Walter Bellwood Clegg

Born: 1891
Died: 21 December 1945
Service number: 107269
Rank: Sapper
Regiment / Service: Royal Engineers
Family information: Husband of Florence Exley Renton

War Service

Walter was enrolled as a Sapper (no 107269) in the 224th Field Company of the Royal Engineers on 8 November 1915. This company was formed in Doncaster that year.

Walter was probably placed with the RE because of his skills as an engineer and engine driver as this was the occupation entered on his attestation form. A reference from the chief engineer at Fryston Colliery describes Walter’s ability as being ‘very good.’

A sapper, also called pioneer or combat engineer, is a combatant or soldier who performs a variety of military engineering duties such as bridge-building, laying or clearing minefields, demolitions, field defences and general construction, as well as road and airfield construction and repair. They are also trained to serve as infantry personnel in defensive and offensive operations. A sapper's duties are devoted to tasks involving facilitating movement of allied forces and impeding those of enemies.

On joining the army Walter had been living at home on Pasture Lane. His medical records show that he was 5’6” tall, had a chest measurement of 39” and was 123 lb in weight.

His early days seem to have been spent in England as his record shows the following:

2 November 1915 - Doncaster
11 November 1915 - Bordon
22 December 1915 - Blackdown - during this period he was hospitalised firstly in Northampton and then Kettering for the period 31 August 1917 to 20 November 1917 suffering from pleurisy.

22 November 1917 Newark

On 13 May 1918 he embarked for France and was then posted to the 95th Company in the 7th Division and was posted to Italy on 31 May 1918.

On 6 July 1918 he was awarded a Good Conduct Badge.

The campaign in Italy is not well known. British troops were sent to Italy to stop collapse in late 1917. This movement was a brainchild of David Lloyd George and it was against the wishes of the 'Westerners' in the High Command.

The 7th Division took up position in the line along the River Piave, in late January 1918 against the Austrian army. The Division played a central role in crossing the Piave, in October and the Battle of Vittoria Veneto. The battle marked the end of the First World War on the Italian front and secured the end of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

Family Life

Walter Bellwood Clegg was another ‘comer-in’ to Brotherton. He was born in Armley in 1891. His parents were Tom Clegg born in Fairburn about 1860 and Anne Elizabeth (nee Bellwood).

The couple must have been somewhat itinerant in the early years of their marriage as records show that their children were born in different places. William Henry (1883) was born in Laisterdyke near Bradford, Mary Jane (1887) in Drax, Emily Ann (1990) and Walter in Armley.

The Cleggs were an old Fairburn family and the line can be traced back to about 1720. In 1851 Walter’s great grandfather George Clegg (born 1804) was an ‘Ag Lab’ and living with his wife Elizabeth and children - Sarah Ann (13), Jane (9), Mary (5), John (3) and Richard (1).

By 1861 the family had shrunk somewhat as George was widowed and was accompanied by his daughter Jane and son Richard. Also in the household was his grandson Tom aged 1. There is no indication of Tom’s parentage but in 1871 Jane Clegg a ‘Charwoman’ and her three children Thomas (11), Henry (6) and George W. were living in Low Street, Fairburn.

1881 saw Tom married to Anne Elizabeth Bellwood. Anne was the daughter of Bartholomew Bellwood and was born in Langton, Yorkshire. This could have been Langton near Malton or possibly Great Langton near Catterick as in 1861 the Bellwoods were living in Kiplin just a couple of miles from Catterick. However, by 1871 they were in Canal Terrace in Bradford East End where Bartholomew was a ‘Contractor’ and Anne was described as ‘Nurse Girl’. At the time of the census in 1801 Tom and Anne were living at 84 Kershaw Street, Bradford and whilst he was a ‘Carter’, Anne was a ‘Factory Hand’.

Over the next few years the couple moved a number of times as evidenced by the birth places of their children as noted above. Prior to Walter’s birth in 1891 Tom and Anne had moved to Armley with the two daughters but it seems that eldest son William Henry (8) was living in South Milford. He was with his grandparents’ George and Jane Wheater. It transpired that Tom’s mother Jane Clegg had married George Wheater, a ‘Stonemason’ originally from Ledsham, in 1871.

In 1901, 9 year Walter was living in South Milford with his grandparents George and Jane Wheater. Also living with them was William Henry a ‘Railway Engine Cleaner’ (aged 18) and Emily Ann (11). This may be due to Anne having died because in 1901 Tom was found in Bradford as a boarder with a family called Pickard. At the time he was a ‘Horse driver’.

Tom Clegg died in 1906.

In 1911 Walter was actually living with his aunt and uncle in Low Street, Brotherton. They were Henry and Fanny Clegg, Henry being the younger brother of Tom. Walter was employed as an “Engine Cleaner” whilst his uncle was a “Plate Layer”.

Walter returned to Brotherton after the war. Shortly after enlisting he was married in St Edward’s Church on 23 December 1915 to Florence Exley Renton who lived in Watmough’s Yard. Walter gave his address as Marsh House and also stated that his father’s name was Tom Clegg (deceased).

The couple appear to have had two children - Harold Eric on 2 December 1919 and Muriel Rita (later to marry Eric Wales) born in 1921.

Walter died on 21 December 1945 and was buried in Brotherton Cemetery on 24 December 24.

Probate records indicate that he died in Thurstonland near Huddersfield. The reason for being there is uncertain as he still lived in Brotherton even though the Parish records state Fox Cliffe whilst probate records show Belmont.

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