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Walter Spencer

Date of birth: 1885
Date of death: 16.09.1916
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Husband of Ellen Spencer nee Stringer
Rank: Private
Service number: 20074

War Service

When war was declared on 4th August 1914, Walter Spencer was employed as a coal miner hewer at Parkhill Colliery. In November, along with a number of his colleagues from the colliery, Walter Spencer enlisted in the army, joining the 7th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.
On the 22nd July 1915 the 7th KOYLI moved to France to join the British Expeditionary Force. Later the battalion, part of the 61st Infantry Brigade, 20th (Light) Division, moved by march to the Armentieres area, where they received instruction in trench warfare. Private Walter Spencer arrived in France on 7th August 1915 and joined the battalion near Armentieres.
Towards the end of September 1915 the 7th KOYLI went into the line in the Laventie sector, three miles north of Neuve Chapelle. The Battle of Loos started on the 25th September, but the 7th KOYLI only played a small part in the action. However the 7th KOYLI remained in Flanders for some time and in February 1916 were deployed in the northern part of the Ypres Salient. This was a particularly active area and the battalion sustained a number of casualties.
The Battle of the Somme began on the 1st July 1916, but the 7th KOYLI did not move south from the Ypres sector until 25th July. On 28th July they arrived at Mailly-Maillet and began tours in the front line within the Redan sector.
On the 20th August 1916 the 7th KOYLI entrained at Candas, for Mericourt on the Somme and from there marched to Morlancourt. The 7th KOYLI went into the trenches opposite Ginchy on the 22nd August at the start of a four day tour, during the Guillemont operations. Though not involved in any attacks the battalion sustained 50 casualties. At 22.00 hrs, on 2nd September, the battalion completed their second tour in the front line. At noon the next day, 3rd September, the 7th KOYLI was in support during the 20th Division attack on Guillemont.
On the 15th September the 61st Brigade was in reserve to the left of Guillemont in readiness for the commencement of the third phase of the Battle of the Somme. The front extended from Pozieres Ridge to Combles, with Les Boeufs and the Quadrilateral trench system the main objectives. At 16.00 hrs on the first day the 7th KOYLI was established in Trones Wood. On the 16th September the 61st Brigade attacked towards Les Boeufs and gained some ground. However, due to lack of support on the left flank, the brigade had to consolidate the line gained, which was about 400 yards from Les Boeufs. At this time, when under shell-fire, the 7th KOYLI lost all its Battalion HQ officers, due to a direct hit. In addition, there were about 30 casualties amongst the other ranks.
One of these casualties was Private Walter Spencer, the servant to 2nd Lieut Tenant. Walter was carried over a mile to the ambulance, from where he was taken to the Field Dressing Station at Bronfay Farm. However Walter Spencer died from his wounds and was buried at Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery, near the village of Bray-sur-Somme, some 8 km from the town of Albert. The Cemetery now contains 537 burials and commemorations of the First World War, 13 of which are unidentified.

Family Life

Walter Spencer was born in 1885, the only son of Arthur and Mary Spencer of Newton Hill. In May 1890 his father, Arthur Spencer, died at the age of 39 years and was buried at St Mary Magdalene Church, Outwood. Shortly afterwards his mother married James Coulbye, a horse keeper at the local colliery. On leaving school Walter obtained work at Parkhill Colliery, where he was initially employed as a trammer, working underground. In 1905 Walter married Ellen Stringer, the daughter of Thomas and Martha Stringer, of Bells Terrace, Outwood. After their marriage Walter and Ellen lived at Orchard Place, Bolus Lane, Outwood. It was at Orchard Place that their four children, Thomas, Ethel Mary, Clifford and Elsie were born.

Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery Bronfay Farm Military Cemetery

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