This is my Great Grandfather, Clement Henderson Walter. He was born on the 28th of November 1885 and died in 1917 aged only 31.
I dug out an old file that my Scottish Grandfather, who is no longer with us, compiled. I’ve always known that it’s there, brimming full of family history, but I’ve never sat down and read it. The file traces both my paternal Grandfather and my Grandmother’s family, in one case to 1722. It’s fascinating. There are four lines of family tree. Every person has a photo, a back story. Of the immediate family there is a wealth of first hand musings about each relative. One part of the file particularly resonates with me and that belongs to my Great Great Grandmother, Elsie, and her son my Great Grandfather, Clement.
My Great Great, Grandmother, Elsie (born 1860) was a prolific writer of short stories. She wrote a book called ‘Recollections of an Old Street Lamp’ which told tales of the comings and goings of all the people in the street. There is a copy of the book in the file. Sadly, she died at the age of 40, leaving two sons behind, Clement and Richard. On his thirteenth birthday Clement wrote to a cousin “Greater loss than that there is none … I always loved her devotedly and more so when terrible and incurable illness came upon her … And she is gone and I was empty … but her influence is still around me, guiding me in difficulties, cheering me in sorrow”.
Clement worked on the Glasgow Herald, wrote poetry and was also a talented musician and artist. He married my namesake, Laura, and in 1915, 4 months before the birth of his daughter, my Grandmother, he volunteered in the Battalion of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers.
On 9 April 1917 the 3rd Battle of Arras started and from the sewers and cellars of Arras where they had been hiding for three days, the three companies of 7/8 Battalion of the Kings Own Scottish Borderers sallied forth in an attack. It is thought that this is where Clem received the wound that was to prove fatal.
Some considerable time later one of Clem’s comrades came to the home of my Great Grandmother, Laura, to tell her the circumstances. Hit during the battle, Clem, with his hip shattered was laid in a shell hole for shelter until he could be picked up; when they came later there was no trace of him and he was never found.
My Grandfather, when compiling the vast family archives, wrote “Aged only 31, a man of talent with promise of better things to come, he shared the fate of thousands who like him went off with high hopes to a World War triggered off by the dynastic pride and vanity of emperors and the aftermath of which brought only misery to countless millions the whole world over.”