Christleton Village History Group

Christleton Village Voices

Remembering our Forgotten Heroes 1914-18

Commemorated on War Memorial and Church Memorial at St James’ and Christleton Institute
Memorial Service held at St James’ April 1918

Name:
Birth Place:
Address:
Death Date:
Rank:
Service No:
Regiment:
Death:
Commemorated:
Walter Handley
Stamford Heath, Littleton
Stamford Heath Farm, (Vicars Cross Golf Club House)
25th March 1918
2nd Lieutenant
Medal Card Reference: WO 372/8/243485
9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusliers
He died in the area of Pas de Calais
Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais. France Bay 6 Fauberg d’Amiens Cemetery
War Memorial and Church Memorial at St James’ and Christleton Institute
Memorial Service held at St James’ April 1918
Walter was from a well known Christleton Methodist Family who farmed at Stamford Heath, Cotton Edmunds according to the 1911 Census. He was 19 and described as a farmer at the time of the census, but between this date and the start of WWI he travelled to America as a Missionary with three other Christleton lads. His family helped build the present chapel at Little Heath in Christleton and have been connected with it ever since through Eric & Ivy Beech.

In an article “Memories of Christleton” Arthur Handley writes,

Walter, my brother, after several years in the American Protestant Episcopal Church returned to England to join the British Army in 1915. He was killed in battle that same year. May God richly bless the cause so dear to my heart and make it even more fruitful of good than even in the past” Agnes, Walter’s sister was also an organist at the chapel. Walter was one of three brothers.
The Rector of Christleton G.M.V. Hickey writes in the Parish Magazine, ” He was ordained as a minister in the Episcopal Church of America. Came back to serve his country. He wanted to be a padre, or join the RAMC but enlisted and fought as a guardsman. He was killed in action in March 1918
Quotes about Walter from family memories;
Walter was born May 1892. Went to Cliff College, then to America where after training at Drew Theological Seminary was ordained into the Ministry, going to a church at Springfield, Mass. About 1916 or 17 he felt he was shirking his responsibilities to the “old country and contemporaries in the 1914-18 War. So he resigned, came back, was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant and was lost at the Somme in March 1918. His church in America sent a tribute to him (which we have framed in a box of photographs). Whilst on holiday in 1969 visiting some wartime memorials in Belgium and N France, we saw the name W Handley 2nd Lieut. Among them with thousands of others with no known grave, inscribed on the Menin Gate*** at the bottom of a column on the right had side. He didn’t marry, though was engaged before going to the USA, to Nora Willis, a neighbouring farmers daughter, who broke it off. (She wanted a farmer not a minister!) Frank born 1892 worked on the farm, under his brother John, and went to America while Walter was there, but soon came home. Frank went into the war, was very ill with malaria. Eventually came home and lived on Little Heath Common by the Pit.

*From Hampden County History Massachusetts in America:
*By 1913 Christ Church Cathedral had a new rector, the Rev. William Austin Smith. He had an interest in the new mission church. In September of that year services became regular and the Rev. Alfred Snively was assigned to the congregation. With weekly services, interest and growth were generated. When Mr. Snively moved on to a new church in Easthampton, the Rev. Walter Handley came in as curate at the Christ Church missionary in West Springfield, Massachusetts. He moved the congregation in 1915 to the corner of Garden Street, and plans were made for a permanent site. In 1916 Bishop Davies offered to purchase a lot if the congregation would contribute for that purpose. The property where the church now stands, at Elm and Southworth Streets, was bought for $3,000 of which $600 came from the members. Rev. Handley was English by birth and in 1916 he enlisted to aid in the war effort.

Christ Church Cathedral, Springfield (1876)

The Reverend Walter Handley was assistant minister at Christ Church Springfield from June 1915 to June 1916. A native of Great Britain, he desired to become a chaplain in the British Army, but no vacancy then existing he enlisted in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, was promoted a Second Lieutenant and was killed in action March 24, 1918.

*** Note; I’m sure this reference is to another Walter Handley who came from Stockport and served in the Cheshire Regiment, as we made the same mistake until we counter checked the details of the Regiment he served in. On the Christleton War Memorial Walter’s name is included right at the bottom of a panel of the list of men from the Cheshire Regiment, but with the faint initials RWF just above his name.(Royal Welsh Fusiliers)


A peek into how the research starts and how it sometimes takes an unexpected path

A misreading of the Village War Memorial meant that we thought that Walter Handley had served with the Cheshire Regiment. After a search in the Regimental Museum it became very clear that something was wrong. The 1911 Census showed us that Walter Handley was in fact a farmer from Stamford Heath in Christleton, the son of Arthur & Lois Mary Handley. He was a member of the local Methodist Church and not a Catholic solider as in the Cheshire Archvies. Enquiries locally led us to find a family still farming in the village, and to the archives of the local Methodist Chapel.

The Handley Family were farmers at Stamford Heath, and were heavily involved in the building of the Methodist Chapel in the Village in 1888. Some of the furniture still used was made or a gift from the family. In the archives of the Methodist Chapel we learn of the spiritual nature of the chapel, and how four of their young men, including Walter became Ministers of the church, serving as Missionaries in America & Canada. Walter’s story is told by his brother;

Walter, my brother, after several years in the American Protestant Episcopal Church returned to join the British Army in 1915. He was killed in battle the same year. May God richly bless the cause so dear to my heart and make it even more fruitful of good than even in the past
Norman had wanted to become a padre or assist in the Royal Army Medical Corps, but there were no positions available, so he served as a 2nd Lieutenant in the 9th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

GMV Hickey the Rector said at his Memorial Service in April 1918
He wanted to be a padre but fought as a guardsman
My image
Walter Handley | Christleton