MARK WALLER was born in Bramley, Surrey in 1893, the son of Mark and Fanny Waller, and brother to Alfred Waller (born c1877), Alice Waller (born c1879) William Raymond Waller (born c1882), James Mortimer Waller (born c1884), Sarah Jane Waller (born c1886), Ellen Waller (born c1888), Fanny Waller (born c1890), Edwin Waller (born c 1895), Thomas Waller (born c 1898), and Arthur Waller, (born c1900).
Mark’s sister, Sarah Jane married John Frederick Scammell in 1908. The couple lived in Gadbridge Cottage, Ewhurst where John was a general labourer. By 1911 the couple had two sons, John Cromwell Scammell and Edgar William Frederick Scammell.
In 1911 the Waller family were living at Gravetts, Rudgwick, where Mark senior and junior were farm labourers. Edwin was a farm labourer and Thomas and Arthur were at school together. Their father died in December 1912.
COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Mark’s brother, Edwin, a Special Reserve soldier before the commencement of the war, arrived in France as part of the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment on 29th November 1914. Having survived the Battle of Aubers on 9th May 1915 in which his battalion lost heavily he was to die on 28th September 1915 from wounds sustained in the Battle of Loos three days earlier.
Mark enlisted for service in Horsham on 4th November 1915, aged 23 years 4 months, becoming Private 24694 in the Gloucester Regiment. He joined the regiment’s 11th (Reserve) Battalion in Seaford for basic training, and on 1st September 1916 was transferred to the 16th (Training Reserve) Battalion when the unit was renamed. Mark gave his occupation as ‘postman’ home address as ‘Ivy Cottage, Rudgwick’ and religion as ‘Congregationalist’. His initial medical found that his sight in his right eye was below standard, and that he was only fit for Home Service in a non shooting Corps. Presumably, his medical fitness was reviewed and this restriction was lifted.
In France the Battle of the Somme had been raging since 1st July 1916. Mark’s brother in law John Scammell had arrived in France during 1916 and was serving with the 7th Bn Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). On 18th November 1916 the battalion was engaged in an attack on German positions on the high ground above the River Ancre. The weather conditions were extremely arduous and the attack became dislocated. 7th Bn RWSR lost heavily in the attack, and the news returned to England that John had been lost in the attack.
OVERSEAS TO FRANCE
On 2nd December 1916 it was Mark’s turn to be posted to active service overseas, departing from Southampton. He landed at Havre the following day and briefly joined 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade with the British Expeditionary Force, his service number changing to S/28472. Seven days later he was posted to ‘B’ Company, 9th (Service) Battalion Rifle Brigade, to join the battalion in the field. 9th Bn was part of the 42nd Brigade of 14th (Light) Division.
Mark joined the battalion as part of a draft of 82 soldiers at Ambrines, west of Arras on 12th December. The men had two days to settle in before the unit marched to Dainville via Wanquetin. Here they became the Divisional Reserve before going into the front line on the 22nd December.
IN THE LINE AT ARRAS
In March 1917 14th (Light) Division were holding the line to the south east of Arras, in the region of the settlement of Fauboug Ronville (which has since become absorbed into the periphery of Arras). On the 18th March 1917 the German forces between Gommecourt and Tilloy began a withdrawal towards a main line of defence situated in the east of Neuville Vitasse village. This was part of Operation Alberich, the German withdrawal to the Hindenburg Line, which had commenced on 14th March 1917.
The 42nd Brigade was ordered to keep close touch with the enemy to their front, occupying the ground as the enemy vacated it. They were instructed to avoid becoming involved in a serious engagement. At 9am on the 18th reports were received at 42nd Brigade Headquarters that British troops could be seen walking about in No Mans Land on the sector to the south of the brigade. The Brigade Diary continues, reporting that “Shortly after this one of our aeroplanes flew over Beaurains at a height of about 100ft and only three short were fired at it, one hitting the pilot and bringing the machine down on our Support Lines. No shots were fired at our stretcher bearers who went out to bring in the pilot” (1).
On 20th March 1917, 9th Bn Rifle Brigade received orders that they were to move into the old German front line the following day. Officers were sent up to reconnoitre the new line, and on the 21st the battalion left Fauboug Ronville and moved up to Galway Trench, to relieve the 5th Bn King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.
The relief began at 6pm and was completed with two companies in the old German third line, ‘Galway Trench’, (‘D’ Company to the left, ‘C’ Company to the right), ‘B’ Company distributed in depth in the old British Firing and Support Lines, and ‘A’ Company in reserve in the dugouts in the old British Reserve Lines. The Battalion HQ was positioned in the rear of the Support Line in ‘Hunter Street’.
During the relief Rifleman Mark Waller and Rifleman Frederick Albert Ford were killed and a further eleven men were wounded. Frederick Ford was buried in Faubourg D’Amien Cemetery, Arras, but Mark’s body was never formally recovered and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing.
Mark’s personal effects, three hymn books, a Testament and personal letters, were returned to his mother, Fanny, at Ivy Cottage, Rudgwick, on 26th September 1917. He was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
THIRD WALLER SON DIES AS A RESULT OF THE WAR
Mark’s brother, Thomas, served with the Royal Sussex Regiment in France until 17th January 1918. A this time he was home on two weeks leave when taken ill and hospitalised. His afflictions (attributed to the wet and cold of the trenches) led to his discharge as deemed no longer fit for military service. He was awarded a pension but died on 29th October 1919, aged 22, the third Waller son to die as a result of the First World War.
(1) It appears that the aircraft was a BE2e from 8 Sqn RFC flown by Captain Charles Holland M.C. and Second Lieutenant Archibald Cecil Heaven. Charles Holland had been born in Petworth and grown up in Chiddingfold and latterly Horsham. He returned to the UK and was killed on 25/01/1918, being buried in the Horsham (Hills) Cemetery.
Alfred Waller (born 1877) (died 1897?)
Alice Waller (born c1879)
William Raymond Waller (born c1882), 1919 living The Cottage, Mundays Hill, Ewhurst.
James Mortimer Waller (born 1883), 1919 living Hazelbank, Ewhurst.
Sarah Jane Waller (born c1886), married John Frederick Scammell 1908, 1919 living Ewhurst Green. Pte J F Scammell was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme on 18/11/1916 whilst serving with 7th Bn RWSR. He is commemorated on the Ewhurst War Memorial.
Ellen Waller (born c1888), 1919 living Ivy Cottage, Rudgwick.
Fanny Waller (born c1890), (died 1896)
Mark Waller (born 1893), Rifleman S/28472, 9/Rifle Brigade, Killed in Action 21/03/1917
Edwin Waller (born c 1895), Private SR/1340, 2/RSR. Died of Wounds 28/09/1915.
Thomas Waller (born c 1898), 3584 2/4th Bn RSR (became 260069) enlisted 25/08/1915, overseas 11/10/1916-17/01/1918, discharged from 7th Bn RSR 30/04/1918 no longer fit for military service. Died of illness 29/10/1919.
Arthur Waller, (born c1900). 1919 serving as D/35311, 1st Troop, ‘C’ Squardron, 6th R.R.C, Tidworth, Wiltshire.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Soldier’s Medal Record Cards
Soldier’s Personal Records
14th Div War Diary
42nd Brigade War Diary
9th Battalion Rifle Brigade War Diary