Walter HULME
Rank: Private
Number: 16298
Date of Death: 22 October 1917
Age: 36
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

The Hulme family lived at 39 Read Street, Stockport for many years. In 1901, when the national census was take, 19 year old Walter was living there with his parents, Robert and Alma and his younger siblings, John and Alma (aged 13 and 5). In the late summer of 1909, Walter married Martha Reynolds and they are thought to have set up home at 44 Higher Bury Street. He earned his living in the local hat making industry, working as a machine planker.

His army service number suggests he enlisted fairly soon after War was declared in August 1914 and, almost certainly, he will have been an original member of the newly formed 18th Battalion  and gone overseas with it in January/February 1916. The 18th was what was known as a "Bantam Battalion", comprised of men who were under the army regulation height of 5' 3" and originally rejected for service because of their stature even though they were otherwise fit.

The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) had started on 31 July 1917 and, almost immediately, had become a slow hard slog through mud as the front line gradually moved forward in a series of advances over the coming weeks. The Fusiliers had been resting in the early part of October and many new replacement troops joined from Britain during this time. On the 16th, they moved back into the front line south of the Houthulst Forest, to the north of the Belgian town of Ypres.

At 2am on the 22nd, they formed up for an attack with the 17th Battalion on the left, the 18th on the right and the 20th in reserve. They advanced at "zero hour" - 5.35am. As the 18th attacked, the men lost direction and some of them found themselves on the left of the 17th Battalion, leaving gaps in the planned attack line. At the same time, the Division on the right failed to make significant progress and this meant the attack line was broken up even further, allowing the Germans to pour fire onto the attacking Fusiliers from their flanks.

By 6.15am, "X" Company of the 18th had moved back to the right, but this delay meant some huts and pillboxes in the middle of the Forest were not put out of action and the enemy were able to fire from them throughout the day. The men of "X" now found they were virtually surrounded and had to withdraw back to the Forest edge. The remainder of the 18th had by now secured its objectives. At about 11am, two Companies of the 20th Battalion were ordered forward to fill the gaps. They advanced under heavy fire to the captured position and helped to consolidate it.

The Fusiliers were shelled throughout day and night. Walter's body was never recovered and identified.

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