Lieutenant (Quartermaster) Walter PEARSON


Regiment/Service:
Royal Army Medical Corps
Unit:
41st Field Ambulance.
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
24 May 1918 - Died
Age:
34
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
III. J. 2.


Personal History:

Walter was born in the June quarter 1884 at Bath Terrace, Buxton, Derbyshire, eldest son of James (Gasworks labourer) and Martha Pearson The family had moved to Darwin Avenue, Buxton (1901 Census RG 13/3269) and Walter was employed as a "Printer and Publishers Clerk". He had two older sisters, Amy and Mabel B., and 2 younger siblings, Beatrice C. and Fred.  
In 1902 Walter became Assistant Sectretary to The Devonshire Hospital, Buxton, moving to become
Secretary to Gravesend Hospital in 1908. The 1911 Census (RG 14/3814) confirms that Walter had
moved to lodge at 60 The Terrace, Gravesend, and was employed as a "Hospital Secretary".

In February 1916 he married Emma Kathleen Jewell, in Maidstone, and in less than two weeks had
left for Mesopotamia, where he spent the rest of the War, and still lies there. During the War Emma
worked as a Nurse in Leicester and afterwards lived at Rose Mount, Bearstead, Maidstone.

After his death a colleague wrote of him: "His collectors and helpers were always sure of his
leadership and he was not content to measure his success or theirs merely by the higher total
which these organisations used to show years after year. His success lay in making the Hospital
a centre of local interest and in creating a personal tie between it and most of the local residents.
While quietly at work at Gravesend he had his ambitions which were hardly apparent to those who
had not the clue to his genial and easy going manner.

We recall a long conversation with him on the difficulties and slowness of promotion in hospital life, and how he compared, with a sense rather of amusement rather than annoyance, the salaries obtainable in commercial life to men with responsibilities equal to those of a hospital secretary." ("The Hospital" - see below)

The same article pointed out that Walter's predecessor at the Hospital, Mr. A. E. Thomas, had been killed in France in November 1914. (This would be Sgt. Albert Edward Thomas, aged 42, Honourable Artillery Company, killed in action 25th November 1914)

When reporting Walter's death in its edition of 8th June 1918, 'The Buxton Advertiser' was unstinting in its praise of a former employee, stating that: "It is some years since the deceased left Buxton, but there are many who cherish the memory of a typical upright Englishman, the embodiment of civility and courtesy, and a characteristic integrity which marked all his dealings."

Military History:
Walter enlisted in the Royal Army Medical Corps in November 1915 and his Medal Index Card shows that he entered the War in Mesopotamia on 26th February 1916. The 41st Field Ambulance Company was part of the 13th (Western Division) which had been in Gallipoli and suffered over 6,000 casualties. It was evacuated to Egypt in late January 1916 and was brought back up to strength. It is likely that this is where Walter joined his Battalion.

The Division was dispatched to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq), as reinforcements for Anglo-Indian forces attempting to relieve the siege of Kut. In 1914, Baghdad was the headquarters of the Turkish Army in Mesopotamia. It was the ultimate objective of the Indian Expeditionary Force 'D' and the goal of the force besieged and captured at Kut in 1916. The city finally fell in March 1917, but the position was not fully consolidated until the end of April. Nevertheless, it had by that time become the Expeditionary Force's advanced base, with two stationary hospitals and three casualty clearing stations where Walter may have been deployed.

An article in "The Hospital", reprinted in "The Buxton Advertiser" (15th June 1918)  reported that Walter had died of burns, following  an accident, whilst attached to his Field Ambulance Company in Mesopotamia. Pt. 22879 G.S. BAILEY, also of the 41st Field Ambulance, was killed on the 22nd May 1918, and was also buried in Baghdad Cemetery.

N.B. "The North Gate Cemetery was begun In April 1917 and has been greatly enlarged since the end of the First World War by graves brought in from other burial grounds in Baghdad and northern Iraq, and from battlefields and cemeteries in Anatolia where Commonwealth prisoners of war were buried by the Turks. However, whilst the current climate of political instability persists it is not possible for the Commission to manage or maintain its cemeteries and memorials located within Iraq. Alternative arrangements for commemoration have therefore been implemented and a two volume Roll of Honour listing all casualties buried and commemorated in Iraq has been produced. These volumes are on display at the Commission's Head Office in Maidenhead and are available for the public to view." [C.W.G.C.] As a result it has not been possible to obtain a photo of Walter's grave.

Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser, 8 and 15 June 1918

Link to CWGC Record
Graves at Baghdad North Gate Cemetery
Stone of Remembrance, Baghdad North Gate Cemetery
Devonshire Royal Hospital, Buxton
The Devonshire Royal Hospital, Buxton.  circa 1910
poppy