PRIVATE WALTER POTTS
24TH SEPTEMBER 1918 AGE 30
BURIED: BERTHAUCOURT COMMUNAL CEMETERY, PONTRU, FRANCE
I enter these inscriptions into a database and I notice that many of the post-August 1918 casualties are buried in cemeteries that I've never entered before, like Berthaucourt. Whereas once the front was stationary it is now moving forwards so fast that some of the cemeteries contain the dead of a brief few days before the battle has moved on. And there is another characteristic of these battlefield cemeteries, many are much smaller than the old ones. There are seventy casualties buried in Berthaucourt of whom three are unidentified. The rest of them were all killed between 18 September and the 5 October with sixteen being killed on 18 September and thirty-six on the 24th.
Walter Potts is one of the thirty-six. A married railway clerk whose wife lived in Wooler, Northumberland, his medal card shows that he didn't enter a theatre of war until after 1915, which indicates to me that, being the age he was, he was a conscript rather than a volunteer. He was killed when the 1st Battalion Northamptonshire Regiment took part in a successful attack on the village of Pontru, seven kilometres west of St Quentin.
The 1st battalion war diary comments that the village was strongly held and that the casualties were 'fairly heavy', not helped by the fact that the four tanks meant to have gone in front of the troops, behind the artillery barrage, proved to be 'quite useless': two were knocked out before starting, one never arrived and the fourth seemed to get lost. Two officers and forty men of the battalion were killed on the 24th, including Private Potts.
I don't know when Walter Potts got married; in 1911 he was still living at home with his parents and four of his brothers. There is no indication that there were any children of the marriage: his wife, Jane Anne Potts, would therefore have been left with many 'lonely hours' to think of him. It's an affectionate, unselfconscious inscription, addressed to the dead man with no care for who else might read it.