Walter Skeggs was born on the 18th June 1889 at Lemsford.
His father, William Skeggs a Night Watchman, married his mother, Louisa Stiles (Styles), in 1878 at Hatfield. They had eight children all born in Lemsford, sadly, two of them died before the 1911 census:
- Frederick William born in 1879 and died in 1910.
- Edith Catherine born in 1881.
- Leonard born in 1883 and died in 1887.
- Ida born in 1886.
- Daisy Annie born in 1892.
- Ellen Muriel born in 1896.
- Lillian or Lily born in 1898.
During the 1891 and 1901 census returns the family were living at Lemsford, Hatfield. By the time of the 1911 census they had moved and were living at 1, Ground Lane, Hatfield and Walter was employed as a general labourer.
Little is known about the next three years of Walter’s life except that he was employed as a Plate Layer for Great Northern Railway and he got married.
Walter married Elizabeth Emily Brace on the 22nd March 1913 at the Parish Church, Little Heath. They had three children:
- Gladys Helen born in 1914 at Hatfield.
- Joan Muriel born in 1917 at Hitchin.
- Gilbert born and died in 1924 at Bishops Stortford.
Walter then applied to join the Hertford County Constabulary.
As part of the process Walter underwent a medical examination by the Force Surgeon at Police Headquarters, Hatfield on the 8th August 1914 to determine whether he was fit enough for Police duties. He would also have had an interview and would have been told when to report for training.
Walter’s Hertford County Constabulary Form 3 Police Service Record has survived and shows that he was Appointed as Constable 192 on the 10th August 1914 earning £1/4/6 per week. The following was recorded: He said he was born on the 18th June 1889 at Lemsford, his height was 5 feet 8 ¼ inches, chest: 34 ½ – 37 inches, complexion fair, eyes blue and his hair dark brown. He said he could ride a pedal cycle but could not swim. He gave his next of kin as his wife.
He would have undergone his Probationer training at Police Headquarters and was in Class 10 with Sergeant 57 Cousins and PC 20 Wright as his instructors. During his training Walter was Attested on the 24th August 1914 at Hatfield. At the end of his training he was taken onto the Roster and posted on the 18th September 1914 to E Division at Hitchin.
On the 6th December 1914 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.
General Order 133 of the 18th August 1915 and General Order 105 of the 9th September 1916 informed Walter that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/4/6 to £1/5/8 per week from the 10th August 1915 and from £1/5/8 to £1/6/10 per week from the 10th August 1916, respectively.
General Order 47 of the 14th June 1917 was a list of 16 Constables, including Walter, who had signified their desire to sit the examination for promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. The necessary examination papers were prepared and forwarded to the Superintendents concerned. The examination was held in accordance with the rules laid down in Order 192/1915.
General Order 68 of the 6th August 1917 announced the result of the Examination for Promotion from Second Class to First Class Constable. Walter was one of those that qualified having sat the exam in his Superintendent’s office on the 28th June 1917.
General Order 77 of the 10th September 1917 informed Walter that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £1/6/10 to £1/7/5 per week from the 10th August 1917.
General Order 97 of the 17th November 1917 instructed Walter that he was being transferred from E Division at Hitchin to F Division at Bayford from the 26th November 1917.
(Abridged) Published on the 16th February 1918 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: At the Herts Winter Assizes, two soldiers, Dormer and Mulholland, were put on trial on charges of housebreaking and theft. Both men pleaded guilty and Mr Nadrett prosecuted and reviewed the evidence. At the Hertford County Sessions, on the Saturday, 2 soldiers, Private Harry Dormer (28), 20346, of the 5th Bedfordshire Regiment and Private John Mulholland (20), 9421, M.G.C. were charged with housebreaking and stealing at Bayford, and also stealing at Easneye Park, Ware. Police Constable Walter Skeggs, of Bayford, stated that on Monday, January 28th, at 3.00 p.m., he was on duty in the Broxbourne Road near Black Fan Cottages which were not occupied at the time, when he found a window that had been forced open with a spanner. There were footmarks on the chairs inside the house where the intruders had stepped in. On trying the back door, he found that it was unlocked. He then informed the tenant, Mrs Taylor, and, after making a search, she handed him a list of missing articles and some soldiers’ shirts, pants and socks, which did not belong to her, which she had found stuffed up the chimney.
