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THYLACINE

The Street Arab Wonder of the British Empire

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Just read this amazing story in a book titled The King's England. Yorkshire West Riding. Edited by Arthur Mee. The story begins like this:

It is in a humble grave in this churchyard (in Owston, Yorkshire) that there lie an old couple unknown to the world. Little did they think of fame or dream that their name would be known among men; but their boy is among the strange heroic figures of the British Empire and in all our tour of England we have come upon no more romantic tale than his. He is Walter Greenway, street arab of Sheffield.

The story is 6 pages long so I will condense it, but keeping the most interesting parts as they appear in the book.

Seven years before the Great War broke out, Mr Robert Holmes, the well known police court missionary of Sheffield was asked to see what he could make of a man in a certain police-court cell in that city. The man was well educated, spoke several languages, was a clerk, did not gamble, drink or smoke. He had however, been convicted 9 times of burglary and confessed to Mr Holmes "I shall never do any good where there are houses with attics. Put me on a sailing ship where I can climb the rigging . . "  Mr Holmes, judging that the sea would give him the best chance, put him on a ship going to Colombo. Years passed without any news of him but in the second year of the war Mr Holmes received a letter from Mesopotamia showing that Walter Greenway was alive and using his instinctive daring to help the land of his birth. Mr Holmes felt so proud of his ne'er-do-well who was doing his bit for his country that he went from Sheffield to give the good news to the wanderer's father and mother but found that both had been laid in their graves  at Owston and the man who had been posing as a Bedouin was an only child with no relatives.

Three months after another letter arrived, it told how the Turks heard that a deaf and dumb Bedouin (Greenway often faked this condition) had been in the British camp and when he came back, they fired rifles close to his ears to see if he would start at the sound, then fired a big gun while he stood beside it until his ears and nostrils bled with the vibration; then scarred him with hot irons and tore out his fingernails to make him speak. but he was deaf as an adder and dumb as a stone. Then they prayed to Allah that vengeance should not fall on them for adding to an afflicted man's sorrow. Afterwards they treated him with kindness and he wandered about the camp recovering from his wounds. The finger-nail wounds however did not heal and gangrene set in. Again he appeared in the British camp and the British doctors had to amputate his left arm. Then the (apparently) dumb man spoke about the plans of the Turk and described the positions of their batteries and so saved many British lives.

This is only about half of the story, I'll continue on tomorrow (it's past midnight here!) unless someone can access the book and finish it off for me. (page 278)

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Second instalment.

By this time Walter Greenway has taken an Arab wife, fathered 3 children and made his home in Aden, still posing as a Bedouin. One day in the Bazaar he hears two white men talking German, he hears that in the warehouse are clocks ready to be placed among the coal of British ships. That night the Bedouin was in the warehouse before the Germans came and heard how after one of them had distributed the explosive clocks among British ships, he was going to an arsenal in Bagdad. The Germans then retired but the Bedouin did not. He had much to do that night. It was necessary that he should set out speedily for Basra and Bagdad with a case of explosive clocks, intoxicating drinks and a German uniform. The sequel came when the Bedouin, disguised as a German officer, landed at dawn on the banks of the Tigris with a heavy case of new stores which were placed in the Bagdad arsenal by his direction.  From his motor boat on the Tigris he saw the arsenal blow up with a roar that shook the earth, the clocks had all been set to explode at the same time and they had blown up the Turkish arsenal instead of the British ships.The last news which reached Mr Holmes in August 1917 was from a doctor at a hospital. He wrote, "A fortnight yesterday, an Arab woman brought her husband, an Englishman, to this hospital, he was suffering from acute dysentery from which he died on August 26th. He had lost an arm recently and his body was scarred by burnings."

There is much more detail in the story than I have supplied here but what an amazing tale.

Can anyone confirm it?

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I've had a look for Walter in Yorkshire but I think he's a work of fiction.  Having said that, it's a cracking story, and I've sent for a 1918 copy of the hardback from Amazon.  The full book is also downloadable as a pdf (nearly 300 pages) from:

https://archive.org/stream/waltergreenwaysp00holmuoft/waltergreenwaysp00holmuoft_djvu.txt

Here's a plate from Arthur Mee's Hero Book (condensed stories for children)

Walter Greenway.png

 

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Good work Edmund. I thought for a while that Sheffield had it's own T.E. Lawrence.

The book you have ordered from Amazon, that's a reproduction of the 1918 version . . . yes?

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15 minutes ago, THYLACINE said:

Good work Edmund. I thought for a while that Sheffield had it's own T.E. Lawrence.

The book you have ordered from Amazon, that's a reproduction of the 1918 version . . . yes?

No, it appears to be a hardcover book from way back when.  Hope so anyway!

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2 hours ago, Edmund said:

I've had a look for Walter in Yorkshire but I think he's a work of fiction.  Having said that, it's a cracking story, and I've sent for a 1918 copy of the hardback from Amazon.  The full book is also downloadable as a pdf (nearly 300 pages) from:

https://archive.org/stream/waltergreenwaysp00holmuoft/waltergreenwaysp00holmuoft_djvu.txt

Here's a plate from Arthur Mee's Hero Book (condensed stories for children)

Walter Greenway.png

I have found this article in  
The Gloucestershire echo (Gloucester, England), Friday, April 13, 1934;

 Hero of the War .

 

Walter Greenway 1.JPG

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A newspaper article on a fictional character? Sounds convincing. Have they been duped as well?

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