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Walter “Tubby” Farrer (1889-1981)

Bede scholar served in the Royal Field Artillery discharged due to the effects of gas

Walter Farrer was born on 25 September 1889 in Bowness, Westmorland. He was one of seven children born to James and Mary Agnes Farrer, six of whom were still alive in 1911. In 1901 the Farrer family were still living in Bowness and Walter’s father was working as a stone mason. By 1909 Walter had left the family home to board at Beresford Road in Bowness. At the time of the 1911 census Walter had moved to board at Station Road in Appleby and was working as an assistant teacher.

In 1911 Walter began studying at Bede College, a teacher training college in Durham, where it seems he was given the nickname “Tubby”.

Walter attested into the army on 9 November 1915 having previously been part of the 2nd Reserve Durham Light Infantry for two years, possibly whilst studying at Bede College. At the time of his attestation he was living in Sacriston. Having attested into the Royal Field Artillery, Walter served as part of several brigades before embarking for France on 3 July 1917. He is first ranked as a driver, suggesting he would have been involved in driving the horses who pulled the guns. Walter then became a lance-bombardier.

On 31 July 1918 Walter was admitted to the 5th General Hospital in Rouen, with his medical records stating a severe gas shell wound. Following this, Walter was transported on a hospital ship to England and discharged on 4 February 1919. He was awarded the Silver War Badge, given to service men honourably discharged due to wounds or sickness from military service.

Walter was awarded the Military Medal, announced in the London Gazette on 21 October 1918. He was then awarded the Croix de Guerre, announced in the London Gazette on 31 December 1918. There is a citation for one of these awards, probably the Military Medal, in the December edition of the Bede Magazine:

“On the morning of May 27th, 1918, when the whole battery position was subjected to a very heavy hostile barrage, this N.C.O. volunteered to repair the wires between the battery and the Observation Posts, as they were constantly being cut by shell-fire. He went out under heavy shell-fire on three occasions, and was successful in maintaining communication, thus enabling observed fire to be directed on the advancing enemy. Again on June 6th, during a hostile attack, he maintained communication between the Battery and the O. P. and laid a new line. Later, when the wood in which the O. P. was situated was on fire by hostile shelling, he extinguished the fire regardless of his own personal safety. Throughout the retirement he has always displayed coolness, bravery, and devotion to duty.”

On 9 May 1917 Walter married Dora Storey in Durham, the daughter of a coal miner from Sacriston. At the time of the 1939 Register Walter was working as a school master in Ebchester. He is also listed as an Air Raid Precaution (ARP) warden with his wife as a first aid helper for the ARP. The couple have one child living with them; Walter R Farrer, born on 25 June 1922. Walter died in Newcastle in 1981.

A coloured cartoon drawn by Walter has been found in a scrapbook belonging to Harry Gordon who was a scholar at Bede College at the same time as Walter.

Civil Parish: Durham Elvet

Birth date: 25-Sep-1889

Death date: 1981

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: South Terrace, Bowness (1901 Census)
Station Road, Appleby (1911 Census)
Beresford Road, Bowness (1909 Electoral Roll)
Woodside Cottages, Sacriston (Attestation Papers)
17 Flass Street, Durham (Wife’s Address, Service Records)
School House, Whittonstall, Ebchester, Durham (1939 Register)

Education: St Bede College, Durham 1911-1913

Organisation membership: Bede College Smoke Hole Committee 1912/13

Employment: Assistant Schoolmaster (1911 Census)
Schoolteacher (Service Records)
Schoolmaster (1939 Register)

Family: Parents: James Farrer, Mary Agnes Farrer nee Keith
Siblings: William Farrer, Grace Farrer, Annie A Farrer, Edgar Farrer, James Farrer
Wife: Dora Farrer nee Storey
Children: Walter R. Farrer

Military service:

Royal Field Artillery
Driver, Lance Bombardier
Service Numbers 3066, 770621

Medal(s): Military Medal
Croix de Guerre
Silver War Badge
British War Medal
Victory Medal

Gender: Male

Contributed by Fiona Johnson - Durham