Walter John Cripps was born on 25 October 1894 at Mount Pleasant, Tadley.
His parents were Job and Sarah Cripps, (née Appleton). Job was a ‘General Labourer’.
He was the only surviving son of the children born to Sarah: Laura Annie, Lena Dorcas, Walter John, Kathleen and Phillip Roy.
Both Walter’s mother and brother, Philip Roy, died following childbirth in 1899. It could be assumed that Walter and his sister Laura were then cared for by their aunt, Annie Cripps, as the 1901 Census records them and father Job with her at Bowmans Brook. At that time, his younger sister Kathleen was living with maternal grandparents, John and Laura Appleton in Baughurst. It is not known where Lena Dorcas lived following the death of her mother. Sadly on 29 January 1903, his father died. The 1911 Aldermaston Census records Walter, aged 16, as living with his paternal grandparents, John and Dorcas Cripps at Baughurst Road, Aldermaston. His occupation was ‘General Labourer’.
Walter is believed to have been engaged to Greta Emily Carter.
Walter enlisted in the Princess Charlotte of Wales’s (Royal Berkshire Regiment) (service number 10287) prior to 30 August 1915. He later served as a lance corporal in the 35th Company of the Machine Gun Corps (service number 19293).
The Machine Gun Corps was formed in October 1915 in response to the need for a more effective use of machine guns on the Western Front. At the outbreak of World War I the tactical potential of machine guns was not appreciated by the British Military. The Army went to war with each infantry battalion and cavalry regiment having a machine gun section of just two guns. A year of warfare on the Western Front proved that, to be fully effective, machine guns should be used in larger units and crewed by specially trained men. To achieve this, the Machine Gun Corps was formed.
The 35th Machine Gun Company was formed on 1 February 1916 from the Machine Gun Sections of the 35th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division. The division moved into the front line at Loos on 12 February. In June it moved to Flesselles and carried out a training exercise before moving to Baizieux on 30 June and going into the reserve at Hencourt and Millencourt the next day, the first day of the Battle of the Somme (1 July – 18 November 1916). It relieved the 8th Division at Ovillers-la-Boisselle and attacked at 3.15 am on 2 July with mixed success. On 7 July it attacked again and, despite suffering heavy casualties in the area of Mash Valley, succeeded in capturing and holding the ﬁrst and second lines close to Ovillers. The division withdrew to Contay on 9 July. It was in action in the Battle of Pozieres (23 July – 3 September) on 3 August with a successful attack capturing 4th Avenue Trench and was engaged in heavy ﬁghting until it withdraw on 9 August.
The division then moved north and in 1917 was in action at the Battle of Arras (9 April – 16 May), the First Battle of the Scarpe (9-14 April), the Battle of Arleux (28-29 April) and the Third Battle of the Scarpe (3-4 May).
Walter died on 30 April and is buried in Arras Memorial Cemetery which suggests he might have been killed at the end of the Battle of Arleux.
Walter was killed in action on the Western Front on Monday 30 April 1917, aged 22.
He is commemorated on the Arras Memorial [Bay 10] in Fauborg d’Amiens Cemetery, Arras, Pas de Calais, France.
He is also remembered on Tadley and Baughurst War Memorials and the Roll of Honour inside the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Aldermaston.
Besides Walter, amongst those remembered on Tadley War Memorial is Ernest Saunders who also served in the Machine Gun Corps.
Walter was awarded the Victory medal, the British War medal and the 1914-15 Star. These would have been sent to his family.