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Royal Engineers
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, 1999

Early Life (1863-1884)

John Walter Walton was born in 1863 in the Parish of Aynho, near the town of Banbury, in the County of Northamptonshire. He was the son of George Walton of Aynho. Walton’s home town was a quaint village known for the unusual practice of growing apricots on the walls of its stone cottages. Aynho is located approximately 5.5 miles southeast of Banbury and 17 miles due north of Oxford. Nearby Banbury was a flourishing market town famous for its cakes and ales. The town was also famous for the Banbury Cross, famous in nursery rhyme, that was destroyed by Puritans and replaced in 1859, only four years before young John Walton’s birth.

As a young man, John Walton developed skills as both a painter and a plumber. Although he worked in these trades, he never served an apprenticeship under any skilled tradesman. John was never in trouble with the law as a young man and had no criminal record at the time of his enlistment in the Army. He had no prior military service and had not served with any volunteer unit prior to his enlistment in the Regular Army. He was raised by his family as a member of the Church of England.

Enlistment and Training (1884-1885)

John Walton was recruited for service in Her Majesty’s forces by Sergeant John Hedges of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. The 3rd Battalion was a Militia battalion, known as the 1st Warwick Militia, and was headquartered in the town of Warwick. The village of Aynho apparently was in Sergeant Hedges’ recruiting area.

Walton was required to travel to Birmingham to have a medical examination and to complete the necessary forms for enlistment after being recruited by Sergeant Hedges. On the 20th of November 1884, Walton enlisted in the Army. He elected to serve in the Royal Engineers and, by virtue of his civilian trades, he was qualified to serve in that Corps. He opted for a Short Service enlistment for a period of five years with the Colours followed by seven years in the 1st Class Army Reserve.

Walton took the Oath of Attestation at Birmingham on the 20th of November. The oath was administered to him by Magistrate Joseph Smallwood, Justice of the Peace for the area, and was witnessed by Sergeant John Hedges, who appeared to have remained very close to Walton in order to ensure that he would receive credit for Walton’s enlistment. John Walton’s service papers give the following description of him at the time of his enlistment:

Age: 21 years
Height: 5 feet 6 inches
Weight: 133 pounds
Chest measurement: 34 inches
Complexion: Fresh
Eyes: Grey
Hair: Light brown
Distinctive Marks: None

Based on the physical requirements of the period for service in the Royal Engineers, John Walton just met the minimum requirements of height and chest measurement.

John Walton was given his final medical examination at Birmingham on the same date as his enlistment. His service papers do not indicate that he was ever given a primary medical examination as was customary during this period. The purpose of the primary examination was to immediately eliminate any recruit who was obviously unsuitable for service. Walton must have appeared to be a fit candidate. At any rate, the Surgeon Major of the Army Medical Department who examined him did find him fit for service in the Army. Captain W.E. Scott, the Adjutant of the 4th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, gave Walton his primary military examination at Birmingham and also found him fit for military service. On the 25th of November 1884, John Walton’s enlistment was approved by Colonel H.B. Feilden, Officer Commanding the 6th Regimental District at Warwick. Colonel Feilden signed the Certificate of the Approving Field Officer on Walton’s attestation papers, thereby approving him for service in the Royal Engineers. John Walton was assigned Regimental Number 19311 and the rank of Sapper. Sapper Walton immediately proceeded to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham where he would undergo a year of basic training as an engineer soldier.

Home Service (1885-1898)

Sapper Walton was awarded a 4th Class Certificate of Education on the 18th of December 1884, less than one month after his enlistment. He appears to have been a soldier who valued education, for on the 17th of September 1885 he received his 3rd Class Certificate of Education. Both of these certificates were earned while he was in training at Chatham.

Sapper Walton completed his basic training in about November of 1885. It appears that he was kept on at Chatham after the completion of his training. Based on his subsequent assignments, it appears that Walton may have been assigned to a Fortress Company or a Submarine Mining Company while stationed at Chatham. During this period there were two Fortress Companies stationed at there, the 5th and the 41st. The 20th and 21st Companies, R.E. were also stationed at Chatham during this period. These units were both Submarine Mining Companies. It is also possible that Sapper Walton may have been assigned to one of the Depot Companies following the completion of his training. There were eight Depot Companies at Chatham at that time. Unfortunately, Walton’s service papers do not provide any information indicating to which unit he might have been assigned.

