Walter Frederick Tucker

Walter Frederick Tucker volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in mid-1915, at which time he was thirty seven.

Walter Tucker was born in 1875 or 1877* at Chelsea, London. His WW1 service records give 1877 but his Boer war ones give 1875. Believe the earlier date as he may have tried to make himself younger in 1914. He became a plumber.

He was married to Emily Tucker and, at his attestation lived at 47 Hocken Avenue, Toronto.

In 1901 he enlisted in 1st Middlesex Royal Engineers (Volunteers). Apparently for six years originally but his RE records show completion of enlistment after less than one year. At attestation he was 5’10” tall, weighed 131lbs and had a 34” chest expanding by just over an inch.

He served 43 days in at home (in the UK) including ten days between attestation and enlistment, 124 days in South Africa (25.3.1901 to 26.7.1902 including transit) and 6 days at home before discharge. As the war was over by then he may simply have not been needed.

His next-of-kin is given as his father, Walter Tucker of 36 Tadema Street, Chelsea.

He volunteered to join the Canadian Expeditionary Force in mid-1915, at which time he was thirty seven, very old for a front-line infantryman. His original medical report states that he was 5’10” tall with a 35” chest expanding less than 1”, a slight build to carry an infantryman’s load on the Western Front. He had a fair complexion, brown eyes and brown hair, and was C-of-E by nominal religion.

He joined a local battalion with no affiliation to a pre-war Militia Regiment and was sent with them to the UK after no more than a few weeks training, but was an ex-Volunteer would have had training in the past. Like many CEF battalions, the 75th were used to supply drafts to the Canadian battalions in France but Walter was sent to 23rd Reserve Battalion almost as soon as he landed and from there to the Canadian Engineers, where his pre-war trade would have been valuable.

After a few months his division (3rd Canadian) went to France were it fought at Ypres (Battle of Mount Sorrel 2-13 June) before moving to the Somme with the rest of the Canadian Corps. There it fought in the Battles of Flers-Courcelette (the first tank attack), Thiepval, Le Transloy and the Ancre Heights. The last two, at the very end of the Somme fighting, were muddy struggles, and in one Walter was affected by a mild dose of shell-shock.

As an ailment this varied enormously from a complete physical and mental breakdown to something like a panic attack. The best treatment for the latter was warm, rest, hot food and a gentle talking to. This appears to be what happened here.

In any event he remained with his unit and fought through the Battles of Arras 1917, the fighting north of Arras in the summer of 1917, the Second Battle of Passchendaele in late 1917, the Battle of Amiens (the Black Day of the German Army 8 August 1918), the Second Battles of Arras and the Breaking of the Hindenburg Line. At the Armistice his division was a Mons, where things had started over four years before. In July 1917 he was rested for a few weeks at the Divisional Reinforcement Camp – maybe a recurrence of the shell-shock of the previous year – and just before the Armistice had two weeks leave in the UK.

In May 1918 his original Engineer unit was expanded from a company to a battalion by absorbing men from the divisional pioneer battalion and other labour units, but there was no change in role. He was returned to the UK in February 1919 and soon after repatriated to Canada, where he was discharged on arrival.

— Text by Kathleen Wolfe