Don was born in Coddington, Newark, his father was George Rowland and his mother was Ruth Annie (nee Hough), Don was the youngest of five children.
Don was educated at Coddington School and the Grammar School in Newark.
He joined up a week before the war when he was seventeen (he lied about his age but was determined to join the forces) and joined the Sherwood Rangers (no.557905). Previously, he had been in the Territorials. He was made up to Corporal before they left for France this was the first time he had travelled abroad. They travelled to Marseilles by train and took eight hundred horses. Many of the horses suffered during the journey and several of them died. The regiment was shipped across to Palestine although they didn’t see any fighting there. He saw Jerusalem and Galilee. By this time, he was the most senior corporal in his unit but he wasn’t promoted because of his age.
He heard that they were recruiting for the SAS and volunteered. He joined Dett 1st SAS Regiment at Kabrit, Egypt. He had to drop rank to trooper but that didn’t bother him and his training began at Bitter Lakes at Kabrit. Part of his training was unarmed combat, desert survival, attaching bombs to underside of ships & tanks etc and parachuting. He parachuted a number of times behind enemy lines.
He served under the command of David Stirling; they lived in the desert for months at a time mostly in the Qatari Depression. Don went on many raids, the “Malta Convoy Raids”, he also went on many raids inside German held Territory. He was on the Benghazi raid and took a bullet. He was taken prisoner at the same time as Col. Stirling during the final push up the desert near Tripoli. They were taken to an Italian compound (Camp number 70 Monturano (Parma), postal mark number 3300) where he and other SAS were beaten and some killed. They were then taken to German headquarters where Rommel was in command. The order from Berlin was that all captured SAS were to be executed Rommel fortunately disobeyed the order. They were moved out of Tripoli and shipped to a prisoner of war camp outside of Capua. He was then taken by truck into Germany to Dachau where he spent ten months of hell. He was then sent to another prisoner of war camp Stalag 344, Lamsdorf, Poland POW 220843. When the Russian advance drew nearer, the men were given two days warning that they were marching west as were thousands of other prisoners. Eventually they arrived at Gorlitz near Hanover and were rescued by the allies, taken to a Belgian airport and flown back home. During his service abroad of six years and 186 days he had served in Palestine (19-1-40 to 1-10-40), Cyprus (2-10-40 to 13-1-41), Egypt (14-1-41 to 26-1-41), Crete (27-1-41 to 31-5-41), Egypt (1-6-41 to 16-12-42) Libya, Italy & Germany (POW)(17-12-42 to 20-4-45) and received two medals (The King George VI 1939 – 1945 Star & The Africa Star).
Don was in poor state of health by this time having been beaten, starved, travelled in cattle trucks with eighty-six men other men, made to dig out mass graves, walk for miles & miles in feet of snow and ice, and starved again. By now he was attached to the Royal Armoured Corps.
The army classified him as ‘Ceasing to fulfil Army Physical Requirements’ and he was finally invalided out in March 1946 with a disability pension of £2 a week. The pension continued for two years! On his discharge Certificate his military Conduct was stated as Exemplary.
It took him almost a year to get well enough to work again and he decided to start his own painting and decorating business with his father to help him. Donald and his father did all the joinery work on the village hall (Coronation Hall) when it was built in the early fifties. Years later he launched his own taxi service and eventually worked in the car industry at Wadham Stringer until he retired.
He married Kathleen Mavis Burton in July 1947 at St. Mary Magdalene church in Newark. Kathleen died April 1989. There were no children…
His nieces & nephew took his Ashes to be scattered at the SAS Regiment in Hereford on the 29.07.1993
Don’s Goddaughter Barbara Horton wrote this article. August 2000
The Walster family:- Don’s grandfather George Henry, his grandmother Mary and their thirteen children.
Four of Don’s uncles served in WW1
Aged 32, Notts & Derby Regiment
George Henry Walster married Mary Wood Roberts in Coddington Church on 17 Nov 1877. George Henry was a carpenter and Mary had been Sewing Mistress(when her father John Roberts was headmaster). The family lived initially with John Roberts on Chapel Lane, but later moved to Charity Farm.
Frederick, the fourth child, was christened at Coddington Church on 12 Nov 1882. The children attended Coddington School. By 1901 Fred was a baker, living in Newark with his employee. In 1911 he was a grocery salesman aged 28, lodging at Southwell.
Military Service record: Regt no 15418, 616162 Sgt.
