29th March 2022
In search of Walter, 100 years on
Dorothy Scott contacted us recently, to tell us the story of her great-uncle, who went missing in France in 1917.
Walter Hudson is a York hero. Born in the South Bank area of York in 1891, he was the ninth of eleven children, an ordinary boy playing on the Knavesmire and helping with the family milk round. He joined North Eastern Railways in January 1913 as a freight shunter and in early 1917 he enlisted in the Northumberland Fusiliers. He was sent to fight in France where, in June 1917 he went missing, one month before his 26th birthday, disappearing without trace.
Walter with his elder brother
His mother Hannah, who lived in Argyle Street, waited in vain for his return, until her death in 1930. Despite receiving around £20 as a ‘war gratuity’ (about £1,500 in today’s money), plus Walter’s back pay, she continue to hope and to write to anyone she thought might help.
Officially presumed dead and because he had no known resting place, Walter’s name was carved onto the Arras Memorial in France. It was also included on the York North Eastern Railway Memorial, created to commemorate employees of NER who left to fight and were killed. Walter was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory medals.
The medal letter
In 1933, sixteen years later, Walter’s remains were discovered by a local French farmer. The body, along with that of a German soldier, had been engulfed by the quagmire of mud which was their battlefield. In February 1933 Walter’s remains were interred in a Commonwealth War Graves cemetery in Neuville St Vaast, northern France and, as he was no longer missing, his name was removed from the Arras Memorial.
Dorothy goes on: The national one hundred years commemorations of WW1 prompted my search to fill in the gaps in my knowledge of my great-uncle’s story. I wanted to find his grave, to visit and to pay my respects and in doing so being able to thank personally the young Frenchman tending the graves in the beautifully maintained cemetery.
I discovered that Walter’s name had not been included in the King’s Book of York Heroes which commemorates York’s 1441 men and two women killed in WW1. An approach to York Minster where it is located rectified the omission and when the names were read out in batches in the weeks leading up to Armistice Day 2018, Walter’s name was there.
The names were also included in a York Press article and by chance, Walter’s name was spotted by a relative who wondered 'is this our Walter?' A second cousin, Angela, of whom I was completely unaware, approached York Minster and from that we made contact. We arranged to meet and she looked so much like my late sister that I recognised her immediately. Jonathan Cowap from Radio York picked up on the story and Angela and I were invited into the studio to talk about it.
Angela’s family were aware of the loss of Walter, the story having been passed down the generations, but nothing further, so I was able to complete his story for them too. The final pieces of the jigsaw have fallen into place and Walter can now be remembered with honour and rest in peace.