‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

John Walsh was born in Oldham in 1895. The eldest child of Patrick & Bridget. Patrick was an Irishman from Co.Mayo whilst Bridget's parents were also Irish. John's younger surviving siblings were Mary, Annie, Ellen, Patrick, Edmund, Frances, Martin, Elizabeth & William. By the time of the 1901 census the Walsh family were living in Chadderton but moved to Royton in 1903 or 1904. The 1911 census found them living at 31 Holden Fold. John,15 by now, was a piecer at the Grape Mill.
John enlisted in the army in November 1914 and was sent to join, along with quite a few other Royton men, the 8th Battalion of the King's Own Royal Lancaster Regiment. The 8th had been formed the month before in Lancaster. They trained at Boscombe near to Bournemouth and in late September 1915 landed in France. John was part of the grenade section. Joining the battalion afterwards was fellow Roytoner John Shirt who was to die of his wounds on February 22nd.
In mid February 1916 the Germans had seized a position near to Ypres with commanding views known as The Bluff. In that fighting Royton man George Alfred Smith had been killed. It was decided that not only must the British retake The Bluff but they would further improve the situation by also taking a German trench position known as 'The Bean'. The preparations for the attack were greatly hampered by bitter cold and snowfalls. It was decided that the attack would begin the second morning after the first day fine enough for the artillery to operate. The bombardment eventually began on March 1st and was a complete success,demolishing the German front line. The guns kept up a slow rate of fire during the night of 1st/2nd March to prevent the enemy repairing the damage. Early in the morning of the 2nd it was decided that the attack would go ahead without the planned 20 minute preliminary bombardment.
By 03:45 the 8th King's Own were in position and at 04:30 the leading infantry - the 8th KORL, 2nd Suffolks and 1st Gordon Highlanders - attacked. The attack achieved complete surprise and by 05:10 the men of the three battalions had captured all of their objectives. The 8th KORL had cleared Germans on one flank with grenades and a group on the other by bayonet.
As daylight came the advanced companies of John's battalion were hit by sniper fire from a group of Germans but these eventually surrendered at about 07:00. At 10:00 the Germans opened a heavy artillery bombardment which continued unabated for 2 hours. Many men became casualties and quite a few of the men lying injured near the battalion's first aid post were killed. Shortly after this bombardment ceased a group of about 80 Germans attempted to advance but were quickly stopped by machine gun fire, the German bombardment then recommenced. In the evening a bombing raid by German troops was also fought off.
Even though the day could be considered by the Army a rousing success the cost to the 8th KORL was considerable. John Walsh and two other Royton men were dead - Edgar Fitton & William Thomas Whitworth. The dead included a further eight men from the Oldham district, three of whom had enlisted in Royton.
John had written home nearly every week since signing up and by the end of March his mother was deeply concerned at the lack of communication. She wrote to the war office, they replied that they had no word and as far as they knew he was still with his regiment in France. A letter then arrived from the 2nd Lieutenant of his section was not so reassuring.
2nd Lt. Harry Saxon wrote:

"Dear Mr & Mrs Walsh - since the attack carried out by our battalion on March 2nd,1916 I have not heard or seen anything of your boy. I have made enquiries and refrained from writing to you in the hope that he might turn up in camp as others have done. Unhappily he has not come back, and all I can say is that I believe he is killed. He was a splendid lad, and it breaks ones heart to have to write these sad letters to homes in England. You have all my sympathy in your sorrow, and I am very sorry that I can hold out no hope to you. Any kit left behind will probably reach you before long. Your boy died doing his duty and that is your only comfort in your grief"

Saxon, by then a Lieutenant, was killed himself on November 29th 1916.
Shortly after Saxon's letter the father of a comrade of John also wrote to John's parents. It shows that men at the front were often in a state of uncertainty about exactly what had befallen their friends :

