Percy Walton

KOYLIPrivate, 10985. 2nd Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, killed in action, 29th October 1914, aged 20

Born at Crowle in 1894, Percy was the younger brother of Len, the third son and one of seven children of Charles and Lydia Walton (nee Kay). His father was from Crowle and worked as a peat cutter on the Moors, whilst his mother was from Sheffield. In 1901 the family lived in Justice Hall Lane, next door to Charles’ brother and by 1911 they had moved to Cross Hill.

Harry attended Crowle Council Boys School and was one of the four former school friends who died in the Great War, along with Fred Hill, Arthur Oxenforth and Harry Eyre, to have been awarded a good attendance medal from the school in 1906.

In 1911 Percy was working as a farm labourer at Bagmoor Farm, one of the estate farms of Normandy Hall. With elder brother Len already a full-time soldier in December 1913, Percy also enlisted, joining the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry at Doncaster where he served in the 2nd Battalion.

Stationed in Dublin when war was declared, the 2nd KOYLI were quickly recalled to join the British Expeditionary Force for service in France. Part of 13th Brigade in 5th Division they landed at Le Havre on 16th of August 1914, Percy’s 20th birthday. The battalion saw plenty of action in their first few months on the Western Front. Taking part in the Battle of Mons they were also involved in the retreat at the Battle of Le Cateau, the Battle of the Marne and the Battle of Aisne.

In October the 2nd KOYLI were involved in the Battle of La Bassée where they manned trenches to the north west of the town, between La Quinque Rue and Festubert. The British had some success in the early weeks of the battle but following the arrival of German reinforcements on 26th October they were put onto the defensive. The village of Neuve Chapelle was lost in an attack that night and a British counter attack on the 28th failed to regain it.

On the 29th October the German’s used the ruins of the village to stage a major attack on the trenches between La Quinque Rue and Festubert. Two attacks on the units either side of them had already been repulsed when at noon the German infantry then attacked the trench the 2nd KOYLI were holding. A short but fierce hand to hand exchange followed until as the official history explains, the ‘Yorkshiremen drove them back, punishing them severely’. This was the final major action in the Battle of La Bassee as the fighting moved north to Ypres.

In defending their trench at La Quinque Rue between 26th and 29th October the 2nd KOYLI lost over 100 men. Many of them including Percy Walton, have no known grave and are commemorated on Le Touret Memorial.

Almost constantly on the move or involved in action from the time he arrived in France, Percy had not been able to write to his parents, who had consequently become worried at the long absence of news. It was not until December their worst fears were realised when they received the official notification that Percy had died in action. The following Sunday a memoriam was read for him by Rev Southall at the Primitive Methodist Church.

Percy was the first Crowle soldier to loose his life in the war although news of his death did not reach the town until after that of John Webster.