Born in Newington, London, Walter Charles Ernest Lovelock’s birth was registered in the first quarter of 1893 at Lambeth. He was the only son of Charles and Mary Ann Lovelock. In 1891 Charles and Mary Ann had lived in Luton, where Charles was a tailor. Ten years later, the family had moved north to Knypersley and Charles was now an Evangelical Preacher – Church of England according to the 1901 census. Home was at Knypersley Gardens and Walter, the baby of the family, had two sisters, Sophia and Ruth.
In 1909 and at the age of 50, Charles Lovelock died and was buried at St. Lawrence. His widow appears in the 1911 census at 123, Chain Row as a dressmaker and Walter, now aged 18, was described as an apprentice grocer with the Co-op Stores. In September 1914 Walter enlisted at Biddulph in the Biddulph Territorials – the 1/5th Battalion North Staffordshire Regiment. His name appeared in the Chronicle in the list of recruits. He gave his address as Newpool Terrace.
The battalion did their initial training at Butterton Hall Camp before moving to the Luton and Bishop’s Stortford areas to complete their intensive training. In March 1915, and now attached to the 46th North Midland Division, the troops embarked at Southampton for a crossing to France. However Walters’s medal card shows he entered France on June 29th 1915 with a regimental number of 3490. July finds Walter and his many Biddulph mates of the same battalion serving in the Ypres salient and seeing their first action at Hooge, a position on the Menin Road overlooking the ruined town of Ypres. In September the division moved to the Lens area to fight in the Battle of Loos. Here on October 13th 1915, in a murderous battle at the Hohenzollern Redoubt, the 1/5th Battalion lost over 200 brave soldiers. This included eight Biddulph men who fell in battle. Although severely wounded Walter survived this terrible attack and would have been taken to a dressing station for treatment. By December his wounds had proved serious enough to return Walter to England. The Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel of December 25th 1915 reported that Walter Lovelock, 1st-5th NS, was wounded.
An article in the Weekly Sentinel of January 1916 said Walter was now at home on furlough. It is known that at some time Walter transferred battalions to the 2/6th, and this unit at the time was based in England, so it may well be that as a result of his wounds he joined this new unit with light duties. Should this have been the case Walter would not have returned to France until March 1917 with the 2/6th North Staffords who were attached to the 59th (2nd North Midland) Division, 176th Brigade, and first saw action at Estree on the old Somme battle ground. Serving in ‘D’ Company Walter was to fight on the Hindenburg Line, Havrincourt and Flequieres over the next months, with a rest in June at Barastre in a safer back area.
The next battle for the 59th Division, in September, was the Third Battle of Ypres. Here they found appalling conditions; shellfire had destroyed the whole area and now the battlefield consisted of deep mud with shell holes full of stagnant water. This was a battlefield that would deteriorate even more as the Staffords fought on the Menin Road Ridge and Polygon Wood. In October the battalion were transferred to fight at Cambrai. By now they had lost many men but thankfully were soon to be taken out of line on December 23rd, so the lads spent Christmas and through January 1918 at rest and recoup at Le Cauroy.
In February the division, now strengthened, was in action again at St. Quentin and Bapaume. March saw the German Spring Offensive start along a wide front and many men were lost or taken prisoner in these attacks. On March 21st 1918, 25 year old Private Walter Charles Ernest Lovelock, sadly fell during this offensive. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial. A fellow Biddulph soldier Jesse Wright of the same battalion also fell on this day.
For almost a year his mother must have clung to the possibility that he was still alive as the Staffordshire Weekly Sentinel of February 15th 1919 printed a photograph of him and a report: “Lance Corp. W.C.E. Lovelock, Biddulph, 270271, Gas Section, 2nd–6th North Staffs. Regiment, was reported missing on March 21st 1918. Mrs. Lovelock, 54, High Street, Biddulph, the widowed mother of the missing soldier, will be glad to hear any news of her son from any returned prisoner of war or other soldiers who may have been near him on March 21st.”
Walter is also remembered on all of the Biddulph memorials.
Michael Turnock & Elaine Heathcote.