Diane Gassman, who lives in Italy near the Giavera British Cemetery has recently contacted us. She feels compelled to find out more about a soldier who is buried there. She was moved by the poignant inscription on his gravestone, which reads:
“May some loving hand gently place some flowers for me, his mother”
It is the grave of Lance Sergeant Roberts, 11603, 1st Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers. His full name was Walter Price Roberts and he was from Rhyl. Details on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website tell us that he was the son of Edward and Ellen Roberts. He died on October 26th, 1918 aged 23.
The Italians entered the First World War on the Allied side, declaring war on Austria, in May 1915. Commonwealth forces were at the Italian front between November 1917 and November 1918. To read more historical information click here.
“After the battle at Caporetto, the British troops remained for a long time on Montello (hilly area) and along the Piave River. Their entry into the first line allowed for a much faster reorganization of the Italian army in the Arrest Battle and in the subsequent Solstice and Vittorio Veneto Battles. The 417 marble slabs scattered on a field, all the same except for some phrases dictated by relatives, together with those of the Tezze di Vazzola cemetery, remember this important contribution of the British allies. The area expresses a special conception of death during war and honour to the fallen, represented by different styles and symbols of Italian shrines.”
“This battle is what stopped the Austrian/German advancement and saved Italy. My maternal grandmother is from here and she said the Piave River ran red with blood.”
At the entrance to the cemetery is a sign which reads (in Italian, English, French and German):
“The enemy troops that occupied the surrounding forests immediately opened fire and many of our men fell, never to rise again.”
“Beyond the Piave” Norman Gladden.
In his book “Rhyl Lads in Foreign Fields”, Darryl Porrino says that Walter enlisted in Rhyl at the start of the war on August 12th, 1914, as a private. He was promoted to Corporal and then to Lance Sergeant. He died at the 9th Casualty Clearing Station of influenza just before the end of the war.
The 1918 flu pandemic (Spanish flu) was unusually deadly and killed between 50 to 100 million people — three to five percent of the world’s population, making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history. Read more about the 1918 flu pandemic on Wikipedia
Does Walter’s family still live locally? Does anyone have a photograph of Walter? By looking at the 1911 Census we know that the family lived at 37, Sisson Street. Walter had six brothers and sisters: Nellie, Jennie, Edward, Esther, Herbert and Mona. Walter was an apprentice boot maker before he went to war.
I’m sure that Walter’s mother, Ellen, would be pleased and comforted to know that almost 100 years later that someone is still caring for Walter and his grave.
If anyone has any information please e-mail the club: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also still searching for information about a WW2 casualty Sgt P.A. Turner, for more information click here.