PRIVATE WILLIAM WALLS
22ND OCTOBER 1917 AGE 40
BURIED: POELCAPELLE BRITISH CEMETERY, BELGIUM
People often ask me if there's a difference between the inscriptions chosen by the families of officers and those chosen by the families of soldiers. In answer I say that it would be less usual for an officer's family to choose something like, "Too dearly loved to be forgotten", or "A silent thought a secret tear will keep his memory of ever dear" but that doesn't mean that the more literary inscriptions come from officers' families. Private Walls' is a case in point.
Mrs Mary Jane Walls chose her husband's inscription and it comes from Shakespeare's Life of King Henry VIII, Act 5 Sc. 1. The King says of Archibishop Cranmer, in his presence, that:
"He's honest, on mine honour. God's blest mother!
I swear he is true-hearted; and a soul
None better in my kingdom."
The context is not relevant to Private Wall's inscription, which doesn't alter the fact that the choice of this quotation is not only very appropriate but also very original.
William Walls was a coal miner, a hewer of coal, so someone who actually worked underground at the coal face. He volunteered when he was 37, before the introduction of conscription, and entered a theatre of war on 25 September 1915. He served with the 20th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers. This was originally a bantam battalion, one that was formed from men below the minimum height requirement for a soldier. This varied over the first few months of the war, originally being 5'3" before settling on 5'2". Many of Walls' fellow soldiers were also miners.
Walls was killed in action on 22 October 1917 in the British attack on Poelcapelle.