"To Keep in Memory"

The Hunter Brothers

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1179 Serjeant John Hunter, Northamptonshire Yeomanry

T/2245 Private William Bell Hunter, 1/5th Battalion, The Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment

Northants_Yeomanry.jpg
The badge of the Northamptonshire Yeomanry

John Hunter and his brother, William Bell Hunter were the sons of William and Jacobina Hunter. William Hunter was employed as a farm bailiff. The family came from Dumfriesshire in Scotland; the two boys were born at Tinwald, a short distance from Dumfries town. John Hunter was born in 1887, and William in 1889. According to the 1891 Census of England, the family had moved to Sudborough, in the district of Thrapston, in Northamptonshire. The 1901 Census shows that their address was Sudborough House. When the family moved away from Northamptonshire to Woking in Surrey, John Hunter remained in the area, and was employed as a grocery assistant in Oundle. John lodged with the Richards family, who lived in West Street in Oundle.

When the Great War broke out, John Hunter enlisted into the 2/1st Northamptonshire Yeomanry, and served with the unit in the United Kingdom only. The Yeomanry had a troop based in Oundle. John Hunter was quickly promoted to Sergeant.

On 19th February 1916, Sergeant John Hunter died from gastric ulcers at St Alban’s Hospital. Because his unit was under ‘special orders’, it was not possible to give him a military funeral, but he was buried in Oundle Cemetery. The funeral service appears to have been well attended, with mourners coming from near and far. It was noted that John Hunter’s parents, Mr and Mrs W. Hunter attended from Leeds, while uncles came from Kircudbrightshire, and Carlisle.

Six months before his death, John Hunter had married Maud Ann Maddison, the daughter of John Maddison, a widowed tailor and publican from West Street, in Oundle. The couple did not have any children.

The grave of Serjeant John Hunter at Oundle Cemetery
The grave of Serjeant John Hunter at Oundle Cemetery

John Hunter’s grave is marked by a privately erected headstone in white marble, with lead lettering.

Maud Hunter did not remarry and she died in 1944. Maude Hunter is buried with her husband in Oundle Cemetery. William Bell Hunter did move to Woking, with his parents. Given that he enlisted into the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment on 7th August 1914, only three days after war was declared, it is likely that the family was still living in Woking at the time.He volunteered for service and enlisted into the 1/5th Battalion of the Royal West Surrey Regiment, which was based at Guildford. This battalion was sent to India on 29th October 1914, but William Hunter did not go with it, presumably as he was still undergoing his training. During this time it is most likely that he would have been attached to the 3/5th Battalion, which was a reserve battalion formed to train recruits and hold men until they were needed for drafts to the fighting battalion.

William Hunter eventually joined his battalion at Bombay (Mumbai) on 2nd December 1915 when it was moved from Lucknow in India to Mesopotamia as part of 12th Brigade, 12th Indian Division.

Almost immediately after landing in Mesopotamia, the battalion went by barges up the river Euphrates to Nasariyeh, where it was employed in guarding Prisoners of War and improving existing defensive positions occupied by the 34th Indian Infantry Brigade. The battalion, by now in 12th Infantry Brigade was involved in operations to relieve Kut-al-Amara, where General Townsend’s force had been surrounded and besieged by Turkish Forces. It was during this operation that the battalion fought in its first action of the war, which lasted some five hours. The battalion suffered 14 casualties.

Insanitary conditions in and around Nasariyeh contributed to an outbreak of cholera in the civilian population, but though the city was put out of bounds to the soldiers, some men caught the disease, and some of those who did died from it. Water-borne diseases, the heat and malaria were a constant threat to the battalion, and it is telling that by the time the war ended, more men had died of disease, than had been killed in action.

William Hunter was disembodied from the Territorial Force suffering from malaria on 28th April 1919. He was awarded the Silver War Badge. He was pensioned for the disability the malaria caused, and originally came to Barwick, presumably to live with his parents until his health improved, but by July 1922, he had gained employment, with accommodation at St Anne’s Old Links Golf Club, where he was a Golf Groundsman.

On his return to Barwick, William Hunter lived with his wife, Frances, on Elmwood Lane.

He died in 1955.

The badge of the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment
The badge of the Queen's Royal (West Surrey) Regiment

Remembering the Fallen of Two Villages on the Eastern Fringes of Leeds.

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