Walter Charles Little was born in Springfield, but after the early death of his father in 1900 he was sent to Wales while still a boy, his mother remaining in Chelmsford. He settled there and when war came he joined the army at Carmarthen. He saw nearly three years’ service in Egypt and Palestine before being drafted to fight in France, arriving there in May 1918. He was fatally wounded in September 1918 in the Battle of Epehy and died at Doingt.
Walter was born in Springfield in 1894, the son of Walter Little and Mary Ann Little (nee Childs). His father had been born in 1863 in Willingale Doe; his mother in 1864 in Berners Roding (sometimes known as Berners Roothing). They had married in 1886 and by 1891 had been living at Wells Wharf in Springfield. At that time Walter’s father was employed as a foreman in a coal yard, presumably in connection with the gas works which were nearby.
Walter was baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 8th April 1894.
Walter’s siblings, all Springfield-born, included: Ellen Louisa Little (born on 5th January 1887, baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 3rd April 1887, and died in 1953), Edith Mary Little (born on 3rd August 1888, baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 23rd September 1888, and died in 1944), Mabel Isabella Little (born in 1890, baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 13th April 1890, and died in 1962), William John Little (born on 4th December 1891, baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 6th March 1892, and died aged one in 1893),), Edward Arthur ‘Ted’ Little (born on 22nd July 1895, baptised at Holy Trinity Church in Springfield on 25th August 1895, and died in 1983), and Sidney Frederick Little (1898-1905).
Walter’s father died in 1900, aged 37.
At the time of the 1901 census seven year-old Walter was living with his widowed mother, three siblings and two boarders at 29 Regina Road in Chelmsford. His mother was a laundress and his sister Ellen was a domestic servant.
Soon afterwards Walter was offered up for fostering and moved to Wales, probably as a consequence of difficult financial circumstances and living conditions following the death of his father. His brother Ted also went to Wales for a period.
In 1911 the census found Walter, aged 17, working as a general domestic servant to the 47 year-old farmer Thomas David at a farm called Glandwr in Nevern, Pembrokeshire, Wales. The village of Nevern is located just over a mile from the Pembrokeshire coast between Fishguard and Cardigan. The household also contained Thomas David’s widowed father and sister Mary. Meanwhile, the census also recorded Walter’s mother, siblings Mabel and Ted, and five boarders living at 3 Baddeley Square off New Street in Chelmsford. One of the boarders was the 45 year-old widower William Robert Hume whom Mary Ann married the following year.
During the First World War Walter enlisted at Carmarthen and served as 4688 in the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry. The Pembroke Yeomanry had formed at Tenby during August 1914 as part of the South Wales Mounted Brigade, 1st Mounted Division. In 1916 they were sent to Egypt and guarded the Suez Canal Defences, but early in 1917 were disbanded, with the unit merging with the Glamorgan Yeomanry to form the 24th Battalion, Welsh Regiment, attached to 231 Brigade, 74th (Yeomanry) Division. The Division had formed in Egypt in January 1917 and had fought through the Palestinian Campaign, at the Battles of Gaza and the Battle and capture of Jerusalem.
LITTLE, WALTER CHARLES,
Private, 24th Battalion, Welsh Regiment (formerly of the Pembrokeshire Yeomanry)
Due to the terrible casualties suffered by the British on the Western Front in March and April 1918 the Division was directed to the Western Front, and arrived at Marseilles during May 1918. They then fought at the Second Battle of Bapaume during the great offensive, and fought in Flanders before returning to the Somme and fighting at the Battle of Epehy, as part of the offensive towards the Hindenburg Line. Walter was wounded there, and evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Station at Doingt, where he died of his wounds on 21 September 1918, by then serving as Private 320352 in the 24th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment.
Today he lies at Doingt Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France (grave: I. B. 1). His brother Ted died in 1984 incorrectly believing that Walter had no known grave - apparently as a result of the details of another soldier (who had no known grave) being confused with those of Walter when reported to Walter’s family.
On 11th October 1918 the Essex County Chronicle reported:
“Mrs. M. A. Hume, of 3 Baddeley Square, New Street, Chelmsford, has received official notification that her son, Pt. W. C. Little, Welsh Regt., died from multiple gunshot wounds in France on Sept. 21st. The deceased has served nearly three years in Egypt, before proceeding to the Western Front, and was in Chelmsford on leave a few weeks ago. He was 24 years of age.”
Walter is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford (which records his regiment as ‘Welch’), the Crymych War Memorial (above), the Eglwyswrw War Memorial (pictured bottom), and by the Chelmsford Parish Great War Memorial in Chelmsford Cathedral. Eglwyswrw is a village four and a half miles east of Nevern (where Walter was in 1911), while Crymych is a further four and a half miles east.
Walter was entitled to the British War Medal and Victory Medal.
The 1918 register of electors listed Walter’s absent step-father, and his mother at 3 Baddeley Square, off New Street in Chelmsford (site of Chelmsford’s current police station). Walter’s brother-in-law, George Charles Surridge, was also killed in the War and is commemorated on the Civic Centre Memorial, Chelmsford.
Walter’s mother died in 1938, thirteen years after the death of her second husband.
Walter’s brother Ted was an inspiration for a novel set in the First World War ‘More Than Just A Life’, written by Ted’s grandson, Steve Little, in 2010.
In February 2014 it was confirmed that a new war memorial will be put up in Eglwyswrw, North Pembrokeshire, including Walter's name. It was unveiled on 10th August 2014.