On this day in 1918, Walter Kingdom (1898-1918) was killed after an attack on the German army’s last great stronghold on the Western Front – the formidable Hindenburg Line.
Built in just five months during 1916 and early 1917, with the help of tens of thousands of prisoners of war, the 90-mile long German fortress stretched from Arras to beyond St Quentin on the French-Belgian border.
It included a huge network of heavily protected machine gun and artillery fire posts, enormous belts of impenetrable barbed wire entanglements, deep trenches and bomb-proof dug-outs and tunnels, and anti-tank ditches.
Walter, aged 20, was a private in the 1st Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment when he took part in the Battle of Epehy on September 18, 1918, a key offensive in the campaign in the final months of the Great War to break the vast defences of the Hindenburg Line.
The battalion suffered heavy casualties as they led the attack on German outposts in thick mist and rain.
Between September 17 and 24 – the build-up to the battle, the battle itself and the aftermath – the 1st Loyal North had two officers and 48 other ranks killed in action.
More than 180 were wounded, ten were reported as ‘missing’ and 21 were believed to have been gassed.
Walter survived the Battle of Epehy but was killed in action in the aftermath, on September 20, 1918 – just 52 days before the Great War ended.
His death came more than two years after his brother, Corporal William Henry Kingdom, died – from heart disease – while serving with the 1/4th Devons in Mesopotamia.
Walter, who was just 19 when he went to war in France in April 1917, is remembered on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial, near Arras, in France.
It bears the names of more than 9,000 soldiers who fell between August 8, 1918 and the last day of the war, November 11, 1918, and have no known grave.
Walter is remembered at the War Memorial Hall and Library on Tiverton’s Angel Hill – where 281 men and women from the town are commemorated. He is also named on the war memorial at St Paul’s Church, Tiverton.
Walter was one of 11 children of George Kingdom (1862-1952) and Lucy Roberts (1868-1945), the eldest daughter of John Roberts (1829-1919), my great-great grandfather who had 30 grandsons serving in the Great War.
Born on March 27, 1898 in Ashley, Tiverton, Walter lived with his parents at Howden Cottage, Tiverton in 1911.
Vis-en-Artois Memorial where Walter is remembered. Picture by The War Graves Photographic Project.