Walter Ernest Gilmour was born April 17th 1888 son of George and Jane Gilmour of 36 Hyde Abbey Road. George was from Southampton and Jane from North Baddesley. In the census of 1891Walter is aged 3 years living with his parents and three siblings – Arthur 11 years old, Louisa 4 years old and George 13 months. They were living at 44 Upper Brook Street. Dad was a grocer’s assistant.
By 1901 the family are living at 26 Hyde Abbey Road. George is still a grocer’s assistant, Annie (not on 1891 census), is living at home aged 25 years and a cook. She may have been in service by the age of 15 years. William is a tailor. Walter, aged 12 years is at school. Louisa is 14 years old. Sadly, there is no mention of young George. There is, however, another addition to the family, Frank born 1897.
Walter, or Wallie, was educated in Winchester at St Thomas’ Higher Grade National/ Senior C of E school in North Walls. At about 16 years of age Walter became a shop assistant for a firm of drapers, Ellis and Sons in Lymington, Either inspired by thoughts of a different life or bored with shop work, at the age of 25 years Walter joined the army at Bournemouth on 7th December 1914. His service number was 2924 and at first he was with the 1/7th Battalion, later attached to 1/4th.
Following training he embarked on 12th December for India where he served with the Indian Expeditionary Force. He entered a theatre of war in Mesopotamia on 26th August 1915. He was already an experienced soldier wearing the 1914 star ribbon which marked him out as an ‘Old Contemptible’. These were regular soldiers who had signed up pre-war and it is reported so called after a derogatory remark by the Kaiser.
Walter was propelled into a chaotic situation. Despite initial successes in securing the all-important oil wells and the port of Basra, later expeditions to push forward to Baghdad ran into serious trouble. Temperatures in summer exceeded 50 degrees centigrade. In winter it was extremely cold. Water was strictly rationed and the terrain either desert or the marshy margins of the Tigris Euphrates River in a year of serious flooding.
Walter’s end came shortly after the battle of Umm El Hanna on 21st January 1916. On his last day reveille was at 2 am. At 3.30 am his unit marched out of camp to relieve the 35th Brigade. Their attack at 7.45 is noted in the Journal as ‘unsuccessful’ and there he sustained serious injuries.
Walter died 3 days later. He was one of the 231 killed in action wounded, taken prisoner or missing. He is buried at Amara War Cemetery, now in Iraq. His name is on the War Memorials in Holy Trinity and St. Bartholomew’s churches. He was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
His brother Frank was also serving in Mesopotamia and was injured in March 1916. He survived the War.