Hot on the heels of yesterday's revelations, today I discovered a reasonably close relative, a first cousin twice removed (my gran's cousin), who had a humiliating experience when he joined the Army towards the end of WW1. His Army record shows he was 18yrs 11mths old when he joined up. A former farm labourer (a Waggoner), he had brown hair, brown eyes and a fair complexion. Reasonably tall at 5'8", there was nothing of him as he weighed barely 8 stone (116 lbs). His chest was just 33 1/2" with 1 1/2" expansion. He was scarcely in a league of his own size wise, having read plenty of Army records which record similar physiques, and think of the Bantam Regiments. Keith's great uncle was only 5'4" tall (his mum was about 4'10"!) That's what a poor diet does for you.
He joined the 3rd Battalion Northants Regiment and was posted for duty on the 22nd May 1918, his ship leaving from Southampton for the Front.
It was soon noticed that despite passing the physical tests, things were not as they should be. Walter had a Disability - quite a big and meaningful disability sadly - as he has a speech impediment in the form of a stutter. Not just a bit of a stutter when he got flustered either, "has stuttered since childhood" as one officer wrote down, didn't really quite cover the enormity of his disability.
His final Medical assessment show it plainly: "He is quite incapable, through his hesitation in speech, of doing military duty. He would be useless as a sentry." Harsh words indeed, but worse was to come. "Stutters very badly. Almost incapable of speech. States (he has been) the same since 9 yrs. Physique and health good." Then the remark, written by some Doctor who added the final damning endictment in the margin: "Not fit for a soldier." I hope to God Walter never read it. He was discharged in April 1919 "No longer physically fit", having been presumably kept away from the main theatre of war and given menial tasks to carry out. Perhaps that stutter saved his life - who knows?
He returned home and in the 1921 census was living with his parents and working as a General Labourer. He married in 1928 and died in the 50s. He and his wife were not blessed with children (which happens more often than you think - I suppose it balanced out the dozen or more that other families had).
So Walter, you are not forgotten, and I wouldn't mind betting that you were a natural with horses, who didn't give a damn about whether you stuttered or not. (My gran's line were very good with animals). Which just leaves me wondering, what the hell happened to him when he was just 9 years old, to affect him so badly he never overcame it? Or was it a fault in the wiring of his brain? We'll never know.
He was more fortunate than his almost namesake, who I found recorded dead from Shell Shock in Bolton (having been shipped home). Another namesake (but totally different Army number) was in the Sick Bay at Catterick Barracks with Venereal Warts (!) and several other men had Gonorreah and one Syphalis. Just to balance out the Influenza, Anal Fissure, Bronchitis, Lumbago, etc.