Tag Archives: Walter Eric Markey

Walter Eric Markey (1895-31 October 1914†)

Walter Eric Markey was born in early 1895, or possible very late in 1894 at Bexhill-on-Sea. His birth was registered in the Battle registration district in the 1st quarter 1895. His parents, Alfred Eric Markey and Emma Elizabeth (nee Snook) were both originally from Somerset, Penselwood and Wincanton respectively. Their marriage was registered in the 4th quarter 1891 in the Wincanton registration district. Their first child, Cicely Emma, was born in Wincanton in 1893.

Walter followed in 1895, then Samuel Robert in Sidley, a small village on the outskirts of Bexhill. In 1900, Beatrice Mary was born back in Bexhill itself. By the time of the 1901 census the family were living at Keepers Corner, Burstow, Surrey. Alfred is listed as a coachman. In 1902 (Bessie) Minnie was born in Copthorne, and (Jessie) Margaret there in 1905. Elsie Gwendoline was born in Burstow on 20 November 1907, followed by Ethel Winifred in early 1911. By the time of the 1911 census the family were living at Shipley Bridge, Burstow, Surrey. Alfred was still working as a coachman, and Walter was now following in his footsteps, working as a groom.

Sometime, probably in the second half of 1913 (based on the number issued to him) Walter joined The Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), enlisting at the regimental depot in Guildford. By the outbreak of war he would have been a fully trained soldier, and went with the 1st battalion to France on 12 August 1914. They were heavily involved in the retreat from Mons and subsequent fighting. By 31 October 1914 the First Battle of Ypres was underway and the battalion was involved in the defence of Gheluvelt. The battalion was all but destroyed, with little more than a handful of men coming out of the line in early November. Walter was among those killed, his body was never recovered, and so he is commemorated on the Menin Gate. He was the first member of the Surrey Association to die in service.

The extent of his ringing career remains unclear, no reports of any ringing have yet been found. He presumably began ringing at Burstow in the years immediately before he joined the army. His death was not reported in the ringing press at the time, and does not appear to have been marked by the Burstow ringers. The only time his name does appear is in a report of a memorial service held at St Clement Danes on the Strand in London on 22 February 1919 for all the ringers killed in the war. As part of the service a roll of honour of ringers from “London and District” was read and he is listed as W Markey. Other services were held around the country on the same day, at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge, Sheffield Cathedral, Chester Cathedral, Winchester Cathedral and SS Philip and Jude in Bristol. Sadly, after this his name seems to have undergone a process of chinese whispers in drawing up the Surrey Association roll of honour, and this then fed into the Central Council roll of honour. Names were listed surname, followed by initial. Markey W seems to have been misheard at some point and transformed into Mark E W, which led to considerable problems in confirming his identity. Walter Markey seemed to be the only plausible candidate, but until the report of the memorial service was found this could not be shown beyond doubt, particularly as his unit is also incorrectly recorded as Royal Garrison Artillery on the Surrey Roll.

Destination unknown

At 2pm they received a partial answer as they arrived at Southampton Docks and embarked on SS Braemar Castle along with the Welsh Regiment. They left the wharf at 20:15, still unsure of their final destination. Among those wondering what was in store for them would have been Walter Markey of Burstow. They would arrive at Le Havre at 11:00 on 13 August, where unloading took until 17:30, followed by a march to camp.

Meanwhile, with 1st Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, Walter Hodges did not board a train until 00:30 on 13 August. It took them until 15:00 to reach Southampton, where the battalion embarked on two ships, Martaban and Appam. They arrived at Le Havre on 14 August and similarly moved to a rest camp.

(See WO 95/1280/1 and WO 95/1432/1 for more details.)


On 4 August 1914 regular army units received a one word War Office telegram: “Mobilize” [sic]. Author Richard van Emden tweeted this image of one such telegram as logged by the orderly room of 4th (Royal Irish) Dragoon Guards at Tidworth Camp that day.

2nd Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment), stationed at Bordon Camp in Hampshire would have received something similar, their war diary notes that the mobilisation order was received at 5:30pm. Serving with them was Walter Markey of Burstow. In fact, from 29 July, units had been ordered on to a “precautionary period”, meaning that guards had to be placed on strategic points, and mobilisation preparations were begun. The Surrey History Centre posted this photo of the battalion on parade at Bordon in August 1914 – presumably Markey is somewhere in the ranks.

A military formation drawn up in ranks on a parade ground, a few barrack buildings visible in the background. At the front of the formation are five officers on horseback

1st Battalion, The Queen’s, on parade at Bordon, August 1914 (SHC ref QRWS/2/13/7)

You can read their full story here.

