Listed amongst the names on Hanwood’s War Memorial is Lieutenant Walter Atherton K.S.L.I. In addition, there is another touching memorial in Hanwood Church, the stone pulpit that was erected in his memory by his parents. Walter Atherton was only son of Mr Sam Atherton of Nobold, Shrewsbury. He got his commission in August 1914, and served with his battalion in the Far East until July 1917 when he proceeded with his unit to France.

Walter was one of the young men who corresponded with to the Reverend James Chitty at Hanwood Rectory. Amongst the collection of letters (held at Shropshire Archives), there is a postcard sent on from Suez on 12 Nov 1914. Walter writes ‘We are all quite fit and healthy. We are beginning to feel the heat now.’ A greetings card sent 30th January 1915 describes entering the enemy waters in the Red Sea, as well as sending best wishes for a Happy New Year to Hanwood. A further letter was sent from Singapore in 1916.

Lieutenant Walter Atherton was killed in action on the Western Front on 30th December 1917. He was killed by a shell whilst attending a wounded man. His death was reported in the Wellington Journal of 12 January 1918, and includes tributes to his character “Lieut. Atherton was of a kindly, genial disposition, very popular in his battalion and in civil life, and his death has come as a great shock to his many friends.” His Colonel said that, of his officers, Walter was one of the best, “His cheerfulness and ability to take the discomforts of war with courage and a smiling face were always a great help, and the battalion is much poorer for his death”

His death was evidently deeply felt, other members of the ‘Hanwood Boys’ express their sadness at the news. The pulpit, however is a lasting monument to his memory.

By Philip Jones

The letters of the Rev. Chitty have been deposited at Shropshire Archives and can be read on the online catalogue under the collection ref 9155/1.