9.43 – Walter, Hannah and Edmund Hollis

This is the final resting place of Private Walter Hollis, a proper working class Tod lad, from a proper working class Tod family. He was born in 1897 at Gauxholme Fold, to Edmund Barker Hollis and Hannah Maria Stott and he was the youngest of their 7 children. In 1901, the family were living at 34 Cambridge Street and 10 years later they had moved to 4 Castle Hill.

Walter Hollis, from the Todmorden Advertiser

Where Walter went to school we do not know for sure, but we do know he was a member of the select class at Shade Wesleyan Sunday School. An intelligent guess tells us that he likely went to Shade School. In the 1911 census, Walter’s father is working as a postman, 2 of his sisters are working as a “cutter out” and a sewing machinist, and 2 of his brothers are listed as a baker’s apprentice and an upholsterer’s apprentice. Walter himself was working in the warehouse of a cotton weaving shed, namely Hope Street mill aged 14. We presume he worked there until his enlistment on the 18th of May 1916. He’d have been 19, probably the darling baby of the family, known to be a shy and modest soul. They must have been so proud when Walter joined the 2nd /6th Highland Light Infantry stationed in Maldon, Essex. His brother Charles also joined up, leaving their other brother Arnold at home.

In January 1917 he was transferred to Rath Camp, Curragh, Ireland. We believe this was for further training, since this was before the camp was handed back to the Irish in 1922. It was being used for training infantry and artillery, so Walter might have been preparing to join his battalion at the Battle of Arras in April 1917. But he never made it. We don’t know what happened next, but Walter clearly took some damage to his kidneys, within the first two weeks that he was there. His father received a telegram on the 23rd saying that his son was lying dangerously ill in Curragh Hospital, and then another telegram on the 24th to say that he had sadly died. What a shock it must have been to his family, who surely were worried sick that he would die in some muddy battlefield. He died of acute nephritis, inflammation of the kidneys, and uremia, which is a build up of toxins in the blood due to the kidneys not functioning correctly. He died on the 23rd of January, having been in Ireland two weeks.

What happened next is a wonderful story. Walter’s father and his brother Arnold went to Ireland to bring the body home, quite a journey to have made in 1917 in the middle of a world war. Our Tod lad was given a full military procession. His body made the journey of 4 miles from Rath Camp to Kildare station on a gun carriage, preceded by his Company and a pipe band, and followed by his father and brother and his officers. The pomp didn’t stop there. The funeral was scheduled for Saturday, but due to a train blockade in Wales, had to be delayed until Monday. But let us assure you, no ceremony was spared. Walter’s funeral here at Christ Church was attended by a huge crowd, and he was given a gun salute by a firing party of 15, made up of members of the West Riding Regiment from Halifax, and wounded soldiers from Centre Vale Hospital. At the graveside, the firing party fired 3 volleys, and the bugler sounded the Last Post. What a grand end for a working class Tod lad.

One year after his death

After Walter’s death Arnold was classed B1 (after previously being rejected as fit for service) and attempts were made to call him up. Both his employer and his father appealed for him to be kept home and temporary exemptions were repeatedly given

March 30th 1917

Edmund and Hannah eventually moved to Blackpool, along with at least their two sons (Charles came home), and all died there at decent ages. Edmund and Hannah, as you can see, returned home to be buried with their lost son.

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