The London Gazette also published a special supplement with the King’s official notice calling up all army reservists and embodying the Territorial Force. This notice would have set Walter Hodges of Benhilton on the way to his regimental depot at Ayr in order to rejoin the Royal Scots Fusiliers. For pre-war Territorials like George Marriner of and George Naish of Kingston it would have caused them to report to their drill halls where their units were moving onto a war footing. Just a few days earlier they would have been anticipating the pleasures of the annual summer camp, but those were largely cancelled as the European situation worsened.

The Royal Navy had actually been mobilised the previous day (an ealier London Gazette supplement contained the notice). In fact, they had already carried out a test mobilisation in July, and many of the men, including Nutfield’s Alfred Bashford, were already back aboard their ships (HMS Good Hope in Bashford’s case). The interesting day-by-day republication of The Daily Telegraph showed how closely this was reported at the time, and the naval mobilisation is one fo the topics most picked out by their archives’ twitter account, which can be seen via the widget below:

For more on the mobilisation process, see today’s Operation War Diary blogpost. The Friends of the Suffolk Regiment are also tweeting the mobilisation process as undertaken by 2nd Battalion, Suffolk Regiment, beginning with this tweet:

Also, this blog post, and following ones described the mobilisation of 1st West Kents.

99th anniversaries, and new resources

Yesterday, 31 October, saw the 99th anniversary of the death of the first association member which was due to the war. Pte Walter Eric Markey, 1st Battalion, the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment) of Burstow was killed during the Battle of Gheluvelt, part of the First Battle of Ypres. This desperate action prevented the fall of Ypres to the Germans. A good account of the actions of his battalion can be found on Andy Arnold’s blog. Walter’s body was never recovered and his name is among those on the Menin Gate.

Today is the 99th anniversary of the death of Alfred Bashford of Nutfield. He had served as a regular in the Royal Navy in the first years of the 20th century, but by the outbreak of war was a reservist. Following his call-up he was posted to HMS Good Hope, a rather elderly armoured cruiser, itself in the reserves. A large proportion of the crew were reservists like Alfred. The ship became the flagship of a small squadron of similar vessels sent to the Pacific to deal with German commerce raiders. On 1 November the Royal Navy squadron met its German counterpart off the Chilean port of Coronel. Completely out-classed they suffered a devastating defeat. Good Hope and her sister ship HMS Monmouth were sunk with the loss of approaching 1600 men. They would subsequently be avenged in the Battle of the Falkland Islands.

This all serves to remind us that we are now in November, and the run-up to Remembrance Day, the last which falls before the centenary period. This is likely to prompt some announcements of further details of centenary commemorations: the Welsh government officially launched Wales Remembers this week, and I understand there will be more details on the centrepiece Lives of the First World War project announced shortly.

Coincidentally this week has also brought news of a new bell ringing resource, with the delayed launch of digitised versions of the second thirty years issues of The Ringing World becoming available, this covers the years 1941-1970. This will extend the possibilities for research into the later lives of many of the men recorded on the roll. I’ve also ordered the newer version of the digitised version of Bell News, which has full OCR which should make research into their earlier lives easier too. In the version I currently have there is no full text search, so you have to use the index provided (which only tends to cover towers and the most “famous” ringing names), which means you have to rather guess where someone might have been ringing, and so you miss information on their ringing at unexpected places.

Burstow page added – the first man of the association to die

The page for Burstow is now available. With 4 men of the 11 who served they were one of the hardest hit towers. Walter Eric Markey was the first member of the association to be killed. He had joined up as a regular in 1911, and was serving with 1st Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment when he was killed in action during the First Battle of Ypres on 31 October 1914. Sadly both his name and unit are recorded incorrectly on the original roll, a case of Chinese whispers seems to have led to Markey, W becoming Mark, E W. In fact it was only recently when Alan Regin (the Steward of the rolls of honour at the Central Council for Church Bell Ringers) found a report of a memorial service for ringers around the London area follwing the war with W E Markey listed that the final piece of evidence to confirm the identification slotted into place, though it had been suspected for some years.

Also of note is Charles Herbert Varo, who appears on the Central Council roll as a ringer at Monk’s Eleigh in Suffolk. He is also listed on the war memorial at Bledlow, Buckinghamshire and it was initially unclear what his connection with Bledlow might be. However, som further research showed that he was gardener to Revd E Teesdale (also a ringer) who came to Burstow as rector in 1912 from Chelsworth, Suffolk (where Varo was living at the 1911 census) and subsequently moved to Bledlow in 1917. It seems Varo’s wife Alice also worked for the Teesdales, and presumably he would also have gone to Bledlow had war not intervened.