Sergeant Walter Stanley ROBERTS
(Private on CWGC list)


Regiment/Service:
Royal Army Medical Corps
Unit:
5th Stationary Hospital
(Possibly: 55th Stationary Hospital)
Service Number:
97669
Date of Death:
17 March 1919 - Cause unknown
Age:
30
Cemetery / Memorial:


Personal History:

Walter was born in Bisley, Gloucestershire in the June quarter 1888, the eldest son of Walter M (Umbrella Stick Maker) and Emily Roberts. (1891 Census RG 12/2023) He had a younger sister, Lillian Amy. In 1901 (Census RG 13/2437) they had moved to Brownshill, Chalford, Gloucester.

By 1911 (Census RG 14/21236) alter was lodging with the Elliott family at 85 Spring Gardens, Buxton, and working as an 'Assistant Master'. 'The Buxton Advertiser' (24th May 1919) confirms that he had been teaching at Burbage Council School, since 1910.

In the June quarter 1915 Walter married Elsie Brundrett. There is no record of them having any children. At the time of his death his father had died, and in reporting his death the 'Advertiser' expressed the view that his: "... many friends in Buxton and Burbage were sharing their grief in the irreparable loss of one who endeared himself to all with whom he came into contact". It also stated that Walter was ".. a fully qualified certified teacher of high merit" and "held a number of diplomas in special subjects".

He also was associated with the Christian Brotherhood at The Court House, "where his helpfulness and earnestness will be much missed".

Military History:
Walter enlisted in Buxton, having been called up early in 1917 and placed in the R.A.M.C. It was not until December 1918 that he was posted to Russia as part of the "North Russian Expeditionary Force". His Service Papers show that Walter was posted to No. 55 Stationary Hospital North Russia from RAMC Depot, Blackpool, embarking on HMT Stephen at Dundee on the 13th November 1918 and disembarking at "Ekonomiya", north of Arkhangelsk, on 2nd December 1918. Walter was classified B1 fitness and was originally destined for No.20 Reinforcements Salonika, but was redirected to Russia a week later.

The circumstances surrounding his death were confusing, as reported by 'The Buxton Advertiser' (24th May 1919) when announcing his death. On 14th March 1919 he had written to his family assuring them that " .. there was no cause for uneasiness, as he was engaged in the office at headquarters, and was in as safe a position as could be, and far away from any hostilities.". However, at the end of March the War Office intimated that he was "missing". A letter from one of his colleagues advised his family that he had been taken prisoner and there was every hope that "he would be restored". However, three days later the War Office confirmed his death.

On the same ay Walter died Major Francis Mortimer Taylor, MC, and Pte William Bell (both RAMC, 55 Stationery Hospital) were also killed or died. Major Taylor's Medal Card shows him as "Senior Medical Officer Vologda Force NREF". [See: Footnote below]

Walter's Service Papers are endorsed "Regarded for Official Purposes as having died on or since 17-3-19". His body was not recovered from his mysterious end and he is commemorated, along with 218 others with no known grave, on The Archangel Memorial.


                                   

Footnote:
Following the collapse of the Russian war effort in the wake of the Revolution in 1917, the British raised and dispatched a force to Northern Russia, known as the North Russian Expeditionary Force (NREF), under the command of Major General Edmund Ironside. Its purpose was to train a White Russian force in preparation for the creation of a new Eastern Front against the Central Powers, as well as to ensure that large quantities of military supplies shipped there to equip the Russian Army under Tsar Nicholas did not fall into German hands.

The NREF numbered 70 officers and 500 enlisted men, and was chosen from men who had volunteered in Britain for "a secret mission and were not told until their ship had left Newcastle where they were headed." The force was broken into two groups—Syren Force (Murmansk) and Elope Force (Archangel) - Murmansk was reached on 24 June 1918, while Elope Force subsequently sailed on to Archangel.

Sources:
· The Buxton Advertiser, 24 May 1919
· I am grateful to "The War Graves Photographic Project" for the photos of Walter's name on the Archangel Memorial

Link to CWGC Record
The Archangel Memorial
Sgt. William Roberts
poppy
Walter's name on the Memorial
... the "North Russian Expeditionary Force"