Lieutenant Lancelot John Barrington Walters lost his life in the sinking of HMS Partridge in the North Sea. On the same day, Private Alfred Humphriss Saunt, Army Service Corps, died of wounds at Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley, Lancashire.
Born in Castle Bromwich on 19th January 1895, Lancelot John Barrington Walters was the son of the Rev. Charles Barrington Walters, who was Rector of Castle Bromwich from 1892 until 1897. Rev. Walters and his wife, Selina Harriette Perotine (née Massy-Beresford) had married in 1892 in London and had two children before Selina died in 1902. Tragically, their daughter, Emily Barrington Walters, died in 1907, aged 13.
After being widowed, Charles Barrington Walters remarried in 1904 and had two children with his second wife, Emmeline Theresa (née Dickens) – Robnett Walters (1908-1978) and Morwenna Walters (1910-1995). Robnett also became a clergyman and, in 1944, was commissioned as a chaplain to the forces.
After leaving Castle Bromwich in 1897, the family moved to Shalford, Surrey where Rev. Walters was vicar until 1908. From 1908 until 1921, he was Rector of Stoke Climsland, Cornwall. Lancelot joined the Navy in 1908 and by 1911, he was a 15-year-old naval cadet at Dartmouth, Devon.
He passed out as a Midshipman in May 1913, with a report noting his general conduct as “Very Good” and his ability as “Good”. A comment adds: “No special ability, but willing and improving.” By 1914, this had changed to “Not so zealous as he might be, but intelligent.” In January 1916, he was promoted sub-Lieutenant and described as: “zealous and attentive to duties but at present is lacking in experience.”
He appears to have joined HMS Partridge at Greenwich in August 1917. The destroyer was part of a convoy that left Lerwick in Scotland for Bergen, Norway on 11th December 1917, with two destroyers and four armed trawlers escorting six merchant ships . The following day, the convoy was attacked by four German destroyers and Partridge was hit repeatedly by shells and torpedoes.
In order to allow the maximum number of crew to have chance to escape, Lieutenant Walters and a fellow officer, Lieutenant Aubrey Grey, apparently remained on board manning torpedo tubes as the order was given to abandon ship. The German destroyers proceeded to sink every other vessel in the convoy, apart from the other British destroyer, HMS Pellew, which managed to escape.
Finding themselves in the water after their lifeboat capsized, Lieutenants Grey and Walters managed to reach a life raft. Lieutenant Grey was wounded and Lieutenant Walters was exhausted and close to drowning. With room on the raft for only one man, Lieutenant Grey insisted that Lancelot Walters take the place, whilst he swam off. In a twist of fate, Aubrey Grey was picked up by a German destroyer and survived, spending the remainder of the war as a prisoner of the Germans. Lieutenant Lancelot Walters was one of 74 of the ship’s company to be lost, whilst 24 survived as prisoners of war. Further information about this is in the Daily Telegraph, 15th September 2013.
Having left Castle Bromwich in 1897, Lancelot John Barrington Walters is not included amongst the names on Castle Bromwich war memorial. He is commemorated on Portsmouth Naval Memorial (pictured above and below), and there is also a plaque to his memory in the church at Stoke Climsand, where his father was Rector. He is also commemorated on a stained glass window and war memorial at St Catwg (Cadoc), Cwmcarvan, Monmouthshire.
Alfred Humphriss Saunt was born in Tanworth-in-Arden in 1887 and was the youngest of three children (two boys, one girl), all of whom attended St James’ School, Shirley. By 1891, Alfred was living in Haslucks Green with his parents, Thomas (a wheelwright) and Elizabeth (née Humphriss) who had married in Aston in 1882. Thomas was a widower, with his first wife, Sarah (née Austin) having died in 1881. There were two daughters from this marriage, Susan (1858-1962) and Eva (1867-1947).
By 1901, the family had moved to Selly Oak, where they seem to have remained. Tragically, the eldest son, John, died in 1902, aged 17. Alfred became a factory hand before becoming a vehicle body builder by the age of 24. His sister, Eleanor May (1884-1966) was working as a chocolate cream coverer in 1911, presumably at the nearby Cadbury works in Bournville.
Alfred married Treasel Carter (1885-1977) in 1912 at St Stephen’s Church, Selly Hill and their son, Raymond Thomas Saunt was born on 28th April 1914. Alfred joined the Army on 17th August 1915. On 25th November 1917, he was admitted to no. 10 Casualty Clearing Station, suffering from a carbuncle on the neck. He was invalided to England and was admitted to Queen Mary’s Military Hospital, Whalley, Lancashire on 2nd December. His condition was satisfactory until he developed a secondary infection in his leg. Pyaemia (blood poisoning) set in, from which he died on 12th December. He is buried in Lodge Hill Cemetery, Birmingham.
His widow, Treasel, remarried in 1926 and died, aged 91, in 1977.
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