Poppy Walter MITCHELL (1897–1916) Poppy

William Walter Mitchell (known as Walter) was born at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital in London on 18 September 1897 and baptised at St Mark's Church in the Marylebone Road on 32 September.

He was the son of Albert James Mitchell (baptised on 7 June 1868 at St Luke’s, Southampton) and Catherine Sarah Blake (born in Southwark, Surrey in 1867). His parents were married in the Wandsworth registration district in the fourth quarter of 1895, and Walter appears to have been their only child.

At the time of Walter’s birth his father Albert was a hardware warehouseman living with his wife at 1 Homer Row, Marylebone. It looks as though Walter may have lost his mother within a few months, as the death of a Catherine Mitchell aged 29 was registered in the London City district in the fourth quarter of 1897.

In the same quarter as Catherine Mitchell died, an Albert James Mitchell, possibly William Walter's father, married 16-year-old Florence Ada Turner at West Ham. The 1901 census shows Albert as manager of the Suffolk Tavern in Poplar. By 1911 he and his wife were living at Prusom Street, Wapping, Albert was a beer retailer, and they had two surviving daughters.

Meanwhile William Walter Mitchell was being brought up by George & Sarah Burtenshaw in Oxford. In the 1901 census, when he was three, he listed under his first name William and described as the nurse-child of the Burtenshaws, who were then living at 48 Hayfield Road.

Who were the Burtenshaws?

George Frederick Burtenshaw, a jobbing gardener, was born in Shoreham, Sussex in 1851 and baptised there on 12 October. He was the son of Jonathan and Louisa Burtenshaw.

Sarah White was born in Deptford, Kent around the same time. She is likely to be the Sarah Harriet White, the daughter of John and Mary Ann White, who was born on 20 December 1851 and baptised at St Paul's Church in Deptford on 18 January 1852.

The Burtenshaws were married at New Shoreham on 2 November 1873 and began their married life in Brighton.

The term “nurse-child” used in 1901 and “boarder” in 1911 suggests that Walter was not related to them. They had five children of their own, three of whom were still alive in 1911.

At the time of the 1911 census there was also a Miss Hope Mitchell (35), born in Rochdale, living with the Burtenshaws, but the surname is a common one and this is probably a coincidence. She was described as a French student in 1911; ten years earlier in 1901 she had been a high-school mistress in Yorkshire.

George Frederick Burtenshaw died at 2 Worcester Place in 1925 at the age of 74, and his funeral was held at St Mary Magdalen Church on 20 October that year. Sarah died at 60 Kingston Road at the age of 88 in October 1940, with her funeral at the same church on 17 October.

William Walter Mitchell appears to have attended SS Philip & James School, as a boy called W. Mitchell was absent (suffering from ringworm) on 8 December 1905, and was commended by the school inspector on 2 July 1906 and again on 2 July 1909.

By the time of the 1911 census William Walter Mitchell (now recorded as Walter, the forename by which he was known) was a 13-year-old schoolboy, still boarding with the Burtenshaws, who had moved to another address in St Margaret’s parish, 82 Kingston Road.

Poppy In the First World War [William] Walter Mitchell enlisted as a volunteer on 21 August 1915. He served as a Private in the 4th Battalion of the Seaforth Highlanders (Service No. 3301). He was killed in action at the age of 19 on 17 November 1916. He has no known grave.

Walter Mitchell is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial (Pier and Face 15C) and on the war memorial outside St Margaret’s Church in north Oxford.

St Margaret's Church War Memorial

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