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Wife wasn't told Wolverhampton husband had died for 16 months

By Black Country Bugle  |  Posted: April 06, 2014

  • Jack's older brother Walter Moulson who was killed in 1915. This photograph has only recently been discovered and was sent by a relative in Australia

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IN 2006 I wrote to the Black Country Bugle with information about three of my Great Uncles who fought in World War One.

Two of these uncles were Walter and Jack Moulson, brothers from the village of Shareshill, near Wolverhampton. Since 2006 I have discovered more about them.

Walter, the eldest, was born in 1883 and Jack followed in 1888. I always believed that they joined the army to serve during World War One. This I found was not strictly true. I discovered recently that Walter had in fact joined the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards on October 4, 1905, enlisting at Chester. His occupation at the time of joining was a gamekeeper. He served faithfully for a full seven years until he left in October 1912.

By this time he had recently married Helen Whenham, a spinster from Willesdon, historically a part of Middlesex but now part of North London. Just before he left the army Walter and Helen had a baby daughter, also called Helen. As was common at the time on leaving the army, Walter was transferred to the army reserves. It is not known what Walter did until the outbreak of World War One but I do know that he remained in London as on August 5, 1914, he was mobilised by the Grenadier Guards and transferred to the 2nd Battalion.

On August 12 he and his regiment set off for France as one of the first British soldiers to fight. By September 16 Walter found himself by the Aisne River at a small village called Soupir.

Heavy artillery action had taken place for several days and there was a stalemate.

Walter and his regiment were located at a small farm near a quarry. Several German prisoners had been captured and held at the farmhouse.

Suddenly a shell was fired by the Germans which hit a nearby haystack lighting up the whole area and making it easier to target the British.

The Guards quickly relocated to the quarry, bravely ensuring that none of the prisoners was left behind to be shelled by their own men. In the quarry it was decided by the officers present that a large section of men should be ordered to the edge of the quarry to give covering fire. Walter was one of these men. About 15 minutes later an 8-inch high explosive shell from the Germans whizzed overhead, skimmed off the roof of the farmhouse and exploded right in the midst of the sentry soldiers.

Of the 103 men who had been sent up only 44 were left, the rest being killed or wounded. Walters's records show that he was missing in action on September 16, 1914, and sometime later it was confirmed that he had been killed by the shell blast. Although his wife was told Walter was missing she was not notified officially of his death until January 21, 1916 - 16 months later.

By this time she had given birth to a son, Robert, who had been born just two months after his father's death. Walters's body was not interred and his name is mentioned with honour on La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre memorial at Seine-et-Marne, France. He was 31 years old.

His late wife Helen married an Australian soldier and they and her children emigrated to Queensland in 1926. Son Robert was always interested in the father that he never knew and when he was 21 wanted to join his father's regiment. He was told that he would have to pay his own way to Britain then try to enlist.

He was obviously a determined young man as I discovered that he served in the Grenadier Guards during World War Two and in 1946 returned to Australia where he died in 1999 aged 84 years. His daughter Ann still lives in Australia and due to us both writing to the Grenadier Guards about Walter's service history I have managed to contact her.

Jack Moulson joined the Royal Marines Light Infantry in August 1906 enlisting in London. He served on several light cruiser ships until February 1913 when he joined the Metropolitan Police.

It appears that after hearing what had happened to his brother Walter, Jack re-joined the Marines in September 1914 and he fought in the war until he was de-mobilised in February 1919.

Jack re-joined the Metropolitan Police and rose to the rank of Inspector. At one time he was the bodyguard to Queen Mary. He retired from the police in 1938 and during World War Two was a Sergeant in the Home Guard. He died in 1956.

Here were two brothers who were very alike and who cared about each other. Both joined the military at a young age. Both re-joined when their country called them. One gave the ultimate sacrifice and the other continued fighting to the very end. Both were very brave men who I am proud to call Uncle.

If you would like to pay tribute to a relative email editor@blackcountrybugle.co.uk or write to 41 High Street, Cradley Heath, B64 5HL.

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