Fishwick W

Private 9648 Walter Fishwick 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment


Killed in action 11th October 1915

Walter Fishwick was born in Stokesley in 1894.  He was the son of Thomas Fishwick, a farm labourer, and Eliza Conning who married in Stokesley in 1875. Thomas Fishwick was born in Lancashire but his family settled in Stokesley at some point before the 1871 census. Eliza Conning was born in Newton, Guisborough.  The couple had a large family; Walter had 9 older brothers and sisters: Charles, William, Fred, Agnes, Thomas, Emily, Eliza, Hilda and Albert; his younger sister Edith (born 1898) completed the family. 

All of Walter’s siblings were born in Stokesley, and the growth of the family can be traced in the town through census returns from 1881, when they were living in Back Lane.  By 1891 they were living on South Side, near the Rectory, where they remained. In 1911 Walter, 16 years old, was working as a farm labourer like his father, and still living in his parents’ home in South Side. However, the Book of Remembrance tells us that he enlisted in the army and became a regular soldier before the outbreak of war, and was among the earliest of those drafted to France (28th August 1914). This would make him one of the self-styled ‘Old Contemptibles’ and entitle him to the ‘Mons Star’.1

Army records report that the 1st Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment were at Lichfield at the outbreak of war and were moved on 7th August 1914 to Dunfermline, then 6 days later all the units in their Division went to Cambridge for intense training. Apparently, these regular soldiers were champing at the bit to get to the Front, and were afraid they would get to France too late and miss the action.

They need not have worried! They landed in France at St Nazaire on 10th September, 1914. The Division arrived in time to confront the advancing Germans and the infantry were in action at Aisne Heights which preceded the Battle of Armentieres.

Private Fishwick’s letters home are quoted extensively in the Book of Remembrance.  He told his parents of being captured in possession of despatches which he managed to conceal in his puttees but managing to escape without his boots, and of the famous Christmas Day truce of 1914, when gifts were exchanged with Saxon troops in opposing trenches; also of how the officers made sure it didn’t happen again.

In a darker vein, he wrote of the nefarious tactics used by the enemy, e.g. bringing up machine guns in the guise of Red Cross stretchers, and of the escalation of the war, on one occasion noting 800 losses out of 1000 men. 

Walter survived the costly Battle of Loos, September 1915, during which there were more than 61000 British casualties, and was then granted his sole leave of 3 days. Unfortunately, barely 2 weeks later on 11th October, 1915, he was ‘killed in action’ when a shell landed on him and 3 others whilst they were having their tea behind the lines. The men who died with him were Private C Gale (7972 WYR), Private H Hillier (9893 WYR) and Private E Kay (3/8490 WYR).

His captain spoke highly of him in a letter of condolence:
 “a fine brave soldier, always so cheery and bright"

Back in Stokesley, the Rector noted that Walter had been confirmed in 1909 and always took Communion when home on leave.

Walter Fishwick was one of two brothers who served, the other being his older brother, Albert.  Albert’s wartime records have survived but Walter’s unfortunately seem to have been destroyed. (For Albert's story, see They Also Served

Private Fishwick was 21 years old when he fell.  He was awarded  the British War Medal, the Victory Medal and the 1914 (Mons) Star. His body lies in Plot W 15 of the Potijze Cemetery, alongside the 3 soldiers who died with him.

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