Personal Stories from the 1914-18 War

WALTER SHEPARD

Trooper, Warwickshire Yeomanry, according to the Evesham Journal Roll of Honour.

Extracted from FORTY FOUR LETTERS from correspondence in the possession of Jenny Henderson.

C:\Users\User\Pictures\WOLFORD PEOPLE\Shepard Bros.jpgThese are the letters of Walter Shepard of Parsonage  Farm, son of George and Amelia who lived at Nethercote Farm and were tenants of the Rainbows.  They were sent to Alice Rainbow of Rectory Farm.  She was buried, unmarried, aged 75  in May 1973!  So in 1914 Alice was 16 and George 24. The letters in this collection are variously addressed to Miss Rainbow at Great Wolford or Parsonage Farm, Great Wolford. Engagement frowned upon?
Although Walter and Harold were in different county yeomanries, viz Warwickshire and Worcestershire respectively, they were located in identical locations in 1914/5. Brother Harold is frequently mentioned in the letters; Herbert never.

There is frequent mention of everyday army life and affection for Alice. but the most interesting concerns the torpedoing of the Wayfarer, which sailed from Avonmouth on 10 April 1915 carrying 200 soldiers of the Warwickshire Yeomanry, their mounts and equipment. After the attack (in which five horses were also killed) the ship was taken in tow by Framfield and towed to Queenstown for temporary repairs, arriving there on 13 April. Permanent repairs were carried out at Liverpool between 19 May and 16 July.  Walter and Harold survived.  Thus:

"We are now on board the Wayfarer.  I have just seen Harold.  he is not going on this ship.  Dear I darsay this will be the last letter I shall be able to write without them reading it.  I must tell you about Easter Sunday.  We went out into the wood & Simms shot two pheasants so we had them cooked at a cottage for Wednesday night for a fairwell supper to old England.  I went to Norwich Tuesday night and went to the theatre.  It was good.  It makes me wounder if we two shall ever go to another.  Hope so."

"Are we downhearted?  No! Just a line to let you know we are safe.  We left Avonmouth April 1th 4.20 pm on board the Wayfarer.  We were in the Irish Sea just outside the Bay of Bisky Sunday 2.15 pm when we struck a mine or something.  I was half dead from sea sickness  when it went off.  The first thing was a life belt then to the little boats at last I got off.  The Framfield was coming to help us after some time in the little boats.  We all got on her.  Then came the Newlyn we got on that and she brought us in hear.  We left the Framfield trying to toe the Wayfarer in but I hear she has gone down.  Before I left the Wayfarer she was half full of water.  Shall I ever forget it - No!  All I could think about was you old dear    I am still a little wet still they have put us in a tin hut.  Should they well send us home after what we have been through if its only for a day.  I think Harold & old Sid ships are got out of danger by now.  What a funny thing we all three should be on three ships.  Glad old Sid was not on the Wayfarer.  I had quite enough to look after myself.  I have got a pair of breeches & coat on & boots.  Everything else has gone down & 793 horses & much other goods.  My dear Alice excuse dirt & mistakes.  I have felt much bitter than I do now.  No-one knows what a ship wreck is".

"From Falmouth Dock April 15th.  "I hope you are getting on alright.. they dont seem to know what to do with us.  We heard only two horses dead but the officers shot them and those on the bottom deck were up to their knees in water when I got off the ship & she went down a lot more before we came away.  I shant forget Sunday April 11th quarter past two.  If it had been in the dark we all should have went down.  Some of the crew behaved very bad.  Ten got in the first boat & ought to have thirty five.  We did have a job to get the bug in our boat, it was half full of water.  We soon got our hats to work.  There was forty eight in.  It should have been only thirty five.  The sea was very chopy & two hours was some time before the Framfield came. They could never get another lot like us, they kept so cool and took there turn.  We lost six we think.  One boat over turned but we picked some of them up."

"From Falmouth Dock April 22.  We just go about like a lot of lost sheep..."