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Celebrating our 140th Anniversary

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Get Learning: World War 1

Friday 18th November 2016

One Hundred years ago, The Boys’ Brigade Gazette of 1st November 1916 featured the story of an act of heroism on its front page. This story (extract below) is something which could be used as a discussion starter with your young people in learning about the experience of a BB member in World War 1.

Boy William Walker – A Hero of The Boys’ Brigade

An incident not dissimilar in character to, but on which has received less publicity than the heroic conduct of the Boy Cornwell, has recently been reported, and it is gratifying to know that the hero of it is a past member – too young to be called an old Boy – of The Boys’ Brigade.

William Walker, who is only 16 years of age, joined the 4th London Company at the age of 12. He served for two sessions and became adept at bugling, and it was this which led to his heroic conduct at the Battle of Jutland. On leaving The Boys’ Brigade, Walker joined the Royal Navy in which he occupied the position of Bugler aboard HMS Calliope when she led her Squadron into battle on 31st May. It was the duty of “Young Bill”, as his friends call him to stand on the bridge with the Captain, and to him fell the honour of sounding the “Commence”. After he had done this he bravely stood by his Captain amidst the fury of the battle, while his ship played a gallant part in the great fight. Late in the day a splinter of a shell struck him, wounding him severely in his side; but he still stood to his post until he fainted from loss of blood. The wound was a serious one, necessitating the removal of three ribs, and leaving a scar ten inches long very near his brave young heart. While in hospital Walker was visited by the King.

The honour which Walker valued most highly is the recognition of his gallantry by Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, who presented him with a specially inscribed bugle in commemoration of his heroic conduct.

It is good to know that Walker has now almost recovered from his wound, and has been on leave at his home in Kennington. It was only on his arrival home that the story of his heroism became public, and to his surprise he found himself dubbed “the Kennington hero”.

A silver watch and chain, with a suitable inscription, is being presented to Walker on behalf of the Executive, as a token of the appreciation of the Officers and Boys of the Brigade. The conduct of the Boy Walker should be made known to his comrades throughout the Brigade, and his gallant devotion to duty should be an example to us all.

This activity could count towards a member being awarded the World War One Commemorative Badge, which is available from BB Supplies.

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