Walter Pepper was born on 26th June 1885 at Standon and baptised on the 9th August the same year.
His parents were George and Ellen Pepper who married in 1883 at Royston. His father had various occupations from being a farm labourer, a roadman and a publican.
Including Walter, they had 9 children, 5 girls and 4 boys, two of the girls sadly died as children. Walter was the second eldest overall and the oldest boy. His brother, Charles Jubilee, who was born on 17th July 1887 (so named presumably in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee which was celebrated on 20th June 1887) also joined the Police and became a Metropolitan Constable.
During the 1891 census the family are found to be living at Standon Street, Standon although, as Walter appears in the register of the Roger de Clare School, Standon on the 28th October 1889, they obviously had been living in the village for some time.
At the time of the 1901 census their address is given as High Street, Standon but is probably the same house. Walter is employed as a Carman (delivery boy) for a Drapers.
Early Army Service.
His Army Service Record has not survived but from other sources we know that he enlisted at Stratford as Private L/8220 into the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment on the 16th May 1904 on short service of 3 years with the Colours and 9 in the Army Reserve. Having served for 3 years he went into the Reserve on the 16th May 1907.
Having left the Army, little is known about him for two years other than it appears that he returned to Standon, possibly living at home, as he was employed as a labourer by a Mrs Beatrice R. Headlam of Balsams House, Standon. He then applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
Walter’s Police Service Record has survived, and the following is revealed.
According to the Police Surgeon’s Certificate Walter Pepper was examined on 13th March 1909 by Lovell Drage, Surgeon who signed off this declaration: “I hereby certify that I have examined the above candidate as to his health and bodily strength and consider him fit for the Constabulary of this County”.
Walter’s description was recorded as follows: Age on Joining: 23 10/12 years. Place and date of Birth: Standon, Ware, 26 June 1885. Height: 5 feet 9 inches. Chest: 34 ½ inches. Complexion: fresh. Eyes: Hazel. Hair: Brown. Marks: Nil. Religion: Church of England. Benefit Society: Hearts of Oak. Amount of Weekly Benefit: 18/-. It was also noted that he was able to ride a bicycle but that he could not swim.
Having passed the medical, an entrance examination and an interview he would have been told when and where his training would start. At this time new recruits were given their initial training on Divisions, as opposed to Headquarters, so he started his Probation on 8th April 1909 at C Division, Watford.
On 11th May 1909 he was Approved of and Sworn in as Constable 145 before J.F. Watkins J.P. and S. Tapprell Holland J.P. at Watford but did not commence duties until 3rd June 1909 the date his pensionable service also began.
General Order 21 of 24th June 1909 announced that a number of officers would receive an increased rate of pay and additionally that PC Pepper 145 C had been Appointed on 23/11 per week from 3rd June 1909. This was an increase from the 21/7 per week he had started on in April.
On the 1st October 1909 Walter was accused of Neglect of Duty and called upon to resign being paid up to 5th October. The circumstances are not known but he must have had some very strong mitigation as after seeing the Chief Constable on 8th October the call for him to resign was cancelled. Instead he was directed to move to E Division at his own expense and to forfeit his pay whilst he had been under suspension (3 days). So, from the 9th October 1909 he was posted to E Division at Hitchin.
In December 1909 he passed his Ambulance certificate, an important qualification which entitled him to wear a badge on his lower left tunic sleeve to show he was trained in basic First Aid, but it was also a step on his career development and essential in order for him to qualify for a pay increase.
In General Order 2 of 13th January 1910 instructions are given to dozens of Police officers in connection with the General Election of January 1910. Voting was carried out over several days and schedules were drawn up detailing where and when officers would perform duty. The following excerpt refers to Walter.
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Northern or Hitchin Division on Friday 21st January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
E PC 145 Pepper W Hitchin Hitchin
Return of Officers and Men detailed for duty in the Western or Watford Division 27th January 1910.
Div. Rank No. Name Station Place for Duty
E PC 145 Pepper W Hitchin Great Berkhamsted
General Order 18 of 25th May 1910 confirmed that Walter would receive an increased rate of pay with effect from 5th May 1910 from 23/11 to 25/8 per week.
