PRIVATE A WALTERS
BRITISH WEST INDIES REGIMENT
21ST JUNE 1918 AGE
BURIED: ST HILAIRE CEMETERY EXTENSION, FREVENT, FRANCE
Private Walters served with the 4th Battalion British West Indies Regiment, raised in Jamaica in May 1916. Many Caribbean men were very patriotic and keen to serve their King, but the War Office was much less keen to accept them. However, in May 1915, after the intervention of King George V and the Colonial Office, the policy was altered.
It is estimated that over 16,000 volunteers came from the Caribbean islands. They served in all the theatres of war but much as many of them wanted to see combat, they were mostly used in labouring, supply and guard roles. Over 1,500 of them died, the majority from disease. They were the object of both casual and overt racism as well as acceptance and respect. But they were not treated equally and many returned home with their loyalty to Britain diminished.
Walters' mother, Louise Tingle Walters, chose her son's inscription. In all the thousands of inscriptions I've looked at, I've not yet come across another one that thanked anyone - King, Army, Government or War Graves Commission - for putting up a headstone for their relation. There were many families who were furious that they weren't going to be able to bring the bodies home, others objected vociferously to the fact that no private headstones were to be allowed in the war cemeteries, some to the fact that the uniform headstone was not going to be a cross and people today are outraged that relations were made to pay 3 1/2d a letter for the inscription, but no one has been grateful that the authorities paid for the burial and commemoration of their dead relation.
There is a bit of a problem with Private A Walters, service number 8403. His mother did not provide the War Graves Commission with either his Christian name or his age and whilst there is a Medal Index Card for a Private Walters 8403, his Christian name is given as Nathaniel. So we will never know any more about Private Walters other than the fact that his parents lived at Three Hills Retreat, Jamaica and that his mother was a polite and gracious woman.