Private Walter Tearle, Hertfordshire Yeomanry, later 47454 2/8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers
Born on 17th February 1897 in Water End
Died on 30th January 1955 in Neasden Hospital, Willesden
Walter Tearle was born in Water End near Hemel Hempstead, the son of Thomas Tearle and Rebecca née Wildman. He was baptised at St John the Baptist’s Church, Great Gaddesden on 25th April 1897. His father was a Labourer and the family then lived at The Moor, Water End.
Walter had an older sister Helen, born 25th October 1894, a younger sister Florence Susan, born 15th November 1902. He also had an older half-sister Rhoda Ann Wildman who was born on 27th March 1880.
By 31st March 1901, the family’s Census return shows them living at Nettleden Lodge Gate, Nettleden. His father was then a Woodman (Forester) on the Ashridge Estate. Helen was 6 and Walter, 4.
On 31st August 1903, Walter Tearle and his sister Ellen (Helen) started at Little Gaddesden School. Walter was then aged 6½ and Ellen nearly 9.
The Little Gaddesden School Log Book records that, on 17th May 1909, Herbert Impey and Walter Tearle went to Berkhamsted to take the Labour Certificate Exam. On 8th June, Walter Tearle learned that he had passed and then on 16th June he left school with a Certificate of Proficiency to go to work. He was then 12 years 4 months old.
However, on 4th October that year the Headmaster noted:
Re-entered Walter Tearle on the register. He had obtained his 5th Standard Labour Certificate and been to work during the summer.
Finally on 5th April 1910, Walter Tearle, Standard 6 left school. He was then aged 13.
The 1911 Census shows 14 year old Walter working as a Groom. He then lived with his parents at Park Lodge (now Tudor Lodge), Little Gaddesden. His father was still a Woodman on the Ashridge Estate; his 16 year old sister Helen was a General Domestic Servant. Florence Susan was aged 8.
From the Little Gaddesden Parish Diary 6
Before the War, Walter was one of four young men who helped in the Little Gaddesden Sunday School. However, in Autumn 1918, the Rector of Little Gaddesden, the Revd. Edward Clark, noted this in the Parish Diary:
Before the war, beside Mr Green (the Schoolmaster), who always took a class of older boys, there were four young men teaching in the Sunday School and all four joined up at an early date. Two of these – William Fenn already mentioned in these pages, who died in hospital in France in March 1916 and William Cook, who died of wounds later in the same year, are no more. Walter Tearle is a prisoner of war since March 1918. Horace Ruffett, who proved himself a fine soldier has been given a commission. The families of the two last have left Little Gaddesden so that the Sunday School, with so much reason to be proud of them all, will not have the pleasure of welcoming any of them back.
Very little information has been found about Walter’s military service. The Little Gaddesden Parish Diary states that he volunteered early in the War and the original Roll of Honour shows him serving in the Hertfordshire Yeomanry, which would fit with his pre-war occupation as a Groom. However, there is no medal record for that service, so it is likely that he did not serve overseas with the Herts Yeomanry.
The Little Gaddesden Parish Diary also notes that Walter was taken Prisoner of War in March 1918. The War Office Weekly List of 10th December 1918 names Prisoners of War released from Germany and arrived in England, including “Tearle 47454 W. (Little Gaddesden)“. He was by then serving in the Lancashire Fusiliers.
A First World War Soldier’s Medical Record shows that, on 22nd November 1918, 47454 Pte W Tearle, D Company, 2/8th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers boarded No 31 Ambulance Train at Valenciennes, bound for Calais, where he disembarked next day. He was then repatriated at Dover on 27th November 1918.
The 2/8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers was a Territorial Force Battalion. It served initially in England. However, in early 1917, it was mobilised for war, landing at Le Havre on 28th February that year. Later in 1917 it was engaged in the 3rd Battle of Ypres. We do not know when Walter joined this battalion.
On 21st March 1918, the 2/8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers was in the front line at Hargicourt on the first day of the German Spring Offensive. Accounts of the Battalion’s actions that day show that it could well be the occasion on which Walter was captured. The village of Hargicourt was shrouded in thick fog and came under exceptionally heavy German artillery fire with high explosive and poison gas shells. The 2/8th Battalion had 3 Companies in forward positions and 1 Company in support.
Soon after 8.30am, their forward positions were attacked and their headquarters captured. At about 9am, the Germans reached the support positions, mainly held by the 2/7th Battalion. By 11am German infantry had captured the whole of the forward and support lines. The great majority of the 2/8th Battalion were killed or taken prisoner. By 31st March 1918, the 2/8th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers had lost 85 men killed and wounded and a total of 657 officers and men captured.
For his War Service, Walter was awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Walter Tearle is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. On the original Roll, his regiment is listed as the Hertfordshire Yeomanry. On the Centenary Revision of the Roll, his service in the Lancashire Fusiliers is also recorded. Walter’s cousin John Wibden is also named on the Rolls. John’s mother Susan was the older sister of Walter’s father Thomas.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Between 1921 and 1923, Electoral Registers show Walter living at 29 Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead with his parents Thomas and Rebecca. In June 1921 he was an out-of-work Bricklayer’s Labourer who had previously worked for W.D. Wells, Builder.
On 16th February 1924 Walter Tearle married May Lilian Spice at Christ Church, Mitcham, Surrey. Walter, 26, was a Bricklayer while May, 26, of 10 Walpole Road, Mitcham was the daughter of James Spice, Waterman.
Walter and May then lived at 10 Walpole Road until 1926. Their daughter Joan Tearle was born on 27th August 1924 and their son Godfrey Walter Tearle on 8th March 1926
Then, in 1927 they returned to 29 Marlowes, Hemel Hempstead where their daughter Doreen May Tearle was born on 5th August 1927. However, by 1929, they had moved to 73 Marlowes; their son Brian Tearle was then born on 4th August that year.
By 1931, Walter and his family lived at 118 Sudbury Heights Avenue, Greenford, Middlesex. Walter and May are shown at that address in the 1939 Register. He was then a Builder and Decorator while she had “Unpaid Domestic Duties”. Their daughter Janet Tearle was born in 1940.
On 30th January 1955 Walter Tearle died in Neasden Hospital, Willesden, Middlesex. He was aged 57 and his home address was still 118 Sudbury Heights Avenue, Greenford. May lived until 9th March 1978 and had by then moved to Holland on Sea, Essex.
5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906 and 1906 – 1934
6. The Little Gaddesden Parish Diary 1877 – 1918
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson