1805 Info 2e for John Crompton
Walter Ernest Crompton

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Walter Ernest, the tenth child of Thomas and Margaret

The birth of CROMPTON At Lowthorpe, March 13th, the wife of Thomas Crompton, farmer, of a son

Source: Driffield and Wolds Genealogy - Birth Announcements from the Driffield Times, March 22, 1884

Walter Ernest was born in the first quarter of 1884 (GRO ref: Driffield 9d 330). The 1901 and 1911 census shows the progress of his engineering trade.

1901 Census   Sun/Mon 31st March/1st April 1901
Source:       FHL Film  PRO Ref RG13
              Piece: 4493; Folio: 140; Page: 6                        
Dwelling:     32 Barley Street
Place:        Sculcoates, Kingston upon Hull, York ER, England

Name               Rel   Mar Age Occupation            Status  Birthplace
Walter E Crompton  Board  U   17 Engineers Apprentice  Worker  Yorks, Lowthorpe
1911 Census:           Sun/Mon 2nd April/3rd April 1911
Source TNA Ref:        RG14 PN28792  
       Reg. Gen. Ref:  RG78 PN1652 RegDist: 522 SubDist: 2 En.Dist: 23 Sched: 28 
Dwelling:              15 Malm Street  [HU3 2TF]
Place:                 Hull 
Rooms in dwelling, other than scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom: 7
Years married:         35
Children:              Alive none, dead none 

Name                     Rel  Mar  Age  Occupation             Status  Birthplace 
Samuel Oldham Cawthorne  Head  M   73   Retired newspaper              Lincs, Gainsbro'
Mary Cawthorne           Wife  M   66                                  Lincs, Carlton 
                                                                              le Moorland
Hilda Cawthorne          Dau   U   40                                  Yorks, Hull
Walter Ernest Crompton  Board  U   27   Engineer's Draughtsman  Worker Yorks, Lowthorpe
                                        Marine Engines
Right: 15 Malm Street, Hull 15 Malm Street, Hull - 70kB jpg
1805info2e, sheet 2
Right: 15 Malm Street, Hull 15 Malm Street, Hull - 36kB jpg
The photograph on the right shows Walter with his brother John Henry and his mother, an elderly Margaret Elizabeth at Hall Green Farm, Wakefield, the home of Walter's brother Charlie. It was taken between John Henry's return from Canada and his sailing to Australia - 27 April and 31 July 1914. John Henry has marked the back of the photograph 'My mother, brother Charlie's wife and little girl and brother Walter'. It is possible that the two brothers took Margaret Elizabeth to Hall Green Farm.

John Henry, in his soldier's will, left everything to his brother Walter. Does this and the photograph suggest a special bond?

Right - left to right: Walter, John Henry
Anne Elizabeth, Ruthie and Margaret Elizabeth
Source: Diane CARL from Jack's letter to Alex POSTANS 06 September 1915
Walter, John Henry, Annie Elizabeth, Ruthie, Margaret Elizabeth at Hall Green 26 April 1914 - 34kB jpg

1805info2e, sheet 3

Walter Ernest CROMPTON, the World War One dispatch rider

Walter CROMPTON began training on 07 November 1914. He entered France on 02 January 1915 and served with A Corps Signal Company, Royal Engineers until 20 January 1919. There is no obvious service record available. His service dates suggest Michael Carragher’s observations about the 1914 Dispatch Riding 1 may apply.

[In January 1915 the front line settled down to positional trench warfare, after the very closely fought open warfare of First Ypres.]

The ideal despatch rider (DR) had "native ability ... keenness ... initiative ... readiness to meet an emergency", and was physically robust.1
He should in the first place be fit and in hard training, ready at a moment's notice to undertake any mission that may be given him. He should be a good horseman, a cyclist, and something of a mechanic; be able to find his way by day or night, with the aid of the sun, stars or compass; know the names and ranks of all generals, staff officers and commanders of units; possess a good knowledge of scouting, to enable him to pass safely through hostile territory; and — perhaps most difficult of all — be qualified to deliver a verbal message word for word as he receives it.2
A good deal to ask, but a good deal was delivered:
To ensure good service in this important branch during mobile warfare, men of exceptional intelligence, endurance and courage, and, especially, men possessing initiative of a high order, were required […].3
Right: A studio photograph, by Brigham of Scarborough, of Corporal Walter CROMPTON RE in World War 1
Walter Crompton in World War 1 - 28kB jpg
Right: 30236 Corporal Walter CROMPTON's medal index card, which shows he arrived in France on 02 January 1915 as a member of the Royal Engineers and so qualified for the 1914-15 Star. At the end of hostilities he transferred to the 'Z' Reserves. In December 1918 soldiers being demobilised were first posted to Class Z. They could return to civilian life but knew they were obliged to return if necessary. The Z Reserve was abolished on 31 March 1920.

