Walter Maddox

John Henry Hassall

Personal Details

Born in Bettisfield, Flintshire in 1893, the eldest son of Thomas and Alice Ann Maddox of The Gate House, Alberbury, Shropshire.

Husband to Gertrude Maddox (nee Whitfield) of 2 Vine Cottage, Croftons, Ellesmere, Shropshire. Gertrude remarried and became Gertrude Butcher.

At the age of 11, Walter was involved in the unsuccessful rescue of other children from the ice and nearly lost his life. He was hailed a hero in what became known as ‘The Bettisfield Ice Tragedy’.

Walter was a blacksmith, having learned the trade from his father; he joined the Royal Engineers as a farrier.

Walter contracted tuberculosis on active service in France in 1916 and was discharged, no longer physically fit for war service, at Tooting Military Hospital from the army on 13 August 1917. He left to live with his parents in Alberbury.

Walter is also commemorated on the Alberbury, Shropshire memorial

Military Details

Regiment : Royal Engineers

Rank : Farrier Sergeant
Service Number : 41510

Died of illness; UK 26 June 1918 Aged 25

Medals and Awards
Walter was awarded the Campaign Medals (British War Medal and Allied Victory Medal).

Campaign Medals

Great War History Hub Whitchurch Shropshire Medals Front Image

The British War Medal (also known as 'Squeak') was a silver or bronze medal awarded to officers and men of the British and Imperial Forces who either entered a theatre of war or entered service overseas between 5th August 1914 and 11th November 1918 inclusive. This was later extended to services in Russia, Siberia and some other areas in 1919 and 1920. Approximately 6.5 million British War Medals were issued. Approximately 6.4 million of these were the silver versions of this medal. Around 110,000 of a bronze version were issued mainly to Chinese, Maltese and Indian Labour Corps. The front (obv or obverse) of the medal depicts the head of George V. The recipient's service number, rank, name and unit was impressed on the rim.

The Allied Victory Medal (also known as 'Wilfred') was issued by each of the allies. It was decided that each of the allies should each issue their own bronze victory medal with a similar design, similar equivalent wording and identical ribbon. The British medal was designed by W. McMillan. The front depicts a winged classical figure representing victory. Approximately 5.7 million victory medals were issued. Interestingly, eligibility for this medal was more restrictive and not everyone who received the British War Medal ('Squeak') also received the Victory Medal ('Wilfred'). However, in general, all recipients of 'Wilfred' also received 'Squeak' and all recipients of The 1914 Star or The 1914/1915 Star (also known as 'Pip') also received both 'Squeak' and 'Wilfred'. The recipient's service number, rank, name and unit was impressed on the rim.

Further Information

London Daily News 19 January 1905

Report in the London Daily News 19 January 1905 – “DISTRESSING ICE ACCIDENTS – BOYS’ FATAL RESCUE ATTEMPTS”; a record of the part Walter Maddox played in the attempted rescue of five children in what became known as The Bettisfield Ice Tragedy.

“A distressing ice fatality occurred at the village of Bettisfield, near Ellesmere, Salop, today, by which five children lost their lives. When the children were dismissed from school at noon they raced down to Kynaston’s Pool going to what proved to be a death trap, with light hearts. They had not been on the ice more than a minute when it gave way, and five children were precipitated into the water.
The cries of those on the bank brought willing helpers to the scene, and dragging operations were commenced with all speed. After three hours’ unremitting labour the body of the last child was recovered at four o’clock, at which hour two Flintshire policemen arrived from Overton and took charge of the bodies, which had been laid in the schoolroom to await an inquest.
The names of the children who lost their lives are Evelyn Hughes, Lucy Morris, Percy Moore, William Speakman and Jack Beckett.
The ice had to be broken with hatchets before the children were extracated. Walter Maddox, a schoolboy, displayed great heroism. Seeing his schoolfellows drowning, he bravely entered the water and succeeded in reaching one girl. She was locked in the arms of a drowning boy, and Maddox could not rescue her. In endeavouring to save his friend, Maddox well-nigh lost his life, for he was sinking when a man named Kelsall from a neighbouring farm rushed up with a rope and rescued him.”

London Daily News 19 January 1905

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Information provided by Whitchurch Museum and Archives

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