Private Joseph Walsh
E/1604, 17th Bn., Royal Fusiliers who was
killed in action on 15th November 1916, aged 23
Remembered with Honour
Barrow Hill Memorial
Staveley Parish Memorial
Thiepval Memorial (Pier&Face 8 C 9 A & 16 A)
Thomas Walsh was born in Barrow Hill in 1867 and lived with his Irish born parents, Michael and Margaret on Furnace Hill, near the Wesleyan Chapel over the railway bridge. Mary Ramsdale lived on Colliers Row, near Mill Green in Staveley, just the other side of the Staveley Coal and Iron Company’s foundry, before her family moved to live next door to the Walsh family. The couple married in early 1891 and, with Mary’s 3 year old daughter Harriet, made their home at Furnace Hill, a few doors away from both of their families.
Their first child, daughter Margaret, was born in 1892 shortly before the family moved to New Whittington where their second child, son JOSEPH WALSH, was born in 1893.
By 1895, the family had moved back to Barrow Hill and were living at 15, Furnace Hill, close to their extended family and to Thomas’s work as a pipe moulder at the Staveley Works foundry. It was here that their daughters, Hannah (1895), Ruth (1897) and Eliza ( 1899) were born.
By 1911, the family had grown to include Benjamin (1901), John (1903), Thomas (1905) and Leo (1909). 17 year old Joseph had joined his father at the local foundry and was working as a labourer making pipes. 19 year old Margaret was in service at Chesterfield and 14 year old Ruth was living with her uncle’s family in Nottingham and working as an errand girl.
At the outbreak of war, Joseph was working at Ireland Colliery, on the pit bank. He enlisted at Staveley in the 17th (Service) Bn., (Empire) Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) in January 1915. The Battalion had been raised in London on the 31st of August 1914 by the British Empire Committee. On the 26th of June 1915 they joined 99th Brigade, 33rd Division at Clipstone camp near Mansfield in Nottinghamshire and in August they moved to Salisbury
Plain for final training and firing practice. In November they received a warning order to prepare to sail for France but the original artillery and Train would not accompany the Division; instead, it would receive the artillery that had been raised for and trained with the 54th (East Anglian) Division. The move began on 12th November and by 21st November all units had reached the concentration area near Morbecque. Joseph’s records show that he arrived in France on 16th November 1915. Soon after arrival, on 25th November, the Division was considerably strengthened by the exchange of 98th Brigade for the experienced 19th Brigade from 2nd Division, and on the 13th of December 1915 the Battalion transferred to 5th Brigade, still in 2nd Division.
The 17th Battalion took part in the Winter Operations 1914-15 and in May 1915 saw action at The Battle of Festubert. They fought in the Battle of Loos in September and October and, in 1916, they fought in the Battles of the Somme at Delville Wood and the Ancre.
The Battle of the Ancre 13th – 18th November
Battlefield of Beaumont Hamel
The battle of Ancre was the final phase of the first battle of the Somme. The battle involved an attack on the German front line and the crossing of the Ancre River, a front that had been attacked on the first day of the battle but without any success. The objective of the battle was as much political as it was military with General Sir Douglas Haig saying the success would hearten the Russian and Romanian fronts as well as proving good for morale in Britain.
South of the Ancre was the village of Thiepval that had been previously captured by the British during the Battle of Thiepval Ridge, and St Pierre Divion, which was still held by the Germans. North of the Ancre were the villages of Beaumont-Hamel and Beaucourt-sur-l’Ancre; that had not seen major operations since the opening of the Somme offensive on 1st July. The battle was originally planned to go ahead on 15 October but was repeatedly postponed due to bad weather. The original aim was to push the Germans back five miles but by the time the offensive went ahead the aims were reduced to capture the Beacourt and push the Germans back two-miles. The general assault was launched amidst a tremendous artillery bombardment in darkness and thick fog at 5.45am on Monday 13 November. The attackers had to contend with deep mud, heavy enemy fire and poor visibility.
On the extreme left of V Corps, 3rd Division struggled through the mire at great cost towards Serre; isolated groups forced their way past barely cut wire but were gradually forced to retire. 2nd Division’s advance on Redan Ridge fared little better. On the immediate right, 51st Division had more success and after difficult fighting secured Beaumont-Hamel (with many prisoners) by afternoon. Further south 63rd Division vigorously pushed on to the very outskirts of Beaucourt by evening. South of the Ancre, 39th Division advanced with excellent artillery support to capture St Pierre Divion by 7.40am. (Source: CWGC)
Joseph Walsh was killed on 15th November 1916 aged 23, one year to the day since he embarked for the Western Front. The first news of his death came in a letter from Pte. G.C. Dodswell who stated that “Joe” had been killed by a sniper. He added that Joseph was “liked by everyone in the Platoon and he was always a hard working fellow doing his bit in the right spirit. In fact, he was the pride of our Platoon.”
Second-Lieut. F.L. Taylor writing to Joseph’s parents to officially inform them of his fate said that, “It is with the deepest regret that I have to inform you of the death in action of your son, Pte. J. Walsh. A few days ago our Battalion made an attack and your son was shot while running a message down a trench which was under enemy fire. He died almost at once. Your son was very much liked by the Platoon and he was always cheery, and his death came as a blow to all of us. The only consolation I can give you in your sad loss is to tell you that your son died doing his duty bravely.”
Joseph Walsh is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial which bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave.
He was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
© Ann Lucas