"It is with deep regret that I have heard from our Jim the information given you by the Second Lieutenant of your son's battalion. At the same time however, allow the hope that he may be alive, probably a prisoner of war, and until you get his death certificate from the War Office there is always hope. The reason I write like this is because I have letters before me from our Jack which he sent to his cousin. In the first letter he asks if we have seen your son's name in the casualty list in the newspapers. If not, there is hope. It seems from our Jack's letter that your John went out with a bombing party of 10 and only 2 of them returned to camp. One of these two told them that your son John had been wounded, so there is a chance that he crawled to the German trenches and was found by their ambulance team. I have searched the casualty list for the battle in which they fought and have failed to find his name, so you must hope against hope and try to bear up.
My sister, with whom I am staying here, got notice from the War Office that her son had been killed in action, and later he turned up in a German prison. In Jack's second letter he says that his mate told him he was almost certain your boy was not killed, and he was one of the bombing party. Anyhow, I am going down to see our Jack, who has returned wounded, and shall get to know all I possibly can about your son.
Hoping God will give you strength to bear the greatest sacrifice a mother can make if it comes to the worst
"

In the week leading up to Saturday May 13th, John's parents received official notification that he was indeed dead. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate (inscription below)

photo courtesy of Mark Wraight

JOHN WALSH
Age:20
Date of Death:02/03/1916
Rank:Private
Service No:15460
Regiment:King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment)
Unit:8th Bn.
Memorial:
Ypres(Menin Gate)Memorial
Panel Ref:Panel 12