Fred served in the Gallipoli campaign. Medals: 1914 – 15 Star, British Victory. The 9th Bn Notts & Derby Regt sailed from Liverpool in early July 1915 for Gallipoli, landing at Suvla Bay 7 Aug 1915. It took part on the assault on Scimitar Hill. They were evacuated in December 1915, and moved to Egypt via Imbros. Later they moved to France in July 1916.
Walster, John Thomas MM
Aged 36, Royal Field Artillery
John Thomas, the eldest child of George and Mary Walster he was christened at Coddington Church on the 8 Sep 1878. In 1901, he was a professional cricketer, aged 22, still living with his parents. Later he was a groom. By 1911 with wife and four children he was living at Barnby in the Willows, Newark. John was now a gardener aged 33.
Military Service record: John enlisted on 19 Jan 1915 Regt No L23207, trained in England until 12 Jan 1916. He disembarked at Havre, Army B213 France, was promoted to Corporal 2 May 1915 and transferred to the Royal Field Artillery. On 29 June 1918 admitted to hospital Boulogne with an RI Hernia injury. He returned to England 31 Mar 1919. Medals, MM (London Gazette 29.8.18)L/23207 Cpl, but A/Sgt Royal Field Artillery), British, Victor
WALSTER, Arthur W. (“Joe”) MM
Aged 23, Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry
Arthur W (“Joe”), the sixth child of George Henry and Mary Walster, was christened at Coddington Church on 22 Mar 1891
Arthur married Nellie and they had two children. The photo shows Billy and “Joe” (Arthur W) Walster.
Military Service record: Sergeant Arthur W Walster served with Major Hugh Tallents in the Gallipoli Campaign, and was mentioned in the regimental memoirs Hugh wrote. They arrived
Suvla Bay 18 Aug 1915. 27 Aug, on patrol with Maj Tallents to select the position of a new line, Sgt Walster climbed a willow tree to get a better view of the Turkish positions 300 yds away. Unfortunately he left his rifle in the tree, and trying to recover it ‘afforded good sport’ to the enemy riflemen, watched by his compatriots in Poplar House. The Regiment were evacuated on 2 Nov 1915 to Alexandria, and served in Egypt (1915 -16), Macedonia (1916 – 17) and Palestine (1917 – 18). On the way to Palestine the troop ship Cestrian was torpedoed and sank. Arthur was wounded at Mosque Hill near Suffa on 28 Nov 1917, in an action to retake the crest against machine guns. Heavy losses meant the force had then to be withdrawn into regimental reserves. Arthur was wounded again on 30 Apr 1918 in an action at Shunet Nimrim on the east side of the Jordan Valley. Sgt. 275025 William A Walster was awarded the MM: London Gazette 10.4.1918. Page 4392.
WALSTER, William (Billy) Aged 22, Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry
William, the ninth child of George and Mary Walster, was christened at Coddington Church on 31 Jul 1892. By 1911 Billy was a groom aged 19, living at The Stables, Stanford Hall, Loughborough. He married Daisy Crampton and they had two children.Military Service record:
Regt No. 1744 Pte; Corps of Hussars Regt no 275182 Pte, Egypt. Medals: 1914 -15 Star, British, Victor.
His relation who also served in WW2
Dernie, James H2nd Lieutenant Sherwood Foresters.
In the 1930s Jim joined the Sherwood Rangers Yeomanry as a trooper. He went with the regiment (including their horses) to Palestine in 1940 as part of the 2nd Cavalry Division (read Lady Ranfurly’s book “To War with Whitaker”). He was in Palestine for his 21st birthday and was selected for Officer training, I think this was in Egypt. He was then assigned to the Sherwood Foresters and ended up in Tobruk where he was taken prisoner at the end of the siege. Thereafter he was taken to Italy and then Germany. I believe he was on the same transport as the late Col. Derry. Whilst in prisoner of war camp he took his Land Agency exams courtesy of the Red Cross. He also learnt to play bridge! He was repatriated at the end of the War. There is a photograph taken in Newark Town Hall by the Newark Advertiser, at the end of the war, of the men of the Newark area who had been in prison camp and returned home. Uncle Jim is on that. He died quite young in 1973 but his Widow, Monica (Pacey) is still with us aged 88 and I speak to her every Sunday.
Military Service record:-
Reg No 235300. In 1943 he was a Prisoner of War in Italy:- P.O.W. Camp Number 21, Cheiti Old Convent, Postal Mark Number 3300
Sue Kitchen 21/8/13
More details of Coddington Men who served in WW1 can be found on the internet:-
Coddington History Group – Timeline – 20th Century – Book “The Great War Coddington Remembers”. Scroll down.
Fred Reed July 2018