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Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Soldiers of the Great War; The Fredericton Soldier Biography History Initiative

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Adams, Walter Jackson

Gunner 2100320
9th Battery, Canadian Siege Battery
12th Battery, Canadian Siege Battery

Background

Gunner Walter Jackson Adams was born December 7, 1896 in Fredericton, New Brunswick to Sarah Haines Macfarlane and Robert Brooke Adams. His parents married September 19, 1894 in the parish of St. Mary’s. Walter had two sisters named Jean L. and Roberta and two brothers named James and Bert. Records reveal that his family lived in Fredericton, New Brunswick and resided at 607 Queen Street. According to Temple Sutherland’s memoir Walter Adams’ father worked as an undertaker and later was the sexton at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. While few records exist to account for Walter’s early life, newspapers indicate that he was incredibly well-liked by the Fredericton community and would grow up to be active with the city band and the Presbyterian Church choir. His service record reveals that he would become an employee of the government as a mail carrier in the community and, according to newspapers, would always have a “cheery word and pleasant smile for everyone whom he met”. Perhaps most important about his character was his willingness to help others. Wilfred Allen recalled in an interview given June 12, 1994, that “Walter Adams saved my life during the winter of 1913-14… we used to slide out onto the river’s ice. One time I miscalculated and slid right into the open water. I went under and the other kids all started hollering… Walter Adams was a mailman and was walking by on his route when he heard the noise and rushed down and pulled me to safety”.

At the time of his formal enlistment at Partridge Island, New Brunswick, September 6, 1917, Walter was a 20 years old and unmarried, just two months shy of his birthday, and described as having hazel eyes, dark brown hair, fresh complexion, and being about five feet eight inches tall. Along with many other Fredericton boys, Walter would join the 9th Siege Battery and would soon begin preparing to go overseas that winter with a draft in what had been described as one of the finest trained batteries in Canada. On October 6, 1917, Walter would write his formal will while at Partridge Island, giving everything he had to his mother, Sarah.

Wartime Experience

On December 18, 1917, Gunner Walter Jackson Adams embarked from Saint John, New Brunswick on the S.S. Grampian for Halifax, Nova Scotia before heading to Glasgow, Scotland. Temple Sutherland’s memoir recounts how the devastation of the Halifax Explosion kept men on their ships before a thirteen day journey overseas arriving on December 31. Walter would transfer to the 12th Canadian Siege Battery January 22, 1918 before landing in France June 2, after more than five months of training in England. Before this, while on leave in England, Walter and Gordon Boyd would bike to the town of Rye, visiting relatives of the Smith family, from Fredericton. Walter would attend church on Sundays when given the opportunity.

After arriving in France, the 12th Siege Battery would take part in the German Spring Offensive of 1918 where they would be responsible for defending the area around Lens and Vimy and reinforcing the 3rd Brigade, Canadian Garrison Artillery. Four months later, at 1:30 in the afternoon on October 3, while along the Amiens Front, near Haynecourt, Walter Adams’ battery position was heavily shelled killing him instantly. In a letter written home on October 4, 1918, Walter’s friend Albert McElveney speaks highly of the young man.

“Well, mother, this has been a sad two days for me. Walter Adams was killed yesterday and we buried him today. I was talking and joking with him not five minutes before. Saw him get his cup and plate and go for dinner about twenty yards away. But poor Walter did not return, for a shell landed in the cook house and twenty-two casualties was the result. He was the only one killed instantly. He and I have been such great friends since coming to France and have had such good times together. I know this… that a better living boy could not be. I certainly feel it keenly myself, as I have lost one of the best friends I ever had, and it sure has cast a gloom over the whole battery. But we must go on regardless of what happens, and things like this only give us greater determination. I will write to Walter’s mother tomorrow. It sure will be an awful blow to her. You and Bess had better go down and see her.”

According to documents, Walter Adams was near the cookhouse when a shell burst 30 feet away and a large piece of shell hit him in the region of the heart, killing him instantly. He was one of 23 casualties. Walter was only 21 years old when he died, a much loved and highly respected young man. The signing of the Armistice would occur a little more than a month later on November 11, 1918, ending the war.

Lest We Forget

Gunner Walter Jackson Adams is remembered and buried at Sains-Les-Marquion British Cemetery which is located in the village of Sains-Les-Marquion, between Cambrai and Arras, in France. According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, he is one of the 227 identified casualties who now lay to rest in Sains-Les-Marquion British Cemetery, most of whom are Canadians with 177 soldiers buried there, 49 British soldiers and 1 Australian soldier. This Cemetery was designed by W. C. Von Berg.

*This biography was researched and written by Quinn Gorman & Chris Cano, Grade 8 students (2015-2016) at George Street Middle School located in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada.

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