The other men of the 8th KORL killed that day alongside the three from Royton were:
AINSCOUGH THOMAS 19 Private 16012 from Chorley
ALLDRED  CLARENCE 24 Private 15877 from Manchester
ATKINSON CHARLES 24 Private 15619 from Salford
BARNES  CHARLES  42 Private 17458 (SERVED AS HILL)from Ashton-under-Lyne
BARNES FRANK 21 Private 14438    from Manchester
BENTLEY  OSWALD 23 Private 14102 from Bury
BOOTH FRED 23 Private 17266 from Middleton
BOWDEN HUGH 19 Private 15965 from Manchester
BOYES THOMAS Private 15908 born Sowerby, enlisted Lancaster
BRANKIN  SIMON 29 Private 15924  from Ireland, enlisted Manchester
BRENNAN WILLIAM 26 Private 15315 from Liverpool
BROCKBANK ISAAC 35 Private 3/20384 from Ulverston
BROMILOW DANIEL Private  18644 from Horwich
BROOKS SAMUEL 28 Private 16589 from Manchseter
BYROM WALTER 34 Private  15321 from Hollinwood, Oldham
CAMPBELL THOMAS Private 14606 born Manchester, enlisted Blackpool
CAREY WILLIAM Corporal  15614 from Liverpool
CARNER ALBERT 21 Private 19280 from Manchester
CARNEY JOHN Corporal 8209 born Newtown,Lancs.Enlisted Lancaster
CARR ALBERT 28 Private 15665 from Chorley
CARTWRIGHT JACK 21 Lance Corporal 18805 from High Crompton. Enlisted in Royton
CHADWICK JOHN 21 Lance Corporal 16576 from Tyldesley
CLEARY JOHN 28 Serjeant  14090 from Salford
CLOUGH FRED 21 Private 16077 from Westhoughton
CONSTANTINE CHRISTOPHER  16 Private 20410 from Nelson
CORNER ALFRED Private 15288 from Manchester
CROOKS JOHN 25 Corporal 15944 from Oldham. Enlisted in Royton
CUMBERLIDGE WILLIAM Private 17226 born Warwickshire, enlisted Blackburn
CUTHILL  WILLIAM Lance Corporal 14694 born Aldershot, enlisted Liverpool
DANIELS  ELIJAH  Private  15680 from Salford
DAVEY CECIL 26 Corporal  14612 born Dublin, enlisted Liverpool
DERBYSHIRE RALPH 25 Private 18581 born Tyldesley, enlisted Manchester
DEWHURST ISAAC 17 Private 18764 from Blackburn
DUNN DANIEL 25 Private 12951 born Gloucester, enlisted Blackpool
DUNNING  JOHN 27 Private 15492 from Withington,Manchester
EDWARDS FRANK 35 Lance Corporal  2353 from Manchester. Boer War veteran
ERASMUS  ARTHUR  28 Private 15541 from Manchester
FEARNLEY ROBERT Private  15998 from Manchester
FISHER WILLIAM 18 Private 15675 from Salford
GILLARD  JOHN 17  Private  18934 from Dalton-in-Furness
GIRVIN JOSEPH Corporal 14083 from Manchester
GORE JOSEPH 27 Private 15401 from Wigan
GRIFFIN  JOHN 25  Private 15613 from Liverpool
GRUNDY MARK 31 Private 15233 from Blackburn
HARPER JOSEPH Private 14464 born Staffordshire,enlisted Manchester
HEYES DENNIS 22  Private 16049 from Bolton
HINGLEY OLIVER 22 Private 16050  born Haydock,enlisted Atherton
HOGARTH  WALTER Private  4549 from Blackpool
HOPKINS JOSEPH 18 Lance Corporal 15436  from Manchester
JAMES ROBERT Private 18920 from Barrow-in-Furness
JEPSON EDWIN CSM 4135 born Portsmouth, enlisted Jersey
JOLLY SIDNEY Private 15524 born West Ham, enlisted Manchester
JONES ARTHUR 38  Private 11942 from Manchester
LAWES FREDERICK Private 9587 born Suffolk
LEIGH ROBERT 24 Private  15666 from Chorley
LEWIS ARTHUR 23 Private 16020 from Bolton
LEWIS JAMES Private 15269 from Manchester
LORD JOSEPH 22 Private 19672 born Settle, enlisted Nelson
MADAN NIGEL 27 Lieutenant from Oxford
MASON EDWARD 38  Private  15010 from Rhondda
MASSEY FRED Corporal 16551 from Shaw
MILEY JOHN 27 Private 20461 from Manchester
MILLS JAMES Lance Corporal 15255 from Manchester
MOORES ALBERT Private 15553 from Manchester
MORT JOHN Private 16563 from Leigh
McEVOY WILLIAM 19 Private 20468  from Blackburn
McGUFFIE WILLIAM 21 Private 20394 from Whitehaven
McNIECE  JAMES Private 15841 from Manchester
NIXON JOHN 38 Corporal 7589 born Leeds, enlisted Manchester
NOLAN JOHN 35 Lance Corporal 16795 from Manchester
OWENS JOHN CSM 15804 born St.Helens, enlisted Atherton
PARR RICHARD 39 Private 20354 from Leigh
PARTINGTON AMOS Private 15610 born Bolton,enlisted Horwich
PERCIVAL WILLIAM 36 Private 4590 from Runcorn.Boer War veteran
PRESTON LEONARD  22 Private 16867 from Colne
PUGH HERBERT 44  Private  15790 from Manchester
RANKIN JOHN 36 Private 4892 from Bolton
REID FREDERICK 23 Private 15284  from Manchester
ROBERTS EDGAR Private 15522 from Manchester
ROBINSON JOHN 25 Private 20440  from Blackburn
ROSTRON  THURSTON 25 Private 15992 from Accrington
RUSHWORTH FRANK  Private  16536 from Oldham
SCHOFIELD JOSEPH 21 Lance Corporal 15869 from Manchester
SCHOLES  JOSEPH 21 Private 15475  from Oldham
SHIELDS  ALFRED  Private 15870 from Manchester
SMITH FREDERICK Private  19646 enlisted Nelson
STOCKLEY HARRY  25 Private 15453 from High Crompton
SUTCLIFFE FRED 22 Private 19715 from Accrington
SUTTON  HAROLD  40 Lance Corporal 19826  from Manchester
SWEENEY  BERNARD  28 Private 18570 born Co.Donegal, enlisted Horwich
TANN WILLIAM 19  Private  15341 from Blackburn
TAYLOR ARTHUR Private 16028 from Manchester
THOMAS WILLIAM 23 Private 19332 from Manchester
TRAFFORD JOHN 18 Private 15724 from Liverpool
TURNER RICHARD  Private 15686 born Bolton,enlisted Horwich
WADSWORTH THOMAS 33 Private 18889 from Rochdale
WILD HARVEY 24 Private 18807 from High Crompton,enlisted in Royton
WILDE JOSEPH 33  Private 6412 born Ashton-under-Lyne, enlisted Manchester
WILKINSON LAWRENCE Private 16565 from Ulverston
WILLIAMS REUBEN  22 Private 15682 from Salford
WILSON THOMAS Private 4763 from Manchester
WRIGHT JOHN Private 15901 from Fleetwood