Walter Grass

Service number: S/1424 | Rank: Rifleman | Regiment: Rifle Brigade

Killed in action, July 30, 1915, in Flanders.  Aged 28.

Remembered at YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL, Ieper, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium.

Son of Mrs Eliza Grass, 64 Bury Road, Brandon, Suffolk.

Born and lived in Brandon, enlisted at Reading, Berks.


Sometimes research throws up anomalies that need to be verified before they can be stated as fact and so it is best for those anomalies to be left out of any publication, however for Walter Grass I will leave them in, and the following is based on his Army record. Make of it what you will!

When Walter left school he tried to join the Army but it seems he was denied his dream because he was too short, but the fact is most Brandon men serving in the Army at that time were not much taller. The average height seems to be about 5’ 7” for adult men and Walter is slightly shorter than that, at 5’ 5½”. He returned to Brandon and got a labouring job at Mr Lee-Barber’s Maltings, alongside the River Ouse at Brandon bridge, but it seemed he had filled out enough for the next time he applied to join the Suffolk Regiment in July 1902, aged 17½. He walked into the Army Recruitment Office in Bury St Edmunds and asked to serve in the Suffolk Regiment and this time he was successful. He went on to join the 3rd Battalion and left the county with his regiment when he was stationed in Ireland. It was not long before Walter had second thoughts about Army life and a few months later, while in Ireland, he walked into a Dublin Army Recruitment Office and asked to join the Army Service Corps. If successful he would leave life as an infantryman and instead be working in warehouses and transporting stuff to the troops. To help his chances he wrote on the Medical Form that he had never before been rejected from joining the Army, but we now know better.

It is not clear how Walter’s Army career went, but we know that when war was declared he was a single man working as a Gamekeeper in Reading, and as a Reservist he did not receive his call up papers to join the fight like so many other ex-servicemen did. However on 5th September 1914 he took matters into his own hands and tried to enlist. He stated on his Medical Form that he had never been in the Army, nor had he ever been rejected and now as a man aged over 28 years old he applied to join for the first time. A few days later he joined the Rifle Brigade at their Winchester barracks and in May the following year he and his unit were sent over to France. On 10th July he received a decent wage increase when he was promoted to Acting-Corporal but within three weeks of this event he was dead.

A few months later Walter’s mother, Eliza, still living at Bury Road in Brandon, receives a letter from Captain E.V. Carey.

“I have for a long time been anxious to write to you a few words of sympathy on the loss of your son, Acting Corporal W. Grass, of the 8th Battalion Rifle Brigade, but I have only just succeeded in finding your address. Your son was in the platoon which I had the honour to command, and I had the very highest opinion of his coolness and pluck. I felt I could always rely upon him to carry out any task which was required to be done, and I felt his loss keenly. He was shot whilst crossing a piece of open ground between the fire and support trenches, under heavy shell and rifle fire, on July 30th. I saw him fall, but, very much to my regret, I could not stay to attend to him, as there were other men around me who had to be led to a place of safety, and I myself wounded at the time. Moreover, he appeared to me to be killed instantaneously. The regiment has lost a fine soldier, and I deeply sympathise with you in your loss. It may be some small consolation to you to know that your son died fighting valiantly.”

Two months later Eliza had to contend with the news that another one of her sons, James, who was only aged 19, had also been killed in action.