2ND LT ALBERT WALSH
On Remembrance Sunday 2011 the address was given on the life of 2nd Lt Albert Walsh, in whose memory the Walsh Window in the North Wall was given. Once again, no-one in the Parish knew anything about Albert or his family and so began the research on another young man of Feniscowles, who lived 100 years ago and about whom, and his family, all had been forgotten - or so we thought..................
This presentation was again put together by our Group Scout Leader, Mr Sandy Woods to whom we are very grateful for another lovely piece of research into our Parish history
Sometimes it is hard to relate to the names we see on our memorial and think as them as real people.
Today we wish to give you a little insight to one of those names that not only appears on our memorial but also has a stained glass window dedicated to him.
Some of you will certainly have been in his house; perhaps walked up his
stairs and might even have been in his bedroom.
How, I hear you ask.
Well to day we are looking at 2nd Lt Albert Walsh and the window nearest the lectern is dedicated to his memory and he might have even paid for the window himself.
Albert was born on the 17th July 1895 and was christened a few weeks later in St Marks Church on Buncer Lane.
He first lived at 31 Selbourne St. with his father and mother, John and Elizabeth and his sister Clara who was 2 years older. He also had a younger brother Norman who arrived a few years later.
He attended Witton Day School which was just around the corner from his home.
When he was 13 the family moved, just up the road to a newly built house, 29 Rydal Place. As Blackburn was growing this address was changed to 29 Preston Old Road and the house is now the Witton Medical Centre. This is how some of you will have been in his house.
When his grandfather, William, died the family moved to the family home, Oaklea in Pleasington which is just a few doors down from the Butlers Arms.
His father John was a successful business man and was managing director of Garden Street Mill Company which had two mills in Blackburn.
As you would expect Albert followed his father into the cotton trade.
When the First World War started at the age of 19 he went with some of his pals to Canterbury St Barracks and enlisted in the 4th East Lancs Regt.
The Regiment was already in Egypt and after basic training at Chesham Fold Camp near Bury he sailed from Southampton to join them.
The Regt was sent to Egypt to defend the Suez Canal against Turkish and German attacks and they served alongside Australian and New Zealand soldiers before going to Gallipoli.
Gallipoli was a disaster for the British and even more so for the ANZAC forces. Bad planning, bad preparation and poor resources led to far too many casualties as the landings were stuck on the beaches.
It was while here that Lance Corporal Walsh was commissioned and became 2nd Lt. Walsh and was transferred to the 5th East Lancs.
He came through this campaign without being injured and the Regt with the rest of the Division returned to Egypt in January 1916.
In Egypt the East Lancs Division were again supporting the ANZAC troop as they pursued the Germans and Turks across the Sinai desert. They were not prepared for the conditions they found in the Sinai desert. They had not been trained to operate in heavy sand in mid summer heat, and with insufficient water, extreme distress and tragedy followed. On the 4th August they pursed the enemy to a place called Katia were there was water.
However the two day march through the desert cost the lives of 800 men from the division. This British Empire victory was the first against the Ottoman Empire in the war and secured the safety of the Suez Canal from ground attacks. It was the turning point in this region which eventually saw the Germans pushed out of the Middle East.
In February1917 the Regt was no longer needed in Egypt so they were moved from the heat of the desert to somewhere cooler, the Western Front. Between April and July the Regt was used to relieve others and was moved around the general area of the Somme in Northern France and Belgium.
They took part in the battle of Passchendale.
Much has been said about the mud in the trenches but Passchendale was where men really did drown in the mud. All of June and July was torrential rain and the whole area was low lying and badly drained. It was a marsh land before the war and the constant shelling turned it into a quagmire.
The British advance began on 7 June, and was started by one of the biggest explosions ever seen or heard by man. For 18 months, the British had been digging 21 mines under the German positions on the Messines Ridge and these were filled with nearly 1 Million tons of high explosives. The battle started when these mines were exploded, an explosion so loud that it was clearly heard in London well over 100 miles away.
But as with much of the First World War, this was a battle of attrition with no great success on the first day but it did eventually lead to the German defeat in Belgium but at a cost of about 4,000 British dead.
Having gone from the heat of the desert to the horrors of the mud and shelling of the trenches Albert had the chance to take to the skies and in July 1917 he was sent to join the Royal Flying Corp.
We haven’t been able to find out if he was a pilot or an observer but he served with 4 Squadron who where based at Abeele in Belgium.
The main role of the Squadron was spotting for the gun batteries. The observer would radio back to the guns the enemy position and wither their shells were falling on the targets or not. As you can imagine they were not popular with the enemy.
As they were flying older BE2 planes the casually rate was very high either being shot down by ground fire or in ‘dog fights’ with the better German ‘Albatross’ plane.
The German ace Manfred von Richthofen was operating in this area. Some of the dog fights could be between 60 planes.
On 27 July one of the squadrons planes spotted the Germans withdrawing and this let the British advance and take over 2 miles of the German front line.
The next day the squadron flew as many sorties as possible looking for the new German positions and telling the British guns where the targets where. But again bad weather closed in and with rain and low clouds only limited sorties could be flown. This meant the pilots and observers flying low and therefore being at greater risk from ground fire. If the chance came up they also dropped bombs and strafed the enemy trenches but this was even more risky than just spotting.
We haven’t been able to find out exact details of how he died other than he died of his wounds the day after receiving them, but five week after transferring to the RFC Albert died on the 8th August 1917.
He never did return home and is buried at
MENDINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY, Belgium.
We did locate details of his will and Albert left £264 and 6 pence which as he was single went to his father. This amount was probably most of his pay from when he joined up as he never been anywhere where he could spend it.
Two years later his stained glass memorial window was unveiled given to the church by his parents. We are not sure how much the window would have cost but perhaps it was £264 and 6 pence.
Albert, along with the rest of those who have died in the service of our country,
WE WILL REMEMBER YOU.