Edmund Walter Betts

Ryburgh Remembers


Pte. 53990 Edmund Walter Betts

19th. Btn. Royal Welch Fusiliers

1886 - November 23rd. 1917


William and Fanny Betts


Walter was the 4th of the 8 children born to William and Fanny Betts. He was born in Gateley and baptised at St Helen’s on Feb 14th 1886:




By the time of the 1901 Census he had left the family home and was in service as a page in Matlaske (possibly Matlaske Hall) boarding with domestic coachman William Ford, his wife Elizabeth and son. He seems to have been destined for the world of domestic service as his next appearance, in the 1911 Census, is as a domestic gardener. Now he was boarding with a widow and her family of 5 in Southbourne near Bournemouth.

Whilst there he courted Elizabeth Mary Curry a Gloucestershire born housemaid working for a household in Bournemouth. They were married on 20th September 1911 at the Church of St John the Baptist in Frenchay Gloucestershire. A daughter, Lillian Mary Fanny Betts was born in the Spring of 1914. The birth was registered in Gloucestershire so it is assumed that Elizabth Mary went to her parental home to give birth. It is not known how long they were to spend together as a family before Walter enlisted. The entry in the Cambrai Memorial Index gives his widow’s address as “Mayfield”, Inverleigh Rd., West Southbourne, Bournemouth.

She still lived in Inverleigh Road ( No 23) when she died, still a widow on May 30th. 1952. She was survived by daughter Lillian.


Walter’s Medal Index card shows that after enlisting, he served with the Welsh Regiment (Pte.51373) before joining the Royal Welch Fusiliers.



Walter Betts died during the assault on BOURLON WOOD which was taken in the early stages of the Battle of Cambrai


The Royal Welch Fusiliers War Diary has a 4 page description of the action followed by the usual tally of casualties. It shows 343 Other Ranks were killed or wounded, Walter among them, with 116 believed to have died at the time the list was compiled


The War Diary continues:


Special Order of the Day by the GOC 119th. Inf. Brigade, as follows:-


The G.O.C. 119th. Inf. Brigade wishes to congratulate all ranks of the Brigade on the results of their efforts in action on 23rd,24th, & 25th. November 1917.

The valour and endurance displayed was beyond all praise. A most important tactical position in BOURLON WOOD was assaulted and taken on 23rd. And held against countless counter-attacks and ceaseless pressure till handed over , consolidated & intact to 186th Inf. Brigade on the night of 25/26th. November. The enemy attacked up to the last moment of relief.”


The following information is to be found on https://www.findagrave.com/

and the futility of the stalemate situation described there must have been replicated so many times during the course of the War.


Walter’s name is inscribed on Panel No 5 Stone G of the Cambrai Memorial

“which commemorates more than 7,000 servicemen of the United Kingdom and South Africa who died in the Battle of Cambrai in November and December 1917 and whose graves are not known. Sir Douglas Haig described the object of the Cambrai operations as the gaining of a 'local success by a sudden attack at a point where the enemy did not expect it' and to some extent they succeeded. The proposed method of assault was new, with no preliminary artillery bombardment. Instead, tanks would be used to break through the German wire, with the infantry following under the cover of smoke barrages. The attack began early in the morning of 20 November 1917 and initial advances were remarkable.

However, by 22 November, a halt was called for rest and reorganisation, allowing the Germans to reinforce. From 23 to 28 November, the fighting was concentrated almost entirely around Bourlon Wood and by 29 November, it was clear that the Germans were ready for a major counterattack. During the fierce fighting of the next five days, much of the ground gained in the initial days of the attack was lost. For the Allies, the results of the battle were ultimately disappointing but valuable lessons were learned about new strategies and tactical approaches to fighting. The Germans had also discovered that their fixed lines of defence, no matter how well prepared, were vulnerable.


As explained on his brother John’s page, Walter was not included on either the Ryburgh Roll of Honour or the Think and Thank Screen although he is inscribed on the Village Obelisk. It was one of the first tasks of the current project to see if the extra names we were finding in the course of our researches could also be included in St Andrew’s. This now out of date page:


(simply because we have found yet more soldiers) explains more of this story and explains the facsimile inscription below which currently hangs on Comper’s West Gallery:

We are very grateful to Keith Venables, Walter Betts' Great Nephew for sharing information about, and the wonderful images of this Ryburgh family above.

copyright 2017

Page last updated: 30th September 2017 10:57 PM