Walter William Whittaker, Private 1819, 1/7th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Died of wounds 20th December 1915 at sea in the Mediterranean, aged 18
Walter William Whittaker was born in February 1897 in Macclesfield, the eldest son of Elizabeth and William Matthew Whittaker, a cabman/groom of King Edward Street, Macclesfield. In 1901, four year old Walter was living at 2 House 3 Court King Edward Street with his parents and siblings Ruth (7), Alice May (6), and Thomas (5 months).
Thomas was educated at Christ Church School, attaining standard VII, and after leaving school secured employment as an errand boy. He enrolled at Macclesfield Technical School on 12th October 1909 to further his education.
By 1911, Walter’s father had died and the family was living at 17 Flint St, Macclesfield. Thomas was employed as a printers errand boy, but he later found employment at the Macclesfield Shoe and Slipper works.
Walter enlisted in Macclesfield, joining the 7th Cheshire Regiment (Territorial Army). Following a period of training in the south of England, the 7th Cheshires, as part of 159th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division, received orders to equip for service in an undisclosed location in the Mediterranean. In July 1915 they sailed from Devonport to Alexandria in Egypt, then on to the island of Lemnos on the 4th August.
Walter was shot in the chest by a sniper on 4th December and was evacuated from Gallipoli to the 21st General Hospital, Alexandria, in Egypt. Here he underwent an operation to remove the bullet, but pneumonia set in and he died on board Hospital Ship Glenart Castle on 20th December 1915, and was buried at sea.
His death was reported in the Macclesfield Times of 31st December 1915:
Mrs Whittaker, 17 Flint St, was officially notified on Sunday that her son, Private Walter William Whittaker, 1/7th Battalion Cheshire Regiment, had died as the result of wounds sustained in the fighting in the Dardanelles. Private Whittaker was only 18 years of age, and before enlisting was employed at the Macclesfield Shoe and Slipper works.
The last two letters from the deceased to his mother were penned on the 9th and 21st [sic – probably 11th] December. In the first he stated: “Just a line to let you know I have been wounded in the right side of my chest. It took place last Saturday morning about two o’clock. We were shifting the machine gun to another place in the firing line, and I was bending down to pick up a munition box when a sniper got me. The stretcher bearers soon had me away to the beach and to the dressing station. The bullet is still in me, and I expect they will put me off the boat at Alexandria to undergo an operation.”
In the subsequent letter from the 21st General Hospital, Alexandria, Private Whittaker said, “I arrived here last Friday. I am being well looked after. I have got the bullet which hit me”.
The following letter has been received from the matron (Mrs Reddock) of a hospital ship [Glenart Castle]: “I expect before this reaches you the sad news of your boy’s death will have been sent you. He was put on board this hospital ship on the 15th December at Alexandria, where he had been in hospital a few days after being brought down from the Peninsula. He was shot in the chest, and almost as soon as he came to us he began to show signs of pneumonia. He did not suffer any great pain from the wound and everything that could be done for him was done, but he never improved and died very quietly at 2.45 on the morning of the 20th December. He was buried at sea in the Mediterranean and the Sister and I, who were with him to the end were present. It was a beautifully bright sunny morning.”
Private Walter Whittaker was buried at sea in the Mediterranean and is commemorated on panel ref. 75 to 77 on the Helles Memorial, Turkey. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Walter Whittaker, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.