born at Wetherby in 1887 to parents Henry, a Domestic Gardener, and Elizabeth Walker of Walton Road, Wetherby. The family
circumstances changed when Henry was employed by Wetherby Rural District Council as a Highways Labourer, the family then moving
to premises in Westgate.
Fred was previously employed as a warehouse man at Wetherby
Cooperative Society, his fortunes also changing like his father's when he found employment as a boilerman at the
Tower Brewery, Tadcaster.
Notes on Fred Walker's Enlistment
With the outbreak of the war, Fred like many young Wetherby men flocked to answer his country's call
but was rejected for military service in the Army on four occasions, no doubt on being deemed medically unfit for
front line service. However, in March 1916, he was finally accepted for service in the Army and joined the ranks
of a Labour Company.
As is documented, Fred previously served with the West Yorkshire Regiment
prior to being accepted into the ranks of a Labour Company. The Authors research can find no evidence at present to suggest
that he served with the 16th battalion of the regiment as is suggested via his commemoration by the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission. There are many factors to consider as to this conclusion. If Fred, like many others on Attestation, was
deemed 'unfit' for front line service, why would he have even been considered to have been posted to what
was in effect a 'fighting unit?'
Documentary evidence as regards the Labour Companies/Labour
Corps is virtually non existent as most of these units did not record a War Diary, however, information can be assertained from
the following sources: surviving service records of soldiers that served with the 22nd and 23rd Labour Companies, Commonwealth
War Graves Registers, Divisional Histories, and the Medal Index Card Rolls. The Author, on researching the latter, found many
discrepancies as to the Serial Numbers inscribed on the cards, and those provided by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
Using an example of another man killed on the date in question, and of the same unit, the following irregularities occur:
Arthur Darfield, commemorated by C.W.W.G.C. as West Yorkshire Regiment, 33002.
Index Card denotes, Yorkshire Regiment, 38598.
Soldiers Died corroborates C.W.W.G.C. entry.
Of the seven men killed in the explosion and that are buried in the cemetery, irregularities occur in three
instances. This may well be just an error that occurred whilst the Medal Index Card Rolls or C.W.W.G. C. entries were
compiled, but further research to establish the previous service of these men is required. The Author would suggest however,
that Fred initially served as Depot, West Yorkshire Regiment, hence his headstone bearing this regiments insignia, in effect,
the 'parent unit,' transferred to 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, which then ultimately was divided into
the 22nd and 23rd Labour Companies on formation of the Labour Corps.
A problem that existed from the outset of the war was the shortage
of unskilled labour for tasks as varied as the building of light railways and roads, to the unloading of stores and the materiel
necessary for the prosecution of the war. In the interim, these tasks were carried out by fatigue parties of soldiers whilst
not serving in the front line and at 'rest,' however, this situation needed to be addressed as the war continued and
it was recognised that trained men could not be spared to carry out these duties.
of the Military Services Act in January 1916 heralded the conscription of all males between the ages of 18 and 41 and
also provided one answer to the shortage of unskilled labour at the front. It was found that some men conscripted under the
Act were not suitable for combatant service but were deemed capable of performing labour duties. These men comprised of those
that were too old, suffered from some slight physical disability which prevented service in the front line, or those down-graded
from fighting status i.e., below "A1" medical status required for front line service.
Formation of the 22nd Labour Company
During 1916, Labour units had been
assigned to tasks such as the building of railways, unloading of munitions, stores etc., most, primarily involved in these
and other tasks at Base Ports such as Calais and Le Havre. This detracted from the initial purpose of these units which
was to relieve the front line soldier whilst at periods of 'rest'. It was decided therefore in late 1916, that a complete
reorganisation of the labour force was needed to rectify this situation and a Labour Directorate was established under the
direction of the General Staff. This Directorate was tasked with the administration and distribution of the labour units and
resulted, on 21st February 1917, with the various service and infantry labour units under its control, being brought
together and formed into the Labour Corps. As a result of this restructuring, the 22nd and the 23rd Labour Companies were
formed from the 16th (Labour) Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment, the latter being formed at Brocklesby Camp, Lincolnshire, in
June 1916 and consisting of men from various regiments of the British Army.
on the Western Front
On July 11th, 1916, the battalion, at near full strength and
under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel H.A. Hill, embarked for overseas service at Southampton. Sailing for France onboard
the 'Mona's Queen,' a paddle steamer previously operated by the Isle Of Man Steam Packet Company, the
battalion disembarked at Le Havre the following day.
The battalion remained at Le Havre throughout
the remainder of the year and was employed in the docks area unloading and handling material and stores necessary for the
war. Whilst undertaking these duties, the battalion was camped in an area known as "Cinder City."
In May 1917, whilst still carrying out duties at Le Havre, the battalion, as part of the reorganisation of labour
units in the British Army, was re-designated as the 22nd and 23rd Labour Companies under the now formed Labour Corps, the
two companies being commanded by Captains Harold Gaskell and S. Robinson respectively.
Green Howards In The Great War' by H.C. Wylly records that the 22nd Company was sent to Poperinghe and the 23rd Company
to Bailleul, although the dates of these movements are not recorded. Wylly's History however, records that
the two companies came together in the Menin Road area of the Ypres Salient. Research of the Commonwealth War Graves Registers
and the casualties recorded would suggest that this took place around the beginning of September 1917.
Saturday, 29th September, 1917: The Death of Private Fred Walker
September, casualties had started to mount in the two companies, the 22nd suffering particularly, as the battle known as Third
Ypres which commenced on July 31st ground on. As previously stated, the 22nd Company were performing duties in the
area of the Menin Road, an area which had seen heavy fighting previously between the 20th-25th September and one could surmise
that this was of a road building/improvement nature as the battle area moved forward. It was whilst carrying out these duties,
that the 22nd Labour Company, or a Section of the latter, was hit by a bomb dropped from an enemy aeroplane. Fred and six
other soldiers of the Company were killed by the resulting explosion, and they now all lie buried in the cemetery in plots
I.C.1 - 7. A search of Commonwealth War Graves Registers in the Ypres area would also suggest that the explosion injured
a number of other soldiers of the company, some, succumbing to their wounds in the days to follow.