Source: TNA WO 372/5
Walter Crompton's medal index card - 34kB jpg

In the evolving war time communication situation Army training pamphlet SS135 (1917 edition) described the role of the motor dispatch rider as being available for use between division and brigade headquarters.  Source: Lee John, 'Command and Control in Battle' in Sheffield, Gary and Todman, Dan (Ed) 'Command and Control on the Western Front', Spellmount, Stroud, 2007

1805info2e, sheet 4
Walter at Aldershop 1914 - 50kB jpg [There were two types of DRs. “Scout Officers” were appointed as subalterns but "[we] were never under any circumstances to consider [as] officers", though were more privileged than the corporals of the Signals Service, Royal Engineers].

Their background was an important factor in what DRs did in 1914 and beyond. […T]heir background, their enormous class confidence and consequent sense of assurance were to affect the despatch rider's performance. Their initial suspicion of soldiery 4 could not be entirely dispelled in their brief training, which barely lasted a fortnight [in August 1914]. 5 Instead these men discharged their duty out of their sense of duty, not because they were following orders. […]
Above: Walter at Aldershot c.1914 on a 1912 Zenith Gradua 770cc single cylinder JAP Source: Peter COOPER family photograph
Envelope of royal dispatch - 40kB jpg
Reverse annotation of royal dispatch - 23kB jpg
Above: The dispatch of HRH Edward, Prince of Wales 2 carried by Walter on 02 February 1915 to GHQ St Omer. Note: From 02 June 1915 First Army Headquarters were located at Chocques not 1st Army Corps
Source: Peter COOPER family archive
1805info2e, sheet 5
Right: Walter CROMPTON's certificate of identity dated 1919. This suggests that Walter was discharged from Clipstone, near Newark Nottinghamshire on 28 January 1919. It was franked by a Post Office in South Gosforth, Newcastle on Tyne between February and April 1919.

This document confirms his regimental number as 30236 and rank of corporal dispatch rider, one of nine motor cyclists, for A Corps Signal Company in the Royal Engineers.

At this time his address was 7 Princess Royal Terrace, Scarborough, the family home.
Walter Crompton's certificate of identity - 97kB jpg
1805info2e, sheet 6
Right: Walter CROMPTON's certificate of wartime employment

This shows he enlisted on 7 November 1914 and served until 20 January 1919 and confirms his pre-war 'trade' as a draughtsman and his army unit.
Walter Crompton's certificate of wartime employment - 69kB jpg

On 4 November 1922, the Australian National Memorial Plaque, Memorial Scroll and 'Where the Australians Rest' were sent to Margaret Elizabeth WILLIAMS her at 18 Kingswood Avenue, High West Jesmond, Newcastle-on-Tyne. It is possible that she lived with her son Walter. Walter continued his profession in the shipbuilding company of Swan Hunter, Newcastle.

1805info2e, sheet 7
Map locating 18 KIngswood Avenue, High West Jesmond - 38kB jpg 18 KIngswood Avenue, High West Jesmond - 31kB jpg
Above: Map locating 18 KIngswood Avenue, High West Jesmond

Right: 18 KIngswood Avenue, High West Jesmond
Right: Walter CROMPTON in the Civil Defence during World War 2 and showing his three World War 1 medals

Peter COOPER, Walter's great nephew, recalls taking his mother Ruthie up to Newcastle roundabout 1961 to see Walter, who was a single man working for Swan Hunter, still in the ship building industry. As Walter did not respond to Christmas cards from his nieces, Ruthie and Leila, they presumed he had passed on. Ruthie had, for years, kept in contact with Walter but never got any replies for over 15 years and so presumed he had died. In 1975, when the COOPERS lived Ponteland outside Newcastle, they were notified that Walter had died in a home in Newcastle

In his will Walter left his money, the little amount there was, to Leila who by this time had died and it passed down to her nephews Peter and Michael. Peter was also offered a few of Walters possessions, the most notable being an envelope signed by the Prince of Wales - apparently he had been the wartime dispatch rider.

Sheila MELLSTROM recalls that in his will Walter's money was left to his nephew Harry and niece Leila.

There is no obvious record of his marriage. Walter Ernest died in the first quarter of 1975 (GRO ref: Newcastle Upon Tyne 2 0568).
Walter Crompton in the Civil Defence - 54kB jpg

1805info2e, sheet 8

More information 1
Return to text Dispatch Riding

The central duty of the DR was to maintain communications, acknowledged from the  beginning as "most
difficult" by [Lt. General] Horace Smith-Dorrien and other commanders. 6 "Information is the evidence upon which judgments are made .... Information of the enemy and our own troops comprises the most important conditions under which war is waged". 7 But given the scale of twentieth-century armies, communicating all this information, so that it might be collated and distilled into judgment, and then communicating judgment and coordinating the activities that judgment mandates, was far from easy […] Dispatch riders - 33Kb jpg
Above: Dispatch riders propaganda postcard on their Douglas machines, typical of the 25,000 machines procured by the War Office for despatch rider duties during the First World War.