At the hearing at the Assizes, Superintendent Pear said that, from enquiries, he had found that the defendants had been at liberty some weeks in the district and had been sleeping rough. They had represented to several people that they were on leave from France and, by telling various tales, had obtained food and lodging in some places. Evidence was given that the men were deserters.
His Lordship said that the men had been about with tales of their ‘prowess’ and ‘valour’ and had enlisted the charity of people who were only too glad to do anything they could for brave soldiers who had fought or were fighting. They were not content, however, with getting food and hospitality, but plundered the people at the same time. He was glad that the British Army was not composed of men like them. Dormer was sentenced to 6 months, and Mulholland to 9 months; both hard labour.
Army Service During The War.
Walter’s Army Service Record has survived and from this we know the following: Walter enlisted on the 10th December 1915 at Hitchin and on the 11th December 1915, he was transferred to Section B Army Reserve and returned to his Police duties. This was part of what was known as the Derby Scheme. Thousands of men around the country including dozens of Hertfordshire Police Officers enlisted under the scheme. The Hertfordshire Officers mainly enlisted between the 9th and the 11th December 1915. Every Section B Reservist was issued with an individually numbered Khaki Armlet with a red Crown displayed on it which was to be worn on the upper left arm to demonstrate they were a Reservist and were waiting to be mobilised.
The following was recorded: He gave his name address as 32, Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin, his age as 26 years 6 months and his trade as Police Constable. He said he was married but had not served in the Military before.
His description on enlistment was recorded as: Apparent age: 26 years 6 months. Height: 5 feet 8 ½ inches. Chest 36 ½ inches 2 inch expansion. Distinctive marks: Mole left of abdomen and back. He gave his religion as Church of England and his next of kin as his wife Mrs. Elizabeth Emily Skeggs of 32, Periwinkle Lane, Hitchin later crossed through and replaced with Bayford near Hertford.
His Medical History Army Form B178 recorded that he was examined at Hertford on the 16th April 1918 and it noted the same information as his description on enlisting with the addition that he said he was born at Hatfield, his weight was 154 lbs., his hair brown, complexion fresh, eyes blue, his physical development was good and he had identifying marks of a mole on his left of abdomen and back of neck, 2 moles on his left armpit.
On the 23rd April 1918 Walter was one of fifteen Hertford County Constabulary Police Constables who were Mobilised at the same time. Ten joined the Grenadier Guards and five, including Walter, as Coldstream Guards. Walter joined as 25900 in the 1st (Provisional) Battalion, Coldstream Guards at Caterham. The others were 25004 Herbert Frank Deer, 26009 Samuel Harrowell, 26168 Frederick Robert Smith and 24772 Arthur Eames. Other than perhaps their initial training there is no evidence to show that they served together.
On the 7th August 1918 Walter was posted to the Provisional Battalion, Coldstream Guards at Windsor. On the 1st November 1918 he was posted to the 1st Battalion and embarked at Folkestone and disembarked at Boulogne. On the 5th November 1918 he joined the Base Battalion. The following day he was at the No. 39 General Hospital at Le Havre and four days later joined the Base Battalion Harfleur. On the 17th November he joined his Battalion in the field.
On the 5th March 1919 he embarked at Dunkirk for England arriving the following day at the Dispersal Centre. On the 4th May 1919 he transferred to Class Z Army Reserve.
His Protection Certificate and Certificate of Identity. Army Form Z11 records: Name: Walter Skeggs. Regtl. No. 25900. Rank: Guardsman. Record Office: Buckingham Gate. Unit: 1st Battalion. Regt.: Coldstream Guards. Pay Office: London Command. Address for pay: Bayford near Hertford. Granted 28 day furlough. Theatre of War: France. Year born: 1889. Medical category: A1. Place for re-enlisting in emergency: Windsor. Specialist Military Qualification: Nil. Issued: 6th April 1919 Purfleet.
He was awarded the British War and Victory medals.
Like every other soldier Walter would have been granted 28 days leave on his demobilisation and he would have used this time to apply to re-join the Police. He would have had to have undergone a Medical Examination by the Force Surgeon to ensure that he was still fit enough for Police duties. He would have been re-Appointed on the day following the date of the end of his leave period.
Re-joining The Police.
General Order 100 of the 23rd April 1919 announced that Walter was one of three men to be re-appointed having been released from H.M. Army. It showed him as PC 192 Skeggs W. F Division at Bayford from the 22nd April 1919 at £2/7/0 per week.
