Benjamin Walker was born in 1878 in Holywell, Flintshire, the son of John and Elizabeth Walker.
He was recorded in the census of 1881 living with his family at Summer Hill, Holywell. Head of the household, John was 28 and he worked as a Cooper. His wife Elizabeth was 28 and the census form says she was a shoemaker – but this had been crossed out by the enumerator, so presumably a mistake. Their listed children were William Thomas aged 3 and Benjamin aged 2.
The census of 1891 lists the family at New Road, Holywell. Head of the household John was then 38 and still worked as a Cooper. His wife Elizabeth was 38. She was by then the mother of 6 children. They were William T 13, Benjamin 12, Margaret A 8, Andrew 6, Joseph 3 and Mary E 8 months.
In 1901, Benjamin aged 22 was working as a Groom at a house called Sand Hey in Hoylake, Cheshire. The house was owned by Timber Merchant Arthur Dempsey who was 77. Mr Dempsey lived there with his wife and two grown up children. The family was looked after by a team of five servants which included Benjamin Walker. (This census says he had been born in Bagillt).
In 1906, in Flintshire, Benjamin married Eleanor Edward Lees in the parish church at Nannerch, Flintshire. Their son John was born in 1907 and their daughter Mary Elizabeth arrived in 1909.
The 1911 census records the family living at Oakfield Lodge, Stapley Nantwich. Benjamin then aged 32 was a Coachman (Domestic). This census again says he was born in Bagillt. His wife of 5 years Eleanor was 32 . The census confirms that she had given birth to two children who were both still living. (John and Mary Elizabeth). Another child, Reginald, was born in 1916
Further details come from his army records which have survived but are not in a good state so often difficult to decipher.
The family address on his army records was White Cottage, Green Lane, Ashton upon Mersey.
He was conscripted on the 24th February 1917. He was 40 years and 1 month old, a married man who worked as a Coachman. He was mobilized and served ‘at home’ (in Britain) until the 11th March 1917. He joined the British Expeditionary Force in France/Flanders on the 12th March 1917 and served there until his death on the 13th February 1918. His total service was 355 days.
Although his original service was with the 10th Labour Bttn of the King’s Liverpool Regiment, he served most of his active service with the 75th Coy Labour Corps.
A medical assessment of him in July 1917 describes him as being 40 years and 7 months old and was 5 feet 6 and a half inches tall. He weighed 112 lbs. His chest measured 35 inches with an expansion range of 2 and a half inches. His physical development was fair.
The records contain internal army memos reporting his death which had occurred at 3.45pm on the 13th February 1918 at 64 Casualty Clearing Station in Proven Belgium. He had died of Nephrititis (Inflamation of the kidneys) whilst on Active Service.
(Presumably he had been serving in that area when he became ill. The infamous Battle of Passchendaele had been raging from July 1917 to November that year. Conditions were horrendous with much mud and water. Did these conditions contribute to this man’s fatal illness?)
The Army records contain various items of correspondence between the army and Benjamin’s widow, Eleanor. She signed receipts for his medals, a commemorative plaque and scroll and for his personal effects. These were listed as …
Discs, letters, photo, 3 pipes – one broken, wallets, 3 religous books, Cigar case, cigar cutter, 2 pairs of scissors, Tie pin, Watch (?) nail clippers, strop knife, 2 rings. (Not possible to decipher everything).
Eleanor was awarded a weekly pension of 29 shillings and seven pence a week.
In January 1920, the Army requested that Eleanor completed a ‘Living Relatives Form’ on behalf of her dead husband. It Listed Eleanor and her three children living in Ashton upon Mersey. It also contained the name of Benjamin’s Father John Walker who lived at Bryn Cottage, New Road, Holywell. It also listed Benjamin’s siblings all living at Bryn Cottage, New Road, Holywell. Andrew 32, Joseph 29, Margaret 34, Mary Elizabeth 24 and Winifred 25. Although Benjamin lived his adult life, away from his home town, his family still lived in Holywell which is why his name appeared on the War Memorial in Holywell.
Speculation. It seemed strange to us that a 40 year old man with three children should be conscripted and allocated to the Labour Corps. Perhaps his experience and skill with horses was something the army needed at that time.
Benjamin Walker is also named on a memorial at St Martins (Ashton on Mersey).