The men in the Bird family were all employed in the printing industry, as confirmed by their entry on the 1901 Census. 58 year old Daniel Bird was a printer compositor. His eldest son, 29 year old Samuel was a Lithographic printer. Albert (21) was a Lithographic artist and Walter (then 19) was still serving his apprenticeship to become an artist. There was one daughter at home – Charlotte (24). The matriarch of the family was Emma (then 61).
Walter had been born in Manchester but the family were living in the Stockport area, at 102 George Street, when the Census was taken. A few years later, in the late autumn of 1907, Walter married Anne Jane Roberts, in the South Manchester area. They set up home at 1 Edge Court, Bowden Street, Edgeley.
Walter is reported to have enlisted into the army when war was declared and his service number is consistent with him joining one of the Regiment’s Territorial Battalions and seeing overseas service with it. At some point, perhaps after recovering from a wound or a period of illness, he will have been transferred to the 6th Battalion. The most likely first unit will be the 1/5th Battalion which fought in France and was then based in Egypt around the end of 1915 and early 1916. The 6th Battalion was also in Egypt at the same time. Walter is known to have first gone overseas on 15 October 1915 and this date is entirely consistent with the speculation in the previous sentence.
He went to Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq) in March 1916. The whole of that month was spent getting into position and training for an attack on the Turkish positions near the Orah canal. The first of these attacks came at 5am on 5 April, with the King’s Own successfully driving the enemy out of its front line trench “at the point of the bayonet” with very few casualties. Breakfast was being eaten by 7am. 12 hours later, the Battalion was back in action again, capturing a further three enemy trenches.
On the 9th, they attacked again at 4.20 am on the enemy positions at Sannaujat. .The Turkish troops were prepared for an assault and sent up flares. This enabled them to keep up accurate rifle and machine gun fire until 8 am. The attack was a failure, with 12 killed, 89 wounded and 91 missing.
During one of these engagements, Walter was severely wounded and did not recover. As with many of the men who died in this theatre of the war, the location of graves became lost during the course of the fighting and Walter is now commemorated as one of the 40658 names on the Memorial to the Missing at Basra.
After the War, Anne married a Mr Bradshaw and they continued to live in the home she and Walter had shared.
(NB: Original research into the military aspects of this biography by John Hartley for the Cheadle & Gatley War Memorials website)