Rudge, Walter Francis

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Walter Francis Rudge

5728, Private, 8th Royal Welsh Fusiliers
Died of illness whilst a prisoner of war, 8 August 1916, aged 22
Buried at the Hote-el-American Prisoners’ Cemetery, Mosul, Iraq

CWGC registered (no family details)

Walter Francis Rudge was the son of English parents: George Walter Rudge and Mary Ann Rudge (née Keeton). The couple had married in Aston near Birmingham in 1885 but settled in Llandudno shortly after, living at 23 Jubilee Street; George Rudge was a butcher. Walter Francis Rudge was born on 6 November 1893. The 1901 Census for Wales records that Walter had six sisters and two brothers at the time. Though continuously living at the same address, Walter attended Lloyd Street Board school, St. George’s National school and the Dyffryn Road Council School. He left school in February 1908 aged 14. The 1911 Census records Walter (17) living at home and employed as a butcher’s assistant.

Enlisting at Llandudno, Walter Rudge joined the Special Reserve of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers with a regimental number of 5728 on 26 August 1914. Walter Rudge’s enlistment was atypical because most early Great War enlistments were to the initial Service Battalions which used regular army regimental numbers. Walter was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Wrexham and was later posted to the 12th (Service) Battalion on 24 August 1914 whilst it was forming at Wrexham. The 12th Battalion was part of the original K4 – Kitchener’s fourth new army. However, because of the need to reinforce other battalions, the battalions of K4 became Reserve Battalions, their soldiers being destined to be reinforcements for depleted battalions. On 5 June 1915, Walter was appointed lance corporal (unpaid). He lost his stripe a couple of months later on the order of his commanding officer.

Only fragments of Walter Rudge’s service record remain. What can be gleaned is that on 11 November 1915, he was attached to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion South Wales Borderers for transit to the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. He was attached to the 4th (Service) SWB (at Gallipoli since 15 July 1915), entering the theatre of war on 14 November 1915. When he rejoined the RWF is unknown though a draft of reinforcements arrived on 30 November to the 8th (Service) Battalion. Ironically, the 8th RWF had formed at Wrexham about the same time as Walter Rudge joined the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion.

After the evacuation from Helles on 8/9 January 1916, the battalion was sent to Egypt and sent to guard the Suez Canal. On 12 February 1916, the battalion moved to Mesopotamia to join the force being assembled to relieve the besieged garrison at Kut al Amara.

Walter Rudge was reported missing on 16 April 1916 during an abortive attempt to relieve Kut. He was later reported as a prisoner of war. Prisoners taken by the Turks at Kut, both those besieged and those attempting to relieve the town, were sent to prison camps in Turkey by barge, lorry, train and forced marches, suffering extreme hardship. The ultimate destination for many was a notorious prisoner of war camp at Afion Karahissar. On 10 February 1917 Walter Roach was unofficially reported as having died whilst a prisoner of war. Initial notification of death had been received from the Ottoman Red Cross. It is recorded in his service record that he died at Afion Karahissar of diarrhoea on 8 August 1916 aged 22. This information is reflected on Walter Rudge’s UK death certificate.

A contradictory entry in Water Rudge’s service record indicates that he was buried at the at the Hote-el-American Prisoners’ Cemetery at Mosul. Mosul was a waypoint on the route taken by prisoners being sent to Turkey and a hospital had been set up there for those who were too ill to travel any further. The hospital was run by a doctor of the (British) Indian Army who wrote:

“I lost nearly 100 British soldiers in that melancholy hospital in a period of a few weeks that summer. I had them all buried by a local priest of the Greek Orthodox Church at a place called the Hote el Americain, a bare hillside two miles south-west of Mosul and I put up two memorial stones and filled in the official ‘acte de deces’ for each man.”

The acte de deces (death certificate) confirms that Walter Rudge died of diarrhoea at Mosul on 8 August 1916 and was buried at Hote el Americain. The records of the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission support “Mosul” though it names the cemetery as the Mosul Prisoners of War Cemetery. After the war, the graves could not be identified or marked so the officers and men in them are remembered on the Basra Memorial.

Known memorials:

  • Basra Memorial
  • Llandudno Roll of Honour
  • Llandudno War Memorial
  • Memorial Chapel, Holy Trinity Church, Llandudno

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