Memoirs record the Great War experiences of medal-winning stretcher-bearer who was shot in the helmet and survived – only to be captured by the Germans

Walter Young wrote memoirs of his experiences during the Great War.
Walter Young wrote memoirs of his experiences during the Great War.
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War hero Walter Young fought and was shot during the First World War and won the Military Medal for his work as a stretcher bearer.

He served with the Post Office Rifles (47th Division, 8th London Regiment) from March 1915 until he was captured by the Germans exactly three years later.

Before the war, he trained with the Territorial Army at Abbots Langley. He became so fond of the area that he later bought a plot of land at Scatterdells Lane in nearby village Chipperfield.

The quiet countryside area is a far cry from his work in the late part of the Great War. His job, from 1917 onwards, was to run out through barbed wire into no man’s land and rescue wounded soldiers from shell holes while under heavy fire at Bullecourt.

When he was eventually shot through his helmet – the bullet missed his head, he was captured by the Germans and sent to work in a Prussian coal mine.

He described the experiences down the mine as being even worse, at times, than being in the trenches.

When the war ended and he was demobbed and returned home to resume his job as a sorter.

By nature, he was shy, very quiet and extremely reserved. Fighting was totally against his nature, but he felt he had to do his duty for his country when the war broke out.

After it ended, he barely mentioned his role in the war to his friends and family.

His son John, who is now 84 and lives in Hemp Lane, Wigginton, said: “We hardly knew he had been in the war.

“He never talked about it and we knew next to nothing about it until we found his memoirs after his death. He hardly even mentioned it.”

The memoirs were later made into the book Wal’s War.

Walter was born in Islington, the third of eight children. At the age of 19 started work at the King Edward Building in Holborn as a sorter, a post he held until he retired in 1949. He died aged 68 in 1957.

His memoirs record a very simple, yet graphic account of the dangers and misery of life in the trenches. The fact that he survived when so many of his fellow Post Office Rifles comrades never returned seems little short of a miracle.

He had a very deep Christian faith, which he embraced as a boy and this must have helped him in many of the dire situations he found himself in.

Cricket fan Walter married in 1922 and had two sons – and would treat his family to days out in and around his plot of land in Scatterdells Lane.

You can buy the Wal’s War collection of Walter’s wartime memoirs by clicking here