Walter Randall

Service number: 536 | Rank: Private | Regiment: Norfolk Regiment

Died at Gallipoli, October 7, 1915.



Walter was born in Brandon to parents who had moved to the town from the London area. His mother, Harriet, hailed from Plaistow in Essex, and his father, Walter, was a signalman working on the Great Eastern Railway and he came from Middlesex. They lived a reasonably comfortable life at 201 London Road, and from here Harriet and Walter brought up a large family and in all they had twelve children, two of whom did not survive past childhood. Walter was the oldest child.

On 7th April 1908 twenty-year-old Walter, who was working as a furrier for Robert Edwards, took the oath at an Army Recruitment Office in Brandon. He enlisted for a one-year term in the Territorial Army and served as a Private in the Norfolk Regiment. The following year he re-enlisted for another year and when that term expired in 1910 he extended it for a further two more years and it was during this time he was promoted to Lance Corporal. His service record stated that he was granted leave in 1911 and this was probably related to the death of his father. We might assume that Walter being the eldest son was then back home to be the ‘bread winner’ for the family and he got a job as a porter at Brandon railway station. It seemed he still missed the Army life and after his term as a Territorial expired in 1912 he immediately signed on the dotted line for another four years. By now he was aged 24. This latest term would be long enough to take him into the war.

When war was declared he was ordered to report to the Colchester Barracks for active service and on 27th August he was severely reprimanded for being absent from roll call. It got worse for Walter when on the night of 14th February 1915 he was tasked with ensuring the men in the barracks were tucked up in their beds by 10.15pm. However late into the night his superiors spotted that the lights were still on, even though there was a black out due to recent Zeppelin raids. Walter was missing from duty and he was later discovered to be gambling with some of the men he was supposed to be supervising. His superiors were not impressed and he was charged with “neglect of duty” and stripped of his Lance Corporal stripe. He was now destined to serve out the rest of his Army career as a Private. Walter’s brother, Edgar, also fell foul of the Military Authorities around this time when in April he overstayed his period of leave whilst visiting his mother in Brandon. The local Brandon police arrested him while he was still at his mother’s home and he was held in a Brandon Police cell until the Military Police came for him. They then removed him from the town and returned him to his unit in Aldershot.

In late July 1915 Walter and his comrades had become part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Walter was sent to Liverpool and boarded the troopship, H.M.T. Aquitania, which took him over the sea to his fate in Gallipoli. The British Army had landed at Suvla Bay a week before Walter got there and they were still pinned down on the beach. After disembarking Walter was sent straight into action but his battalion suffered casualties on an almost daily occurrence as they swapped between front line trench, reserve trench and rest camp. On the 7th October the battalion war diary logged one casualty. It seemed that Walter had been shot, although his wound did not outwardly appear serious at first. Sergeant Newell, a pal from their days at Brandon Railway Station, wrote home to Walter’s mother, Harriet Randall, and informed her of Walter’s wound. Newell did not think the wound was too bad but then he had to write another letter to break the sad news to Harriet.

“We went out of the trenches on Tuesday night to go back about a mile to what we call our rest camp, but we have to lie in dug outs in the ground, as there are always bullets and shells flying over us. Then we go back to the trenches to improve them – that is to widen and deepen them. We go by night as well as day – three hours work, and sometimes eight hours rest. I went in charge of the gang that was in, from 11 in the morning till two in the afternoon. Then we had the order to go again at 4.30 till 8. I managed to get out of that – worse luck, for he was hit with a stray bullet, coming back from the trenches. He did not think he was hurt much, nor did the chaps that were with him. They asked him about writing home, and he gave them his belt and knife to give to me, and said I should know what to do.

The next day I went and asked the stretcher bearers who carried him to the hospital how he was. They said it was nothing. He would be all right in a fortnight. I little thought he was dead, as he died early the same morning. I followed him to his grave in the dark. He had a decent grave and a proper burial service read over him, and that is more than some get out here. I have had a cross made, and put it up against his head, which I think is all I could do for so good a pal.”

It seems that Harriet had already had a rough time of it. She had contracted rheumatic fever in 1911 and for a while had to be carried upstairs to bed, then her husband died, and to add insult to injuring while she was visiting her sister in London she was in a cinema that was bombed by a German Zeppelin. She returned back to Brandon a total nervous wreck. We can only feel more sympathy for her when she is charged with stealing items from a Mrs Presland who lived along the Avenue. Harriet of course denied taking the items although they are later found in her house and she could not remember how they got there. The court found her guilty of stealing the items but they felt sympathy for her and placed her on probation rather than giving her a custodial sentence. This is especially caring for Harriet’s case because she still had four children living at home with her.

Walter’s service record states that he was buried in the Norfolk Cemetery, Anzac, about twenty-four miles north-north-east of Anzac Cove, Gallipoli.