The Daily Echo continues its in-depth look back at the First World War

Gunner Walter George Bolton died in the Battle of the Somme

Gunner Walter George Bolton died in the Battle of the Somme

First published in Heritage News Daily Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Chief Archivist

THEY are the poignant letters received from a beloved son fighting on the front line as he writes to his mother from one of the bloodiest battle grounds known to mankind.

But by the time his mother would read these words her son would be dead.

The remarkable letters received from Gunner Walter George Bolton, which are penned with a typically British stoicism, would tragically be the last contact his family would ever receive from their son as he would be killed in action the very next day.

Daily Echo:

The hand-written letters, which have yellowed with age over the years but remain in remarkably good condition, have been kindly shared with Hampshire Heritage by Daily Echo reader Carolyn Bianchi, of Marchwood, and give a fascinating insight into the life and minds of those thrust into the misery of the First World War.

Walter George Bolton, Mrs Bianchi’s great uncle, was born in Pooksgreen, Marchwood, on May 5, 1896, and lived at Rose Cottage in Marchwood, where he was the eldest son of Harry and Mary Bolton in a family of three sons and four daughters.

During his teenage years before the war George (as he was more affectionately known by his family, rather than Walter) spent much of his time at Coffin’s Farm, situated near Marchwood and Hounsdown, where he worked on his great aunt’s poultry farm.

With the outbreak of war George enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery and, along with his two brothers Sidney and Harry, answered Kitchener’s call to serve for King and Country in the Great War.

By September 1917 Bolton and the rest of the Hampshire Battalion of the Royal Garrison Artillery were encamped on the Somme where they had been engaged in the heavy fighting that had been playing out to a backdrop of some of the most horrific bloodshed ever witnessed. It was during this time that George found a moment to scribe his letters to his mother back home.

In a letter dated September 6 George begins by asking about the wellbeing of family members back in England before revealing his upset at the tragic news received in a previous letter from a friend back home, which notified him that his friend’s brother had been killed in action just a few weeks earlier.

The soldier, who was killed just a few days before his friend’s birthday, was aged just 19.

A distressed George wrote: “I think it is such a shame so many young lads are being killed. I wish it was all over so we could all get back to England again.”

However, he continues his letter with a more positive line, to perhaps allay his mother’s anxieties, by writing: “I don’t think it will be many months now before we shall see the end.”

Then, in a very English manner, he signs off his letter by casually asking his mother what kind of weather they were having back home before remarking on the very nice weather the men had been experiencing back on the front in previous weeks, despite the rainclouds starting to drift in again over France.

The following day, on September 7, 1917, 21-year-old Gunner 352819 of the 243rd Siege Battalion, their beloved George, would be tragically killed in action on the Somme.

His body was buried at Bleuet Farm Cemetery situated in the corner of a farmer’s field in West Flanders, Belgium, and among the collection of artefacts kept by Mrs Bianchi are sobering images of his wooden grave photographed shortly after his burial and the very matter-of-fact documentation sent to the family by the Army notifying them of their son’s death.

After the war George was posthumously awarded the Victory and British War Medal and his service to the country is noted on the War Memorial in the courtyard of St John’s Church in Marchwood and also on a plaque inside the church.

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