From our Records November
1st Nov 2015
In November 1917 - 98 years ago the 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment made a fighting stand at Bourlon Wood. In the spring the Germans had retired to the newly constructed Hindenburg Line methodically destroying everything as they went. The Hindenburg Line consisted of a heavily wired continuous line of entrenchments, which comprised all the high ground west of Cambrai. After pushing back the enemy to this line, nothing had been done until 20th November, when the British opened a surprise attack supported by a large number of tanks that swept through the wire of the Hindenburg Line as far as Bourlon Wood. From this position on high ground, one had excellent observation of Cambrai. In consequence, attack and counter attack followed one another for a week, the village changing hands daily. The casualties on both sides had been heavy.
The Battalion had started the year in a rear area keeping the roads free of snow where they remained until early February. On the 4th Feb 1917 a small fighting patrol launched an attack at Courcelette and achieved the odd result of taking prisoner exactly the same numbers of German officers and of men that the patrol itself consisted of. Further attacks were made at Miraumont on the 15th February and Oppy Wood on the 29th April where Lance Corporal J Welch won a Victoria Cross. By the 1st May there was only enough men left to form two companies of 4 officers and 100 Other ranks each which was merged with the 23rd Royal Fusiliers to form a composite battalion. At the end of a second action at Oppy on the 3rd May the battalion was down to 2 officers, both wounded and 94 other ranks. They were restored to a complement of 38 officers and 694 Other ranks by the end of August. They were back in action for the Battle of Cambrai near Bourlon between the 26th and 30th November 1917 as part of 99th Brigade. The 2nd Division withstood the assault by two German Divisions with very little assistance from other units of the Division. After this it was back to the rear areas and then to the rest of the winter in the trenches.
On 5th November 1854, George Walters won his Victoria Cross.
George Walters was born in Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire in 1829 and enlisted into the 49th Regiment in 1848. Promoted Corporal in 1854 and Sergeant in 1855, most of his service was in the Mediterranean.
He served with his regiment during the Crimean War and, as a result of his bravery on 5 November 1854, was recommended for the Victoria Cross. The citation reads:
‘Sergeant George Walters highly distinguished himself at the Battle on Inkerman in having rescued Brigadier-General Adams, C.B., when surrounded by Russians, one of whom he bayoneted.’
George Walter paid 15 shillings for his discharge in November, 1856. Having only served 7 years he was not entitled to a pension. George was one of the 62 men to receive the medal on the first distribution in 1857. At that time he was constable in the Metropolitan Police. He died in poverty in 1872 and was buried in a pauper’s grave at the City of Westminster Cemetery, Finchley.
Our photograph shows George, wearing his Police uniform, recieving his VC from Queen Victoria.