He went on to receive further increased rates of pay as follows: £1/6/10 per week from 29th June 1911, £1/7/5 per week from 1st October 1912, £1/8/0 per week from 3rd June 1913 and finally £1/9/2 per week from 3rd June 1914.
On 27th August 1910 Walter was again accused of Neglect of Duty and also Disobedience of Orders. Once more no details are available and, on this occasion, he was severely cautioned as to his future conduct which, in the scale of punishments available to the Chief Constable, was very much at the lower end.
On 29th October 1910 Walter married Bertha Mary Budd at Letchworth. She already had a son and they went on to have 3 daughters, Violet May born 12th October 1911 at Hitchin, Irene born 5th April 1914 at Hitchin and Marjorie born 13th August 1916 at Hitchin.
During the 1911 census Walter and his family were living at 16, Cannons Cottages, Hitchin and he is still listed at that address in the 1913 Electoral Roll.
If It’s Not Dogs, It’s Chickens.
Published on 3rd May 1913 in the Hertford Mercury:
“Hitchin Farmer and his Sporting Dogs
At the Hitchin Petty Sessions on Tuesday, Arthur Lidon, farmer, Basing Lodge, Hitchin, was summoned for keeping four greyhounds without licences on April 12. In reply to the charge defendant pleaded guilty but said he had taken the licences out since. PC Pepper proved the case. PS Freeman proved that on December 6, 1910, defendant was fined £1 2s 6d for a similar offence. The Bench fined defendant the value of the licences (30s), and 7s 6d costs.”
Published on 31st May 1913 in the Hertford Mercury:
“Theft of Fowls.
Randall Hough (45), labourer, of Hitchin was charged on remand last week with stealing eight fowls, the property of Frederick Jack, of Letchworth, on May 12 – PC Pepper deposed that on the morning of May 13 he was on duty in Nightingale Road and hearing footsteps approaching from the direction of Midland Cottages, he concealed himself and saw prisoner emerge from the Midland goods yard. Seeing that his pockets were bulky he asked what he had in them, and he replied ‘nothing’. When searched, witness found four dead fowls on him. Frances Jack, wife of the owner, deposed that fifteen fowls were kept in a house at the bottom of the garden. She saw them safe on Monday evening, and about 8.30 next morning she found that eight were missing. She informed the Police, and later identified four of the fowls as her property. She valued them at 3s each. Prisoner was convicted and sent to gaol for six weeks with hard labour”.
In the 1914 and 1915 Electoral Rolls Walter is listed as living at 39, Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin.
General Order 118 of 21st July 1915 is a list of 96 officers which included the Chief Constable, 43 Constables who were Army reservists who were recalled and 50 Constables and 2 Sergeants who volunteered for military service, Walter is shown as PC 145 Pepper W. E Division recalled to 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment on 4th August 1914.
Army Service During The War.
Although his Army Service record did not survive, we know the following from his Medal Rolls Index card, Medal Rolls, Commonwealth War Grave Commission records, the Army Roll of Honour, Soldiers Died in the Great War, the East Surrey Regiment 1st Battalion Rank And File Index 1916-1919 and newspaper articles:
Having been recalled on 4th August 1914 to the 1st Battalion, East Surrey Regiment as Private L/8220 he landed in France with them on 11th September 1914.
On 29th May 1916 Private 8220 W. Pepper of No. 2 Company, 1st East Surrey Regiment, age 32 years with 12 years’ service of which 21 months had been in the Field was found to be suffering from a P.U.O. or Pyrexia (fever) of Unknown Origin and was taken by the 14th Field Ambulance to No. 5 DRS (Divisional Rest Station).
On 28th July 1916 Private 8220 W. Pepper of 1st East Surrey Regiment was taken by the 14th Field Ambulance to the Casualty Clearing Station at Vecquemont suffering from shell shock where he was admitted to hospital.
Private 8220 W. Pepper of No. 2 Company, 1st East Surrey Regiment was granted or restored Proficiency Pay Class 1 @ 6d per diem from 1st May 1917.
Private 8220 W. Pepper of No. 2 Company, 1st East Surrey Regiment was granted Proficiency Pay Class I at 6d per diem from 1st July 1917.
