Walter Lake was born in Macclesfield on 14 December 1884, the son of Mary and Alfred Lake, a stoker on the railway.
In 1891, six-year-old Walter was living at 40 Brock Street, Macclesfield with his parents and siblings Florrie (8) and Albert (4). The family was at the same address in 1901, and by then included six-year-old Ernest, two-year-old Hilda, and baby Arthur, eleven months.
By 1911, the family had moved to 94 Pownall Street, Macclesfield. Walter's father was working for the North Staffordshire Railway as a locomotive driver, and Walter was an Able Seaman for the Royal Navy.
Walter joined the Navy on 14 December 1904; his service records state his date of birth to be on 14 December 1886, two years later than the correct date. Throughout his Naval career his conduct was stated to be 'Good' or 'Very Good'. He gained the rank of petty officer on 4 November 1917 and on 31 August 1918 was transferred to a new ship, HMS Glatton.
HMS Glatton was completed in Newcastle-on-Tyne on 8 September and left for Dover three days later. On the evening of 16th September, when in Dover harbour, there was a small explosion which ignited cordite stored on board, and flames started to spread. There was a danger that the fire would ignite the magazines on the Glatton and this would cause the nearby ammunition ship Gransha to explode. The decision was taken to scuttle the Glatton in order to prevent a far worse tragedy. HMS Glatton eventually capsized and the fire was extinguished at 8.15pm on 16th September. In total, ninety-eight lives were lost, including some who were rescued from the burning ship but later died from their injuries. The bodies of one officer and fifty-six men were not recovered until 1930, and these were buried in a mass grave in Gillingham.
More information about the catastrophe can be found on the Dover Historian website.
Petty Officer Lake was reported missing in the Macclesfield Times on Friday 27 September 1918:
MISSING - Official news has been received by Mr Alfred Lake, 3 Pownall Street, Macclesfield, that his son, Petty Officer Walter Lake, is missing since the explosion on the monitor in harbour on Sept 16th. An officer and 19 men were killed and 57 men were missing. Petty Officer Lake joined the Navy about 16 years ago and has served in all ranks up to petty officer. For six years he was on HMS Dreadnought and only a few months ago was transferred to a monitor. He has travelled all round the world, and in the present war had been on service in the North Sea. He is 33 years of age, was educated at Mill Street Higher Grade School, and attended Trinity Wesleyan Chapel. Three brothers are serving in the Army.
Petty Officer Walter Lake is buried at Gillingham (Woodlands) Cemetery, Kent, in grave ref. Naval. 15. 804-6, along with his comrades who perished in the disaster. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Petty Officer Walter Lake, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum's Lives of the First World War website.
Locally, Petty Officer Walter Lake is commemorated on the Park Green, Town Hall, and Trinity Wesleyan Methodist Church war memorials. He is also remembered on a family grave in Macclesfield cemetery, plot no. X.19342.
Brother of Albert Lake, who was a conscientious objector conscripted into the 5th Northern Non-Combatant Corps with service number 3196; Ernest Lake, who served as 241437 Pioneer Signaller with the 5th Cheshire Regiment; and Arthur Lake, who also served in the Army.
GRO (England & Wales) Index: Births
Census (England & Wales): 1891, 1901, 1911
British Royal Navy Seamen 1899-1924 (Find My Past)
British Army Medal Index Cards (Ancestry)
WWI British Army Service Records 1914-1920 (Find My Past)
Commonwealth War Graves Commission website
Lives of the First World War website
Macclesfield Times: 27 September 1918
Research by Rosie Rowley, Macclesfield.