Lieutenant Colonel Ernest John WALTHEW

Royal Engineers
Commanding 46th Division
Service Number:
Date of Death:
22 May 1918 - Killed in Action 
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
III. D. 11.
Military Cross.

Personal History:

Ernest was born in Stockport, Cheshire on 22nd January 1872, the son of George (Cotton Spinner) and Annie Walthew, of Stockport, Cheshire. He had two older sisters, Florence Annie and Lavinia (1881 Census RG 11/3274). In 1891 (Census RG 13/3035) Ernest was in boarding school in Southport, Lancashire.
On 30th May 1900 Ernest married Maud Violet Clegg, at St John's Church, Ranmoor, Sheffield. (She was the only daughter of Sir William Clegg, OBE - a solicitor, who also played football for Sheffield and gained 2 'caps' for England, against Scotland and Wales) After their marriage Ernest and Maud moved to Heath House, Stockport Road, Cheadle. Ernest had moved into the family business, giving his occupation as "Cotton Spinner and Doubler" but as an Employer, not employee. (1901 Census RG 13/3300).

The 1911 Census (RG 14/21236) shows him, at the age of 35, as a "Retired Cotton Spinner", living with his wife and their two children, Viola (b. 22 April 1905) and Geoffrey Brook (b. 3 March 1909), together with two children's nurses and two domestic servants, at Green Moor, Carlisle Road, Buxton. 

The 'Buxton Advertiser', in reporting his death (1st June 1918), called him "A man of most affable disposition, cheery and optimistic, and took a great interest in local affairs." In April 1910 he had been elected to the local (Buxton Urban District) Council, remaining until 1914 a member of East Ward and worked on the Committees for Finance, Gas and Water, Sanitation, Baths and Pump Room, Advertising and the Free Library.

He also held high office in the Buxton Freemasons and was a prominent member of the Conservative Party and was hence associated with the Union Club. He also was a member of the Committee of Management of The Devonshire Hospital.

He was a keen sportsman and a member of the High Peak Hunt and he and his horse "Wiseman" won the Point-to-Point Steeplechase in 1912 and 1913. Probate records show that Ernest left £27,486 5s 9d [£27486.29] to his widow Maud. (This sum has a relative value of about £1,102,000.00 today - 2014).

After the War CWGC Records show that family moved the Churchdale Hall, Ashford and later moved again to The White House, Salcombe, Devon, although the address recorded for Probate in January 1919 was Firwood Cottage, Salcombe, Devon. On 6 March 1925 Maud re-married Major Douglas Scott Hadow at Sialkot, Bengal, India, whilst he was serving with the Imperial Indian Police. When he died in 1954 they were living at Starrs Green Cottage, Battle, Hastings, Sussex. She died, aged 90, also in Hastings, Sussex, in the December quarter 1966.

Military History:
On the outbreak of War Ernest volunteered for active service the 3rd November 1914, as a 2/Lieutenant in the 2nd West Riding Field Company, Gazetted (London Gazette on 12th September 1914). He was promoted to Lieutenant in the same Company, (London Gazette 27 November 1914) and Captain on 31st March 1915, before becoming Temporary Major, Royal Engineers, on the 19th September 1915 (London Gazette, 8 March 1917) His rank of Major was confirmed on the 1st September 1917 (Gazette same date) He served in France from January 1917 and took part in actions at Bullecourt in May 1917 and Havrincourt in November, following the advance on Cambrai.

He was promoted to the acting position of Lieutenant-Colonel in the Corps of Royal Engineers on 1st May 1918. (London Gazette 31st May 1918) At the time he was an Acting Major but his substantive rank was Captain. As Lieutenant-Colonel, 46th Division, Royal Engineers, he was killed in action 22 May 1918, aged 42, whilst carrying out a reconnaissance, near Bethune. He was buried in Fouquières Churchyard Extension, Pas de Calais, France.

His General Officer Commanding wrote of him: "His great qualities of ability, courage and great devotion to duty.. The Division has suffered a very great loss by his death, which he met like a gallant English gentleman." and a former Officer Commanding wrote: "We all of us had such a great respect for him and a great liking. His example of cool courage in danger was very infectious and a great example to all who served with, and under, him. He was one of the outstanding examples of everything a man and a soldier should be. Not only was he loved by the men of his own company but he was respected and admired by all who knew him, for there never was a man more gallant or more honourable in his dealings with everyone who had the great good fortune to serve with him". The Chaplain wrote: "You cannot realise the privilege it was to a padre to have an O.C. like him. He was and is my ideal of a Christian soldier and gentleman." 

Ernest was awarded the Military Cross in the New Year's Honours List, (London Gazette 28th December 1918) for conspicuous gallantry during the advance on Cambrai, 21st November 1917.

N.B. Lt. Col. Walthew's Adjutant, Capt. Charles Allen HINTON, M.C. and Bar, was killed in action on the same day, probably on the same mission, as Ernest. They now lie alongside each in Fouquières Churchyard Extension, Captain Hinton in Grave III. D. 12. alongside Ernest in Grave III. D. 11.

Footnote: Four months after Lt. Col. Walthew's death, the 46th Division were
instrumental in the actions later known as "Breaking the Hindenburg Line".
Read more about these series of actions in the book of that name by Major
R. E. Priestley, M.C., R.E. - accessed via link in Sources below.

· De Ruvigny's Roll of Honour, Volume 5, page 168
· The Buxton Advertiser, 1 June 1918
· The photo of Ernest above from "London Illustrated News" - 15 June 1918
· "Breaking the Hindenburg Line" by Major R. E. Priestley, M.C., R.E

Commemorated on:
Ashford-in-the Water War Memorial (see right)
Link to CWGC Record
Lt-Col E J Walthew's Grave
The Military Cross
Lt. Col. E J Walthew
The Ashford War Memorial
Col. Walthew's name on the
Ashford War Memorial