Each officer had to be formally re-attested. The Superintendents concerned had to report when this has been done showing date, place of attestation and by whom sworn. He was medically examined the same day and re-Attested on the 3rd May. The 1919 to 1922 Electoral Rolls list Walter and Eliza Skeggs as living at Well Row, Bayford.
The following General Orders all informed Leonard he would receive an increase of pay on the 10th August of the year shown: General Order 182 of the 20th August 1919 from £3/18/0 to £4/0/0 per week. General Order 138 of the 12th August 1921 from £4/2/0 to £4/4/0 per week. General Order 109 of the 18th August 1922 from £4/4/0 to £4/6/0 per week.
General Order 120 of the 9th September 1922 instructed Walter that he would be transferred from B Division at Bayford to A Division at Bishops Stortford and to occupy the house being vacated by ex-PC 31 Bennett. His Police Service Record shows he actually moved on the 26th September 1922. The 1922 to 1930 Electoral Rolls record Walter and Eliza Skeggs as living at 140, South Street, Bishops Stortford.
General Order 148 of the 16th August 1923 and General Order 149 of the 1st September 1924 informed Walter that he would receive an increased rate of pay from £4/6/0 to £4/8/0 per week from the 10th August 1923 and from £4/8/0 to £4/10/0 per week from the 10th August 1924, respectively.
Funeral Of PC Saunders.
Published on the 13th February 1926 in the Hertfordshire Mercury: The funeral of PC Saunders took place at Little Hadham Church, on January 30th. The church was crowded. Superintendent Wright, of Bishop’s Stortford, made the police arrangements for the funeral. Following the mourning coaches were 21 Constables of the Bishop’s Stortford or ‘A’ Division, Superintendent Wright, Inspector Herbert (Ware) and Sergeant Downing (Much Hadham ) were the police officers in charge. When the cortege reached the church the police lined either side of the road and formed a guard of honour for the procession to pass through into the church. Six Constables, PC Gillett, PC Barker, PC D.H. Gillett, PC Hill, PC Spencer and PC Skeggs acted as bearers. The Rev. C. Dale-Williams, the Rector, officiated. Among those present were some members of the local branch of the British Legion, as well as members of the Police Force, Mr. W. Hastings representing the Much Hadham Men’s Institute, of which the deceased was a member. Among the tributes of affection were wreaths from the ‘A’ or Bishop’s Stortford Division, from his old comrades, from the Hadham branch of the British Legion and from Much Hadham Men’s Institute. It was a very impressive funeral and on all sides the greatest respect to the memory of the deceased who had so worthily served his country and county both as a soldier and a very efficient member of the Herts County Constabulary.
A Minor Blemish.
On the 12th August 1929, the Chief Constable reprimanded Walter for making use of an improper expression to Mr. Geoffrey Cory Wright of the Manor House, Knebworth at 3.30 a.m. on the 8th August 1929 at Bishops Stortford.
Walter’s Police Service Record shows that he was transferred to A Division at Chipping on the 30th March 1931.
Another Minor Blemish.
On the 1st November 1935 the Chief Constable cautioned Walter and PC 310 Arthur Samuel Brown for failing to carry out instructions to stop all vehicle and examine their contents at 2.25 a.m. on the 20th October 1935 at Anstey.
Retirement And Life After The Police.
Walter retired on pension as a Constable on the 9th August 1939 having completed his 25 years’ service.
Published on the 1st September 1939 in the Hertford Mercury and Reformer under the headline Presentation: PC Skeggs of Bishops Stortford who recently retired from the Hertfordshire Constabulary, was presented with an easy chair from the parishioners of Chipping, Buckland and other friends last week. The presentation was made by the Rev. A.J. McKinney, who voiced the good wishes of the subscribers, and Mr. Stanley Pigg also thanked Mr. and Mrs. Skeggs for the help they had given with the social life of the village.
The 1939 Register records Walter, a Police Pensioner retired, and Elizabeth Skeggs and their daughter Joan as living at 11A, Potter Street, Bishop’s Stortford.
Walter’s Police Service Record shows that from the 24th January 1969 he was living c/o Rooks Nest Farm, Therfield, Royston.
Walter Skeggs died on the 8th June 1969 at Clare Hall Hospital, South Mimms.