Norwich – Earlham Cemetery (Walter Harry Loades)

This is the war grave of Walter Harry Loades, located at Earlham Cemetery, but not in the main Commonwealth War Graves section.

Walter was born in 1894, the son of Joseph and Caroline Loades (nee Chatton). He had an older brother, Sidney, and a younger brother, Reginald, and they lived at 24, Brunswick Road in Norwich (in a property which looks on Google Maps to have been pulled down). Walter worked as a clerk and I’d like to think that his life was peaceful (well, he was single anyway).

Unfortunately, the First World War meant that Walter had to enlist, and as his service records have survived, there’s plenty of information about what happened next. He saw a medical officer in Grantham on 26 May 1916, with Walter bring described as healthy. The records are detailed enough for us to know that he was 5’6″ tall, with a 33 inch chest and a weight of 9.7 stone.

He joined the machine gun corps and was sent as part of the British Expeditionary Force to serve in France. The records note that he was on a boat from Folkestone to Boulogne on 17 July 1916, then he was transferred to nearby Camiers the day after. On 23 July 1916, Walter joined his company, but was sent to a field hospital on 2 November 1916 with scabies, a common problem in the trenches.

After returning to his company, Walter was badly wounded on 16 February 1917, with gunshot wounds to his legs, face, elbow and mouth. He was sent for medical treatment to the hospital shop Gloucester Castle on 9 March 1917, then transferred two days later to the Mill Road Infirmary in Liverpool. He remained there until 23 May 1917 when he moved back to his home county and the Norfolk War Hospital (later better known as St. Andrew’s Hospital) where he remained until 5 September 1917.

Unfortunately, his medical situation remained dire and he was transferred to Tooting Hospital for treatment. He died there on 11 September 1918 at 15:00 with the doctor noting that his ‘spastic paraplegia’ was the cause of death. Walter was buried at Earlham Cemetery on Tuesday 17 September 1918 at 12:00 with his family present at his burial. The War Office seemed unaware of the burial and when enquiring was told that Walter’s father, Joseph, had arranged the burial for his son. This likely explains why this grave is in a different part of the graveyard to the war burials, with the headstone I assume being added at a later date.

The declaration signed by Joseph on behalf of his deceased son, confirming the death and having that witnessed by Alfred Gates, the Vicar of Lakenham, who lived at 7 Newmarket Road in Norwich. Joseph died in the first part of 1939, so at least never saw the outbreak of another war which he thought his son had died in order to prevent. I can’t help but feel that this must have been endlessly traumatic for the family, not just a death but watching their son seriously injured for such a long period.