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This WWI Widow Still Wakes Up Every Morning Next To A Picture Of Her Soldier Husband In His Uniform

Dot Walker is one of the few remaining Britons who were married to a soldier who served in World War One. This Remembrance Sunday she's thinking of her husband, who fought at the Battle of the Somme and was later a prisoner of war.

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Dot Walker, 95, is one of the last remaining World War One widows. This is the picture by her bed.

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World War One widows are women whose deceased husbands fought between 1914 and 1918.

Dot's husband, Arthur, was a 16-year-old farm labourer from near York when he first tried to sign up to fight in the war by lying about his age in 1914.

At first Arthur was rejected, but he tried again, was successful and ended up joining the 15th Battalion of Yorkshire volunteer soldiers, known as the Leeds Pals.

By the end of the war almost all of them were dead.

“There wasn’t many of them left in his regiment, most of them were killed,” Dot explained on Saturday. “About two or three hundred of them were left by the end of the war, and there’d been thousands of them killed.”

Arthur Walker served at the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of World War One.

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Following a year's training in the Yorkshire Dales, Arthur and the rest of the Leeds Pals were sent to guard the Suez Canal in Egypt in late 1915.

After a few months in Egypt, Arthur’s regiment were posted to France, where they were to play a key role in the Battle of the Somme.

Over 1,000 Yorkshiremen in the Leeds Pals battalion went over the top of the trenches on the first day of the Somme, 1 July 1916. Many of them were friends, and they believed that sustained artillery bombardment of German positions meant they would have a free run across no man's land. They were wrong. Within 10 minutes the majority were killed.

The verdict of one soldier in the regiment was: "We were two years in the making and 10 minutes in the destroying.”

Arthur Walker was one of the few survivors.

Afterwards, Arthur continued to fight across Europe. But in early 1918 he was taken as a prisoner of war by the advancing German forces. His family received this letter from his commanding officer:

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This was the single sheet of paper that informed Arthur's family he had been taken prisoner in a German offensive.

After telling the family that the young soldier is "a credit to his mother", Arthur's officer states he and a group of fellow soldiers had been overcome by the advancing German army, and "your son is reported missing".

Arthur was taken to a prisoner-of-war camp by the German army, where he served out the rest of the war.

At the war's end he was released and returned home. Arthur received this letter from King George V praising his "patience and courage".

Jim Waterson / BuzzFeed

"He spent months as a prisoner of war," Dot recalls. She still keeps this letter by her bedside at her home in the Yorkshire village of Thornton-le-Clay.

The letters were an early form of mass communication and were sent by the King to all returning prisoners of war.

Unable to find work, Arthur briefly became a miner at Grimethorpe Colliery, before returning to his home village in the Vale of York.

Dot was born in 1919, just after the war ended, and married Arthur when she was 19. They were together for over 30 years, but rarely talked about his wartime experiences. Dot said he was a gentle man who would go quiet whenever asked about what it was like to fight on the Western Front.

But she said Arthur, who she described as a quiet man who played with his moustache and would not hurt anyone, always made a point of taking the entire family to Remembrance Day ceremonies on 11 November to honour his former colleagues.

Arthur died 40 years ago, but Dot doesn’t let the memory of her World War One soldier husband slip.

Dot, a great-great-grandmother, continues to pay tribute to her late husband, and wishes he'd applied for all the medals he was eligible to receive: "He should have had three medals but he never applied for the third."

And she'll be remembering him on Remembrance Day this year, when she'll be one of our few remaining connections to the men who fought in the Great War.

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