Walter Belgian was an employee of the Co-operative Wholesale Society flour mill at Dunston, near Newcastle. In the 1911 census, he was shown to have been married with two children and living with his widowed mother and two brothers.
He joined the Northumberland Fusiliers, 1st/6th Battalion during the early part of the war. He was sent to the Western Front, landing in France in April 1915. He fought briefly in Flanders, but unfortunately Belgian was killed in action on 28 April 1915. He was buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, France.
Belgian’s name was included on the list of the dead in an article in the Co-operative News on 15 May 1915. This list included fourteen names, all of whom were CWS employees who had been killed up until that point in the war. The CWS had decided to pay three months wages to the families of the deceased, which they continued to do until the end of the war.
After the war, a memorial was erected in the North East Co-operative Headquarters bearing Belgian’s name, along with 98 other names of co-operators who had died while fighting in the First World War. This memorial can now be found in the Discovery Museum in Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.
Co-operative News, 5 May 1915, page 643.
WWI co-operative voices
This post is part of ‘WWI co-operative voices’ which shares the stories of co-operative workers and members during the conflict. In order to mark the centenary of the WWI, the Rochdale Pioneers Museum is staging an exhibition entitled ‘From shop floor to front line’ and the accounts of these soldiers, shop workers and conscientious objectors will run alongside it. They are tales of death, duty and of those who chose not to fight.
Through ‘WWI co-operative voices’ we will be releasing new posts about these individuals throughout the duration of the exhibition (due to open mid-May 2015 and run until May 2016). Read about the co-operative movement’s involvement in a war that shook the world by selecting a name from the column on the left. You can also follow us on social media for regular updates.
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We wish to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund for supporting the ‘From shop floor to front line’ exhibition and project.