Edward Wallace’s birth was registered in the second quarter of 1890 in Towcester. Edward was baptised on 1 June 1890 at Blakesley.
In 1891, he and his family still lived in Blakesley, Northamptonshire. The family comprised: father, William; mother Elizabeth; older siblings: Joseph aged 8; sister, Ethel aged 7; and brothers John and Walter, aged 5 and 3; and of course Edward aged 1. Edward’s father was a ‘Stud Groom’.
By 1901 the family had moved to live at 83 Sholebrook, Wittlebury Park, near Towcester, Northamptonshire. Edward’s father was still a stud groom. Edward was now aged 11 and had six more siblings, Herbert, Flora, Frank, Fred, Rose and Nelly. Then in 1903, his father died, the death being registered in Towceser; Edward’s widowed mother remained with the youngest children at 52 Whittlebury, Towcester. At some later date his widowed mother moved to Rugby, perhaps to join one of her children.
In 1911, Edward was 21 and boarding in Goldings Bothy, Great Wardley, near Brentwood, Essex, where he was a Domestic Gardener.
According to his Pension Records, a Short Service Attestation Form showed that on 24 August 1914, Edward signed up at Guildford to The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, with regimental number 542. He was posted into the 6th Battalion on 30 August 1914 but discharged being unfit for service, owing to chronic eczema, on 24 November 1914, having served 93 days.
Not content with being discharged, it seems that Edward tried again to ‘do his duty’. At some date following his discharge from the Queen’s Regiment, he joined up in Wrexham, Wales, as Private, No.37910 in the 1st Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers – perhaps assuming that his ‘unfit’ status wouldn’t be noticed.
1st Battalion, Royal Welch Fusiliers were in Malta when war broke out in August 1914. They returned to England, landing at Southampton on 3 September 1914. They joined 22nd Brigade, 7th Division who were concentrating in the New Forest, Hampshire. The Division landed at Zeebrugge on 7 October 1914, to assist in the defence of Antwerp, they arrived too late prevent the fall of the city and took up defensive positions at important bridges and junctions to aid in the retreat of the Belgian army. The 7th Division then became the first British Troops to entrench in front of Ypres, suffering extremely heavy losses in the First Battle of Ypres. By February 1915 the Division had been reinforced to fighting strength and they were in action at The Battle of Neuve Chapelle, The Battle of Aubers, The Battle of Festubert, The second action of Givenchy and The Battle of Loos.
It is not known when Edward joined up for this second time, but he probably didn’t go to France until 1916, as he didn’t receive the 1914 or 1914-15 Star, and having to be trained, he probably missed the 1915 battles.
1st Battalion, the Royal Welch Fusiliers took part in several actions in the first weeks of the Battle of the Somme: the attack south of Fricourt on 1 July 1916 [1st Battalion was at the bend in the frontline in the vicinity of Fricourt and Mametz as part of the 7th Division; they became forever associated with the terribly destructive action at Mametz Wood]; the attack to capture Quadrangle Trench on 5 July 1916 and the capture of Bazentin-le-Petit from 14 July 1916; the attacks on High Wood [14 to 15 July 1916], The Battle of Delville Wood [15 July to 3 September 1916]; …
With the 1st Welch apparently involved in so many actions, it is likely that Edward was involved in several of these battles, and that he was Killed in Action in or near Bazenin, High Wood or Delville Wood on 15 July 1916. The Commonwealth War Graves Commision recorded his death on that date, aged 26. They remember his name on Pier and Face 4A of the Thiepval Memorial.
The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. The memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, was built between 1928 and 1932 and unveiled by the Prince of Wales, in the presence of the President of France, on 1 August 1932.
By the date that the CWGC listed the details on the Thiepval Memorial, Edward was described as ‘Son of Elizabeth Wallace, of 21, St. John St., Rugby and the late William Wallace’. At some date before 1911, Edward’s brothers, John, b.c.1886; and Frank, b.c.1896, had moved to Rugby to work as a ‘grocer’s assistant, and a ‘gas engineer apprentice’ respectively, and in 1911 were in lodgings at 74 Railway Terrace. It seems likely that their widowed mother, later moved to Rugby to join them, and submitted Edward’s name to be remembered on the Memorial Gate. Whether he ever lived in Rugby is uncertain, but he probably visited his brothers, and later his mother, and as he is also on the St. Philip’s memorial, perhaps he joined the family in Rugby for a time.
Edward Wallace was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
As well as on the Rugby Memorial Gates, Edward is commemorated at St. Philip’s Church, Wood Street, Rugby.
Edward’s brother, Herbert, also died in WWI, on 8 June 1917, whilst serving as a gunner in the Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Branch); the Heavy Branch of the MGC was the first to use tanks in combat and was subsequently turned into the Tank Corps. He probably died of wounds as he is buried in the Dickebusch New Military Cemetery Extension, near Ypres, which was used ‘… by fighting units and field ambulances’.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM
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This article on Edward Wallace was researched and written for a Rugby Family History Group [RFHG] project, by Anne Rogers and John P H Frearson and is © Anne Rogers, John P H Frearson and the Rugby Family History Group, June 2016.