This post was written by Victoria Doran.
Harry Walker was one of the unfortunate men who died when RMS Transylvania was sunk by a U-Boat en route to Egypt from Marseilles.
Book of Remembrance entry
Harry Walker was born on 17 December 1879 at Clayhanger Bridge in Brownhills, Staffordshire. He was the 7th of the 10 children of Robert William Walker (1846-1893) and his wife Sarah (1845-???). Clayhanger was not a particularly choice part of Brownhills as it is effectively an island and has always been subject to flooding. Brownhills had grown from the village of Ogley Hay from the 17th century onwards due to coal mining. As Harry’s father is described as an ‘engineer’ or engine driver’ in the 2 censuses he has been found in, he probably worked with engines in a coal mine.
Robert William Walker was born in 1846 in Grendon, Warwickshire where his father, Abraham, worked as a collier. Although in a different county, Grendon is actually less than 20 miles from Brownhills. As the surname Walker is extremely common, it has not proved possible to find out anything else about Harry’s roots.
By the time of Harry’s belated baptism on 21 May 1885 (at the age of 5) the family had moved 5 miles to the somewhat larger town of Walsall. Harry was only 14 when his father died.
He married Florence Batterham (1881-???) in January 1899 in Walsall. The couple had 3 children Harry (1900-???), Florence (1900-???) and Ormonde (1901-1974). Harry and Florence do not appear to have been twins, and it seems possible that Harry was born very shortly after his parents marriage.
Florence Batterham was born in London the daughter of Robert Batterham (1841-1899) and Martha Ponton (1843-1915). Robert came from Essex and Martha from Wiltshire. Robert had a very varied career, starting as an ostler, then groom, corn miller, provision dealer, furniture dealer and finally clothier records from 1867 onwards. The Batterhams moved to Walsall in the late 1880s. At least one of Robert’s brothers had been in business in Walsall. Robert left £730 on his death in 1899, a not inconsiderable amount.
In 1901 Harry and family were still living in Walsall and Harry was a coal dealer and haulier on his own account. However, possibly his business failed as by 1911 they were living in Wallasey and Harry was working as a domestic chauffeur, which would have been a step down from having his own business. Harry was still living in Wallasey when he enlisted as Private M2/183672 in the Motor Transport division of the Army Service Corps. It is not known when he enlisted, but he did so at Hoylake.
Until April 1917 he did not leave Britain. Then he boarded RMS Transylvania, along with over 2,000 other troops and they sailed first for Marseilles and then Alexandria, Egypt. He never actually set foot in a theatre of war.
RMS Transylvania from wikipedia
On the 4 May 1917 RMS Transylvania was sunk by U63 under the command of Otto Schultze. The vessel was 2.5 miles off Cape Vado near Savona in the Gulf of Genoa, off the coast of Italy. Many of the personnel were rescued, but several hundred are buried at Savona, and a scattering of others along Mediterranean coastlines up to over 100 miles away. Harry and Private Lewis Buckley Marshland of the Royal Army Medical Corps are both buried in Ramatuelle Communal Cemetery on the Côte d’Azur in the province of Var, France where they are the only graves for which the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible. The cemetery is 3 miles inland, and it is likely that their bodies were washed up on the famous 5km long beach of Pampelonne about 10 km from St Tropez.
Harry was 38 years old and left a widow and 3 children.
From this probate record we can see that the family had moved to 50 Eaton Road at some stage. The £120 he left would be worth about £9,500 today.
Harry is commemorated on the Rolls of Honour in both St Andrew and St Bridget churches in West Kirby and on Grange Hill War Memorial.
Because he left England but never set foot in a Theatre of War, Harry was awarded the British medal, but was not eligible for the Victory medal.
It is not known what happened to his widow or his 2 eldest children, but Ormonde , who became an electrician, remained in north west Wirral and was resident in West Kirby when he died.
Birth: 17 Dec 1879 in Clayhanger Bridge, Brownhills, Stafforshire
Death: 4 May 1917; at sea; RMS Transylvania sunk by U63
Addresses: Clayhanger Bridge, Brownhills Staffordshire (81); 79 Teddesley Street, Walsall, Staffordshire (91); 35 Lower Rushall Street, Walsall, Staffordshire (01); 20 Caldy Road, Liscard (11); 50 Eaton Road, West Kirby (17)
Occupations: coal dealer & haulier; domestic chauffeur
Unit: 905 Company, Motor Transport Division, Army Service Corps
Number and Rank: M2/183672; Private
Medal: British War
Commemorated and Buried: Ramatuelle Communal Cemetery, Var, France; Grange Hill War memorial, St Bridget, St Andrew – all in West Kirby
Sources: GH, WK, CWGC, MC, BR, PR,, Census: 81, 91,01, 11, SDGW, probate