CORPORAL WALTER LUCAS CROFT
17TH NOVEMBER 1916 AGE 23
BURIED: ETAPLES MILITARY CEMETERY, FRANCE
Walter Croft's inscription comes from a line in Tennyson's The Princess. Is it a coincidence that the words describe a man called Sir Walter:
No little lily-handed Baronet he,
A great broad-shoulder'd genial Englishman,
A lord of fat prize-oxen and of sheep,
A raiser of huge melons and of pine,
A patron of some thirty charities,
A pamphleteer on guano and on grain,
A quarter-sessions chairman, abler none;
Fair-hair'd and redder than a windy morn;
Walter Croft was, however, no scion of an ancient house, no son of a wealthy landowner but the son of James Croft, a railway clerk in Derby, and his wife, Edith.
His death attracted quite a lot of coverage in the local Derbyshire newspapers and one of the things they mentioned in particular was his 'sturdy physique', which was expected to help him pull through his wounds. It's curious that both inscription and newspaper reports comment on his physical appearance.
Croft had been a 'privileged' apprentice with the Midland Railway Company at Derby and was 'devoted to mechanics, and excelled in their study'. He volunteered in September 1914 and served with the Royal Fusiliers where he saw much action. After being wounded he returned to England and trained as a signaller. On 5 November 1916 he received shrapnel wounds 'down the left side from head to knee'. When he'd written to his parents on the 11th he'd told them that that he confidently expected to be back in England by Christmas, but complications set in and he died a week later.