards for twelve years. He gave his age as eighteen years six months, adding an extra year to qualify. Walter was over six feet tall, weighed 11 stones four pounds and had black hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. For the first eighteen months he remained in Britain, firstly at Regents Park, then at Windsor. He would have been trained in cavalry fighting skills as well as undertaking the ceremonial duties of the Household Cavalry in the latter days of Queen Victoria's reign.

On 29th November 1899 Walter was posted overseas to fight in the Boer War. He sailed for South Africa onboard the troop ship S.S. Maplemore. Walter served in South Africa for one year and fought in the Relief of Kimberley and the Battle of Paardeberg. On his return to Britain Walter was stationed at Clewer Cavalry Barracks in Windsor and was soon promoted to Acting Corporal. Over the next five years Walter rose to the rank of Corporal of Horse, equivalent to Sergeant in other regiments. On 27th June 1909 he married Olive Sansum at Trinity Church, Windsor. Walter completed his 12 years of service in 1910 and immediately signed on to complete 21 years.

On 6th October 1914 1st Life Guards sailed for Zeebrugge as part of 7th Cavalry Division. On 30th October they suffered very heavy casualties while defending the village of Zantvoorde. Soon afterwards Walter received a gunshot wound to the hip which was treated in the field by 1st Field Ambulance. He was then transferred via Lines of Communication to No.11 General Hospital. It turned out to be a 'Blighty' wound and Walter was evacuated home by the hospital ship HMHS Oxfordshire on 8th November 1914.

Once Walter had recovered he continued to serve with 1st Life Guards in Britain and received Good Conduct and Long Service Awards in October 1916. After further promotions, he reached the rank of Squadron Corporal Major in February 1918. Three months later Walter transferred to No.1 (Life Guards) Battalion of the newly established Guards Machine Gun Regiment which sailed next day from Folkestone to Boulogne. The Battalion disembarked on 18th May 1918 and marched to base camp at Etaples. It was here, many miles behind the front line, that Walter met his death.

At 10.30pm. on the evening of 19th May 1918, Etaples was attacked by AEG bombers of Bogohl (Bomber Squadron) 6 of the Imperial German Army Air Service. Shortly before midnight two bombs fell on the camp of the No.1 Battalion of the Guards Machine Gun Regiment killing 42 men from 1st Life Guards. Walter Webb was one of those killed. Some time later his widow Olive, now living at Westcot, Wantage, received Walter's effects. The main items were his silver watch, wallet, pipe, lighter, knife and belts. Walter now rests alongside his comrades in Etaples Military Cemetery; he was thirty-seven years old. Walter had been in the army for twenty years and fought in two wars, though he was only on the Western Front for four weeks.


Walter Webb at Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais
Etaples Military Cemetery, Pas de Calais

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon