Chris Burge writes:
Walter Alexander was born on 5 December 1888 in Camberwellin southeast London. In the 1891 census he is recorded as one of four siblings living at Faraday Street, Walworth: Maud, aged 8; Phoebe, 3; Walter, 2; and James, 5 months. His parents William and Ellen were 63 and 52 respectively. Although it was not unknown for women to have children late in life, especially if they had many births, there is a question mark over the accuracy of the children’s recorded ages and their true relationship with the parents.
The family home was a three-storey property housing two other families totalling 16 people, close to the Michael Faraday Board School, St Stephen’s Church, the Newington Workhouse and the ‘Mineral Water Works’ in nearby Albany Street. William Alexander worked as a ‘traveller in mineral waters’. Walter’s infant brother James died in 1892 and his father William died in 1898. The family group is not found in the 1901 census.
On 31 January 1907 Walter, previously a grocer’s assistant, joined the Navy as a stoker, signing for 12 years’ service. He was described as 5ft 3in tall, with light brown hair, blue eyes and a fresh complexion. Advancement was slow, not least as Walter found himself in the cells more than once and in 1912 was given 30 days’ detention for insubordination. A more serious incident occurred on the very day Britain declared war on 5 August 1914. Walter was accused of inciting insubordination and attempting to strike. The nature of any grievance was not recorded. Walter was threatened with 90 days’ imprisonment and dismissal from the service, an order that was cancelled on 4 November. After this date, Walter’s conduct was good to very good and he served on HMS Virago in the China seas until July 1915 when he was shore-based for a few months.
Walter was a witness at the wedding of his sister Maud to George Thomas Dalton in Tooting on 17 October 1915. The couple lived in Leigh on Sea briefly before George Dalton volunteered under Lord Derby’s Group Scheme on 1 December 1915, and joined the Army. George was called up on 1 June 1916 and Maud moved to 244 South Lambeth Road, Stockwell.
The battle of Jutland took place on 1 June 1916 when Walter Alexander was on board the destroyer HMS Menace, part of the Twelfth Destroyer Flotilla which screened the Grand Fleet in the battle. Walter was transferred to another destroyer, HMS Prince, in October 1916.
In 1917, Walter was given leave to marry Beatrice Alice Selina Dalton, a younger sister of his brother-in-law George. The wedding took place on 3 June at St Andrew’s, Stockwell, and was witnessed by Walter’s mother Ellen and Beatrice’s father.The couple’s address was recorded as 40 Sidney Street, Stockwell. Walter returned to HMS Prince but his service extended beyond the war’s end when he served on the armed minesweeper HMS Fandango from April 1919. Walter was killed on 3 July 1919 when his ship struck an enemy mine and was wrecked during operations in the Dvina River in north Russia.
On 3 September 1919 Walter’s widow Beatrice gave birth to Winifred Elizabeth Alexander, who was baptised on 28 September. Walter was recorded as ‘killed in action’ in the Parish register. Beatrice was married for a second time in 1920 to Edmund Arthur Hartshorn and died in 1987 in Devon, aged 92. Walter’s married daughter Winifred passed way in London in 2002, aged 83.
Walter Alexander, the son of Ellen and William Alexander, was born on 5 December 1888 in Camberwell, southeast London. He joined the Navy in 1907 and married Beatrice Alice Selina Dalton at St Andrew’s Church, Stockwell Green, ten years later. Their daughter Winifred Elizabeth was born on 3 September 1919 and baptised at the same church.
Walter was killed when his ship, the HMS Fandango, struck a mine during operations in the Dvina River North Russia.
In 1920 Beatrice married Edmund Hartshorn, and lived at 40 Sidney Road, Stockwell.