Richard Walters (1881-1918)
My name is Richard Walters. I am going to tell you about some of the key events throughout my life, which tragically ended on the 18th May 1918, when I was 37 years old.
Going back to the start of my life, I was born on the 15th March 1881, in the town of Watlington in Oxfordshire. This is about seven miles south of Thame.
Our house was on Chapel Street is still there today. My parents were named William and Lucy Walters. While we were in Watlington my father worked as a shepherd.
Then, at the age of 18, I made the move down to High Wycombe where I met my future wife, Sarah Ann. She had been married before but her husband had died in 1906.
We married a year later in 1907. Like most people in Wycombe I became a chairmaker, working for Thomas Glenister in his works just down the hill from here, where
Morrisons is now. We decided to live in High Wycombe so we moved to 3 Carrington Terrace which was on Newland Street where the Eden Centre is now.
I worked for Glenister’s for about 18 years and during that time we had a couple of children; unfortunately one of these died during childbirth. We also had 3 children
from Sarah’s first marriage. When war broke out I didn’t sign up when they first asked for volunteers, I was almost too old. However conscription came in early 1916
and I was called up in late April 1917.
One of the instructors at Marske when I was there was a man called William Johns. He wrote off three planes in three days through engine failure – crashing into the
sea, then into the sand, and then through a fellow officer’s back door. Shooting one’s own propeller off with a forward-mounted machine-gun with malfunctioning
synchronisation was a fairly common accident, and it happened to Johns twice. You may have heard of him as after the war he wrote the Biggles books although he
pretended he was an officer – he wasn’t!
On 18th May 1918, I was on Saturday morning duty as a marker on the firing range. We had set up an air to ground firing range at the east of the aerodrome where
targets were set out on the cliffs on the Yorkshire Coast. During the machine gun practice there was a misunderstanding on the part of another soldier which
meant the red flag was not hoisted and I was fatally shot in the head and shoulders by an airman. It was described in the Yorkshire Post published on Tuesday
21st May 1918, that, "in finding that death was due to an accident, expressed deep sympathy with the relatives of the soldier". The official report states that
the doctor was in attendance within a few minutes but death must have been instantaneous.
My body was sent back to my home town and was buried with semi-military honours on Thursday 23rd May 1918.
Researched and performed by Toby Lawrence
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