Walter James Tottle was born in September 1892, one of fourteen children to Charles and Ellen Tottle from Somerset. Charles was a boatman, and they family lived in Salmon Parade along the riverfront in Bridgwater.
When Walter left school, he became an assistant at a market garden; by the 1911 census, he was living with his parents and eight of his siblings, whose jobs included carpentry and laundering. Walter’s younger brother Henry was listed as a ‘rink boy’, helping with skating at the local ice rink.
Walter’s life beyond this is a bit of a mystery. He enjoyed sports and, before the war had been a regular player for Bridgwater Rugby Football Club. He married a woman called Ruth, although I have been unable to track down who she was or when they couple wed.
When war came, Walter enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry and, according to contemporary newspaper reports, Corporal Tottle had served on both the Eastern and Western Fronts. He was discharged from the army on 13th February 1919, following a severe attack of influenza, but it appeared to get the better of him. He passed away on 5th May 1919, aged just 26 years old.
Walter James Tottle lies at rest in St John’s Cemetery in his home town of Bridgwater, Somerset.
Walter’s ‘rink boy’ brother Henry also served in the First World War. He had also enrolled in the Somerset Light Infantry and, as a Corporal in the 1/5th Battalion, he was involved in some of the fierce fighting in the Middle East. He was injured, either in Gaza or Jerusalem, but sadly Henry died of his wounds on 22nd November 1917; he was buried in the War Cemetery in Jerusalem.