Walter was the youngest son of John and Amelia Watkin. John was a pawnbroker and, in 1901, had a business at the family home of 58/60 Gorton Road, Reddish. Walter, then 13, was already working as a printing compositor, probably at the nearby printworks which printed the Manchester Guardian (where he was known to be working at the time of the War). His older siblings were Alice (aged 20 in 1901), Amelia (15), Annie (25) and Frederick (23).
Walter was an active member of St Elizabeth's Church in Reddish. His army service number was issued in late 1915 or early 1916 and probably went overseas in the early summer of 1916.
Fighting in the Battle of the Somme had been underway since 1 July and the South Lancashires had been involved in two attacks. On 2 September, they received orders to carry out a further attack, the next morning, in conjunction with the 1st Wiltshires and 3rd Worcesters, near the village of Thiepval towards German positions near the Leipzig Redoubt. This was part of a major attack along almost the whole length of the Somme battlefield.
The Regimental History recounts "Careful preparations had been made to ensure success, including laying of tapes to indicate the "jumping off" line and the routes across No Man's Land and, at 5.10am, the attack commenced. The Germans were on the alert and the advancing waves of infantry were met by enfilade machine gun fire."
None of the attacking units reached their objectives and, by 6am, all those who could manage to do so had returned to the British trenches. 130 member of the Battalion were dead, wounded or missing. No trace was ever found of Walter. The Battalion commander, Colonel Cotton, was another who had disappeared. Both their names are now inscribed on the Memorial to the Missing at nearby Thiepval.
News of Walter's fate would have come quickly to his family, then living at 11 Woodhall Road, South Reddish (later moving to 210 Reddish Road)