Walter Botwright attested with 4th Bedfordshire’s at Hertford on 10th August 1914, six days after War had been declared. From 10th to 13th October he was admitted to hospital at Felixstowe with “a disordered action of the heart”. He was posted to 2nd Bedfordshire’s on 11th November 1914 and disembarked in France on 12th November. Arrival in France so early in the War suggested that Walter had served as a Regular Soldier before the War and had been placed on the Army Reserve. On 17th May 1915, whilst the 2nd Bedfordshire’s were in action throughout the Battle of Festubert, Walter was wounded, receiving a gun-shot wound to the foot. During the action the Bedford’shire’s lost 47 men killed, 285 wounded and 68 missing. The next day Walter was despatched to England, arriving on 19th May 1915.
He had recovered by 3rd July and was posted to 4th Bedfordshire’s, and over the following months was involved in six disciplinary actions, for being Absent from Parade, absent without leave, and found in bed at Reveille. In total he received 29 days Confined to Barracks.
In January 1916 he was posted to 5th Bedfordshire’s, and on 18th January he embarked for Egypt at Devonport aboard SS “Ingoma”, and arrived at Alexandria on 4th February 1916. The 5th Bedford’s had served through the Gallipoli campaign, and between January and March 1916 received drafts to rebuild the battalion, and spent the rest of the year guarding the Suez Canal. Between June 1916 and August 1917 Walter was admitted to hospital at least four times, suffering from malaria. On 16th November Walter was posted to the Railway Operations Department as a Sapper with the Royal Engineers. After another spell in hospital in April 1918 he re-joined his unit, and on 27th May was involved in a collision at Bir Salem Station. It is not known exactly what happened, however Walter appeared at a Court Martial on 10th June, and was sentenced to 56 days (later commuted to 28 days) Field Punishment Number 2. Later in 1918 he had a another admission to hospital, and after another 7 days Confined to Barracks for being Absent from Parade, he was invalided to the UK on Hospital Ship “Tahiti” on 13th April 1919, arriving on 23rd April. He was admitted to 44 Stationary Hospital at Warrington, before being transferred to Belmont Road Auxilliary Field Hospital in Liverpool the next day. On 6th June 1919 a Medical Board recommended he had suffered an 80% disability due to malaria, caused by the climate, and also recommended that he be discharged. He was finally discharged on 24th June 1919, and received a pension of 13 shillings and 9 pence (68p) for 26 weeks, followed by 8 shillings and 9 pence (44p) for the next 26 weeks.
Walter was born in the autumn of 1894 at Abbots Langley, one of three sons and two daughters born to James and Elizabeth Botwright of Bedmond. In the 1911 Census he was listed as a Patient at the Hertfordshire Seaside Convalescent Home in St Leonards On Sea. His occupation was recorded as a Farm Labourer, but by 1914, when he enlisted he stated that he was a Mill Hand employed by John Dickinson at Nash Mills.
Walter and his step-brother Thomas Henry Ford both survived the War, as did his cousins, Arthur and Sidney Halsey.