Walter Henry Coleman

Walter was born in Forncett and came from a large family. His mother had 12 children of whom two died. His parents were Thomas Coleman and Sarah Ann Coleman (nee Ellis). When Walter was born Thomas was an agricultural labourer and before her marriage Sarah worked as a domestic cook. Thomas later was a market gardener. Walter was born on 2 December 1883 and baptised at Forncett Church on 6 January 1884

His brothers and sisters were;

Margaret born 1882

Walter born 1883

Rosie born 1887

Harriet born 1888

Beatrice born 1890

Peter born 1892

John born 1897

Elizabeth born 1898 and others whose names are unknown.

In 1891 he was living with his parents at The Ling, Seething Road, Kirstead. In 1901 he was an agricultural labourer and the family had moved to Brooke Road, Seething. His family moved to Saxlingham Nethergate before 1911 where his father became a market gardener. Walter in 1911 was a boarder with the Broom family in Toft Monks, near Beccles, where he was working as a farm labourer. Ambrose Broom, with whom he was boarding,was a farm bailiff.

In November 1912 Walter married Leah Agnes Minnie Crane, born 5 July 1890, in St. Mary’s Church, Saxlingham Nethergate. Her father was a roadman and the family lived in Cargate Lane.

Their son Walter John Coleman was born 4 February 1913.

Walter was in the 1st Norfolk Regiment and so sometime after his marriage he must have joined the Army and become a regular soldier. His service number was 6051 At the time of his wedding in 1912 his occupation was given as a labourer.  He was in France on 27 August 1914.

He became a corporal at some point during his army career.

 On 27 September 1914 he was admitted to The Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley.

Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley

At the time it was  England’s biggest building. It was in Hampshire over looking Southampton Water. It was as big as a town and had its own gasworks, bakery, reservoir and prison. However even though it was enormous it could not cope eventually with all the wounded from the war.  Soldiers injured in France were taken to Southampton Docks and then transferred by train to the hospital which had its own station.

Norfolk Regiment records state that Walter was taken to the hospital because he was sick but an article in the Eastern Daily Press suggests that he was in fact wounded.

Eastern Daily Press 1st October 1914

News came to hand this week that Private Walter Coleman, 1st Norfolks has been wounded and is now lying in hospital and progressing favourably. The letter was sent to his wife in which the news that Private William Henry Brighton, No. 7164 of the same regiment is dead. Brighton’s parents have not received an intimation from the War Office to confirm. Coleman also states that Private G. Brighton of Saxlingham Nethergate is alright.

Although it says that George Brighton was alright, he was killed later in the month on 29October 1914. George was the nephew of Leah, Walter’s wife.

He was wounded on 21 January 1916 and was in the General Hospital in Rouen before being transferred to a hospital in Huddersfield on 16 February 1916.

On 16 March 1917 he was admitted to a hospital in D’Amiens with inflammation of connective tissue.

1st Norfolks were in Italy from December 1917 till March 1918 and Walter was admitted to 11 General Hospital in Genoa with a temperature on 1 February 1918. They returned to France at the end of March 1918.

Walter was subjected to an attack by yellow gas and was severely affected by it. He was admitted to the 11th Stationary Hospital at Rouen on 1 October 1918. He was transferred on 5 October 1918 to Bagthorpe Hospital, Nottingham.

As his service and pension records have not survived it is not known how long he was in hospital and what long term effects the gas poisoning had on him.

After returning from the army Walter and his family moved to the Street, Hapton in 1920 and were still living there in 1930.

By 1939 they had moved to Hapton Road, Tharston and Walter was working as a bricklayer.

Walter died 29 September 1949 and Leah died 19 December 1967. They are both buried in the same grave in St. Margaret’s Churchyard, Hapton, South Norfolk.


England & Wales, Birth, marriage, death index 1837-2005

UK Census Collection

British Army Medal Roll Index cards, 1914-1920

1939 Register-

Norfolk Electoral Rolls-Southern Division Saxlingham Nethergate and Thorpe,  (Absent Voters Lists 1918-1920) and Hapton, (1920-1930)

Norfolk, Church of England Diocesan Baptismal Records.

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar 1858-1995

St Mary’s Church Saxlingham Nethergate, Marriage records (transcribed by Mary Muir)

Norfolk Regiment, Wounded Records. Norfolk Regimental Museum, Norwich

UK and Ireland, Find a grave.

Eastern Daily Press. 1st October 1914, Norfolk Record Office, Norwich August 21 2014 ( Netley Hospital)