Sapper Walton was awarded Good Conduct Pay at the rate of one penny (1.d.) per day on the 20th of November 1886 and was appointed to the rank of Lance Corporal on the 12th of September 1887. On the 13th of March 1888 he received his 2nd Class Certificate of Education, indicating his further desire to advance his education. Shortly after receiving this certificate, on the 15th of May 1888, Walton was promoted to the rank of 2nd Corporal.

On the 1st of April 1889, Walton was promoted to the rank of Corporal. His promotion to Corporal, with less than 5 years in the service, is an indication of his proficiency in his trade and as a soldier.

John Walton married Kate Falkner Freeman at Gillingham, Kent, without leave, on the 10th of August 1890. Since Mrs. Walton was not taken on the married establishment, it would seem likely that she continued to live with her family in nearby Gillingham while her husband was serving at Chatham. An entry in Walton’s service records indicates that after his marriage he changed his next of kin from his father to his wife Kate, and that Kate was living at 48 James Street in New Brompton.

Within the four months following his marriage, it appears that Corporal Walton decided that he would stay with the Colours for the full term of his first enlistment. On the 26th of December 1890 he extended to complete 12 years of service. His extension provides further evidence that he was serving at Chatham. The entry in his service record approving his extension of service was made by 2nd Lieutenant H.W. Kelsall, R.E. with the authority of the Commandant of the School of Military Engineering. The fact that the Commandant of the School approved his extension may point to Walton being assigned to one of the Depot Companies at this time.

The Walton’s first child, Henry George, was born on the 5th of October 1891. The birth of Henry George Walton was recorded in Corporal Walton’s military service papers by Captain C.F Mould, R.E. As the 1890 Army List indicates that Captain Mould was assigned to Chatham at this time, it appears that Corporal Walton was still at Chatham when his son was born.

Walton was promoted to the rank of Sergeant on the 1st of August 1892, less than eight years from his date of enlistment. His second son, Frederick John, was born on the 5th of February 1896 and it was Captain Mould who again made the appropriate entry in Walton’s service record; hence, it appears that Walton was still at Chatham in 1896.

Sometime shortly after the birth of Frederick John, Sergeant Walton was posted from Chatham to the Plymouth area, probably to a Fortress Company or a Submarine Mining Company. On the 21st of February 1896 he made application to re-engage to complete 21 years of service with the Colours. His request was approved on that date by the Commander Royal Engineers (CRE) at Plymouth.

Sergeant Walton continued serving at Plymouth until the end of 1898. On the 1st of April 1898 he elected to come under new messing regulations in accordance with a Special Army Order that took effect on that date. The specific details of that Special Army Order are not known.

Walton’s long period of home service finally came to an end on the 10th of December 1898 when he embarked for service in Hong Kong. At this time there were two engineer units stationed in Hong Kong; the Hong Kong Company (Submarine Miners) and the 25th Fortress Company, R.E. It is not known to which unit Walton was assigned as his service records are not complete in this regard; however, whichever company it was, Walton was soon to become its senior non-commissioned officer. On the 1st of October 1901 Sergeant Walton was promoted to the rank of Company Sergeant Major.

Company Sergeant Major Walton was brought on the married establishment while in Hong Kong. His wife and children were probably with him at the time. On the 19th of November 1902, Company Sergeant Major Walton completed 18 years of service with the Colours. He was now eligible to receive the Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Although eligible, he would not receive the medal until eight months later.

Walton and his family returned to England on the 27th of December 1902 after having served a total of 4 years and 14 days overseas. At that time he was posted to No. 4 (Humber) Section of the Coastal Battalion, R.E. at Paull on Humber. No. 4 Section was commanded by Captain C. Ealden, R.E.