[Cable, used since the Crimean War, was the main stay of the Signal Corps. Wireless was porous and in its infancy. Telephones required wires laying, initially on the surface and then at greater depths, and constant repair.]

[Dispatch Riders] DRs also performed a myriad of other duties. They were expected to fetch and carry almost anything an officer might think of, some trivial indulgences but others, such as munitions when these were running short in the middle of battle, vital. 8 […]

Organisation Organisation was to evolve through the war. […]. Most DRs belonged to the Motor Cycle Despatch Corps, part of the Signals Section of the Royal Engineers, a section that one DR called the "nerves of the modern army". 9 This metaphor was invoked by many. The Signals Office was "the nerve centre of the Army in the field, for into it radiate the tentacles along which flash messages from every part of the field of operations, from the base and from England". 10 It was these messages that warranted command and control. "[O]ne liaison officer described the army as: A giant with a quick and brilliant brain, but whose nervous system is slow, lethargic and inadequate'", 11 and when wires, wireless or radio were "dis" — disabled — the fastest means of communication, and the most consistently reliable, was the dispatch rider […] normally attached to the divisions-based Signals Companies […] DRs also were attached to corps and army HQ as well as to GHQ, and might be seconded to brigade.

A Divisional Signals Company, to which dispatch riders were attached, comprised of ‘five sections, headquarters [and] Nos 1, 2, 3 and 4. Headquarters and No 1 are attached to the headquarters staff of the division; 2, 3, and 4 being attached to the first, second and third brigades respectively.’ 12 At this moment it is not possible to match these divisions to Walter's specific unit.

"[T]he service given by the despatch riders was superb, and though casualties to men and machines were fairly frequent, and the strength of many units was down to a minimum, touch was kept and messages cleared with exemplary promptitude". 13 Yet another professional, with more than seven decades of perspective, is even more forthright: "At no time in this century has signals intelligence affected campaigns more significantly than at the very hour of its birth, in 1914" 14 — when the linchpin of Signals was the despatch rider. [Cont]
1805info2e, sheet 9

More information 1
Return to text Dispatch Riding cont:-


1 AP Corcoran, The Daredevil of the Army: Experiences as a "Buzzer" and Despatch Rider (New York, Dutton & Co, 1919), pp.17-18
2 Herbert Strang, The British Army in War (London, Humphrey, 1915), unpaginated
3 RE Priestley, The Signals Service in the European War of 1914 to 1918 (France) (Chatham, Mackay & Co, 1921), p.16
4 Watson, Adventures, p.6
5 Ibid, pp.6-12; some had no training at all. See West, "Diary", pp.3-6
6 Quoted in Robin Neillands, The Old Contemptible^: The British Expeditionary Force, 1914 (London, John Murray, 2004), p. 156
7 Col. JFC Fuller, "The Application of Recent Developments in Mechanics and other Scientific Knowledge to Preparation and Training for Future War on Land" in Journal of the Royal United Services Institute, LXV, May 1920, p.241
8 West, "Diary", p.43
9 Corcoran, Daredevil, p.x
10 The Times History of the War, XVIII (London, The Times, 1915), p.119
11 Brigadier Peter Young, "The Great Retreat" in Purnell's History of the First World War, I, No 8, ed. Barrie Pitt (London, BPC Publishing, 1969),p.201
12 Priestley, Signal Service, p.24
13 Ibid, p.31
14 John Ferris (ed), The British Army and Signals Intelligence During the First World War (Stroud, Sutton, 1992), p.5
15 Corcoran, "Wireless"
16 Corcoran, Daredevil, p.2
Carragher Michael, ‘Amateurs at a professional game: The Dispatch Rider Corps in 1914’ in Jones, Spencer (Ed) ‘Stemming the tide: officer and leadership in the British Expeditionary Force 1914’, Wolverhampton Military Studies, Helion & Company Ltd, Solihull, 2013
1805info2e, sheet 10

More information 2
Return to text HRH Edward, Prince of Wales, later Edward VIII
HRH Prince of Wales - 40kB jpg When World War I broke out, Edward, Prince of Wales and later Edward VIII, had reached the minimum age for active service and was keen to participate. He had joined the Grenadier Guards in June 1914, and although Edward was willing to serve on the front lines, Secretary of State for War Lord Kitchener refused to allow it, citing the immense harm that would occur if the heir to the throne were captured by the enemy.

Despite this, Edward witnessed trench warfare first-hand and attempted to visit the front line as often as he could, for which he was awarded the Military Cross in 1916. His role in the war, although limited, made him popular among veterans of the conflict.

Source: Wikipedia

Left: HRH Prince of Wales in the uniform of the Grenadier Guards (1919) Source: Wikimedia Commons

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This page was created by Richard Crompton
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Version A6
Updated 05 January 2017