On 22nd December 1917 Private 8220 W. Pepper of No. 2 Company, 1st East Surrey Regiment was transferred to the Military Mounted Police and posted to 4th Army M.M.P. as Lance Corporal P13932.
He was killed in action on 29th June 1918. He authorised his effects to go to his widow Bertha.
Published in 1918 in the Hertford Mercury:
PC Pepper, an ex-Police Constable of Hitchin, has been awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in action as a stretcher bearer. He was on the reserve and has been in France over three years. He is the eldest son of Mr and Mrs G. Pepper of Standon. He has received the award for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at the Passchendaele Ridge battle at the beginning of October last. For practically eight days, both day and night, he pluckily attended to his duties as stretcher bearer under heavy shell fire. At a critical time, company runners failed owing to wounds or death to return with messages, and he pluckily volunteered and not only took messages twice through the German barrage to headquarters but returned with replies to his company officer. He was complimented for his bravery and strongly recommended for distinction by several officers of his regiment. Having now served 13 years in the Army his time has expired, and he has been granted a month’s leave. He will however continue with the Colours for the duration of the war and has been transferred from the East Surreys to the M.M. Police”.
Published on the 27th July 1918 in the Hertford Mercury:
Reported Killed By Bomb.
Information has been received by Mrs Pepper, 39, Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin, that her husband, Corporal Walter Pepper M.M. Police, was killed by a bomb on June 29. The news has not yet been confirmed. Corporal Pepper joined up on August 5, 1914 and went to France on September 5 of the same year, having served for three years in the Regulars and for 7 ½ years in the Reserve. He first became attached to the East Surrey Regiment and was transferred to the Mounted Military Police in November 1917. Corporal Pepper won the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Passchendaele Ridge whilst acting as stretcher bearer to his company. Prior to joining up Corporal Pepper had been for five years a Police Constable at Hitchin, having been transferred from the Watford Division.”
From the Roll of Honour:
Pepper, W. (MM), Lance Corporal Military Mounted Police. He was mobilised in August 1914 and was shortly afterwards sent to France. He took part in the fighting at Arras and on the Somme and was wounded. On recovery, he re-joined his unit and during the fighting at Passchendaele was awarded the Military Medal for conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the field. He was subsequently killed in action near Doullons on June 29th, 1918, and was entitled to the 1914 Star, and the General Service and Victory medals. 39 Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin.
From the Commonwealth War Grave Commission records:
In Memory of Lance Corporal Walter Pepper MM. P/13932, Military Mounted Police, Military Police Corps who died on 29 June 1918 Age 33. Son of Mr and Mrs G. Pepper, of Standon, Ware, Herts., husband of Mr. B. M. Pepper, of 39, Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin, Herts. Remembered with Honour Bagneux British Cemetery, Gezaincourt. He is buried in Plot 3 Row C Grave no. 16. His widow asked for “The Souls of the Righteous are in the Hands of God” to be engraved on his headstone.
General Order 71 of 30th July 1918 announced:
“The Deputy Chief Constable regrets to announce that the following deaths have occurred.
1. L/Corpl. P13932 Walter Pepper Military Mounted Police Killed in Action 29th June 1918.
2. Pte. 202755 George Tatham 4th Essex Regiment Died of Wounds 4th July 1918.
Ex-PC Pepper 145 E Division Station Hitchin joined the Hertford County Constabulary 0n 8th April 1909 and was recalled to Active Service on 4th August 1914.
Ex-PC Tatham 310 F Division Station Hertford joined the Hertford County Constabulary on 9th March 1914 and enlisted in H. M. Army on 17th June 1915”.
General Order 58 of 26th February 1919 announced, amongst many different payments to various widows and Police pensioners, that under The Police Factories etc. (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1917, Walter’s widow Bertha had received £9 2s 11d as a refund of Rateable Deductions taken from his pay. This was because no pension was payable from Police Funds as she was already receiving a War Pension. The amount represented payments made over a period of 9 years 1 month of service.
Walter is remembered on the Standon War Memorial, the Hitchin Town Hall Memorial and the Hitchin WW1 Cross.