Captain Ealden recommended Company Sergeant Major Walton for the Long Service and Good Conduct medal on the 1st of July 1903 and the medal was awarded to him on the 15th of July. On the 1st of April 1904 Company Sergeant Major Walton elected to receive, and was granted, Service Pay Class I under Army Order 66 of 1902. Service Pay (also known as Skill or Proficiency Pay) was awarded to non-commissioned officers in the "special arms" who displayed exceptional skill in their military trade. In the engineers this extra pay was provided in 7 classes, with Class I being the highest.

Company Sergeant Major Walton finished out his 21 years of service at Paull on Humber and was discharged there on the 19th of November 1905 in consequence of termination of his second period of limited engagement. His total service at the time of his discharge was reckoned at 21 years exactly.

At the time of his discharge, Walton was eligible for five Good Conduct Badges, although he did not receive them at the normal intervals since they only were awarded to men in the rank of Corporal and below and Walton rose to the rank of Sergeant very rapidly. As indicated above, he was in possession of the Long Service and Good Conduct medal (Edward VII). His conduct during his total period of service was rated as "Exemplary" on his discharge documents.

Company Sergeant Major Walton was in possession of a 2nd Class Certificate of Education when he was discharged. Unfortunately, he was never able to earn the 1st Class Certificate. His trades were listed as "Painter" and "Plumber" and his commander wrote this of him concerning his special qualifications for employment in civilian life:

"J.W. Walton is a Plumber by trade, but seeks employment as Caretaker, Timekeeper, or Storeman, for which employment he is very suitable."

Walton’s intended place of residence after his discharge was his childhood home at Aynho, near Banbury, in Oxfordshire.

At the time of his discharge, Company Sergeant Major Walton was 42 years of age. He is described as being 5 feet 7-1/4 inches tall with a fully expanded chest measurement of 40-1/2 inches and a range of expansion of 2-1/4 inches. His complexion was still described as fresh and his hair was still light brown. He had no distinctive marks on his body.

Company Sergeant Major Walton’s accounts were found to be correctly balanced by Captain Ealden and his discharge was approved on the 19th of November 1905 by Colonel G.F. Leverson, Commander Royal Engineers of the Newcastle Sub-District of the Northern Command with headquarters at Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Walton left the Army without receiving the 5 Pound gratuity awarded with the Long Service and Good Conduct medal, and without compensation for a clothing allowance that was due him. He applied for these payments and received them in full on the 29th of November 1905.

Post Service Life

Little is known about John Walter Walton’s life after leaving the Army. It is known that he was a Royal Engineer Pensioner and that at the time of his death he was receiving 75 Pounds, 6 Shillings and 5 Pence per annum. He died at Kidderminster in Hereford and Worcestershire on the 23rd of February 1941 at the age of 78. His death certificate lists the causes of death as cerebral thrombosis and arteriosclerosis.



1. CONOLLY, T.W.J. Roll of Officers of the Corps of Royal Engineers From 1660 to 1898. The Royal Engineers Institute, Chatham, Kent, 1898.
2. FARWELL, B. Mr. Kipling’s Army: All the Queen’s Men. W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1981.
3. GRIERSON, J.M. Scarlet Into Khaki: The British Army on the Eve of the Boer War. Greenhill Books, London, 1988.
4. BAKER-BROWN, W. The History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. Volume IV. The Institution of Royal Engineers, Chatham, Kent, 1952.
5. SKELLEY, A.R. The Victorian Army at Home: The Recruitment and Terms and Conditions of the British Regular, 1859-1899. McGill-Queen’s University Press, Montreal, 1977.


1. WO97/6162. Soldier’s Service Papers. Public Record Office, London.

a. Short Service Attestation (Army Form B. 265).
b. Proceedings on Discharge (Army Form B. 268).
c. Death Certificate of Pensioner (Army Form O. 1707).

2. WO102/17. Long Service and Good Conduct Medal Roll.


1. AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION. AA Motorists Atlas of Great Britain. Basingstoke, 1984.
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1. HMSO. The Monthly Army List, April 1890.
2. REGIMENT. Regiment Magazine, Issue 13, April/May 1996, The Corps of Royal Engineers.


1. GEN UKI. http://www.skynet.co.uk.genuki/org/big/eng/NIH/Aynho.
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