Omitted from publication on 30th Mar 2018.
Joseph Evan Walker was born in 1888 in Burton on Trent, Staffs. His parents were Thomas and Emily Augusta (nee Poynton). They had been married in Emily’s home town of Ashby de la Zouch on 12th March 1872.
In 1891 the family were living at 169 Shebnall Street, Horninglow, Burton. Thomas was a painter and two year old Joseph was the youngest of four children. They were still there in 1901 and Joseph remained the youngest in the family.
In 1909 Joseph married Lillie Redfern and in 1911 was head of the household at 237 Goodman Street, Burton on Trent. They had a son Joseph Reginald aged 1y 7m. Joseph’s mother had died and Thomas was living with his son. At the age of 64, he was a fishmonger, while Joseph had taken on the job of painter.
Thomas died the following year and Joseph and his family must have moved shortly afterwards, as a daughter Margery was born in Rugby in early 1913. Beatrice arrived in 1915 and Clifford registered in the first quarter of 1917. Joseph was now living at 41 Pinfold Street and was a fruiterer and fishmonger.
As a married man with young children Joseph might have expected to avoid service during the war, however in January 1916 the Military Service Act was passed. At first only single men were liable to be called up, but in June that year it was extended to married men as well. Joseph appealed against the decision and in July the following was reported in the Rugby Advertiser of 29th July 1916:
FRUITERER’S APPEAL UPHELD.
Joseph Evan Walker, fruiterer and fishmonger, 41 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, who was represented by Mr Eaden, appealed against the decision of the Rural District Council Tribunal, who had dismissed his appeal.—After the facts had been stated, it was decided to give exemption till December 1st.
Presumably this was to allow the safe birth of Clifford who arrived on the 30th November 1916. Sometime after this Walter Evan Walker joined the 2nd/7th Battalion of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment as private 23770.
Four RWR Battalions – the 2/5th, 2/6th, 2/7th and 2/8th Battalions – landed in France as part of the 182nd (2nd Warwickshire) Brigade in the 61st (2nd South Midland) Division in May 1916 for service on the Western Front, and their stories are broadly similar, and several other Rugby men served and were killed in action with these Battalions.
2nd/7th Battalion RWR was formed in Coventry in October 1914 as a second line Battalion. It became part of the 2nd Warwickshire Brigade, 2nd South Midland Division, and then in August 1915 it was re-designated as part of the 182nd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division. The Battalion landed in France on 21 May 1916.. Whether George was with them is unknown. If he was with them, he could have been engaged in various actions on the Western Front including: the Attack at Fromelles in 1916; and during 1917, the Operations on the Ancre; the German Retreat to the Hindenburg Line; the Battle of Langemarck toward the end of the Third Battle the Ypres, and then after being in reserve for the Battle of Cambrai, the Battalion was used to reinforce the units under counter-attack in the area of La Vacquerie at the end of November 1917.
The Battalion War Diary gives details of the Battalion’s activities throughout the war, but the following information has been abstracted for the period before Joseph’s death.
In early December 1917, the Battalion was in the Welsh Ridge sector, near the Hindenburg line. To start the New Year, the Battalion was in training. The Battalion moved to Savy, then toward the end of the month it was at Holnon Wood, and then moved back to Berthecourt. The Battalion strength was 29 Officers and 388 Other Ranks.
During February 1918, the Battalion was in support and then relieved the 2nd/6th RWR on 3 February, who relieved them in turn on 6 February. On 14 March the 2nd/8th RWR were transferred to the Battalion, with 8 Officers and 256 Other Ranks. In March the Battalion continued turn and turn about in Holnon Wood, improving the line and with training in the days between 14 and 20 March.
The anticipated attack by the Germans, Operation Michael,, was launched on 21 March 1918, against the British Fifth Army and the right wing of the British Third Army. The German artillery targeted command and communications; then, the destruction of artillery; and then the front-line infantry. The artillery bombardment began at 4.40am on 21 March 1918, and hit targets over an area of 150 square miles, the biggest barrage of the entire war. Over 1,100,000 shells were fired in five hours.
Thus commenced the Battle of St Quentin and the Actions at the Somme Crossings. The 61st (2nd South Midland) Division was holding the forward zone of defences in the area northwest of Saint Quentin in the area of Ham and lost many men as it fought a chaotic, but ultimately successful, withdrawal back over the Somme crossings over the next ten days.
In the initial clash, the South Midland Division faced three enemy Divisions and only began to retire on the afternoon of 22 March, when ordered to do so, in consequence of the enemy’s progress in other parts of the line.
On marching out on 21 March, the Battalion had comprised 21 Officers and 556 Other Ranks. In the period to the end of March, there were 30 Officer casualties (some additional officers had joined in the period) and 488 Other Ranks casualties.
On the 28th March 1918 the Battalion moved into billets at MARCELCAVE to prepare for an attack on LAMOTTE. During the day ground was gained and held but due to both flanks being unprotected they “withdrew to a position more in line with other Units” Casualities 2 officers, 80 other ranks.
After a cold wet night:
29th March 18
Disposition of Battalions slightly improved. Enemy activity slight, little sign of his moving forward to MARCELCAVE
A light Tank gun used from village and a few M.G.
A wet night.
30th March 1918
6 a.m. Heavy artillery fire along the — valley and our trenches rather knocked about.
Capt. Manuel and Lieut. Forrer – wounded.
7 a.m. Apparent complete retirement of Division on our right.
7.45 a.m. Units on our right retiring and Battalion commencing to withdraw without any apparent orders. The retirement was checked at about 500 yards in rear and almost the whole of the Battalion re-assembled and a temporary line established at V.1.C.4.2 – V.1.b.2.2 which brought the Battalion in alignment with 183rd Infantry Brigade.
11 a.m. It was found possible to re-establish the Battalion in their old position. The casualties during the withdrawal had been slight.
Lieut. Strawson – wounded slightly
12 noon. An advance by the enemy on our right and withdrawal by units on our right, which again, without reason, brought the Battalion out of their trenches. This was immediately checked and they returned to their position.
A squadron of Yeomanry put into the line on right of Battalion during the night.
Lieuts Lunt and Grieve, wounded during the night.
A cold wet cheerless night, relief expected, No rations
Approximate Casualties Officers. 4 O.R. 56
31st March 1918
2 a.m. Orders for relief by 135th Battn. A.I.F received.
No relief took place, the arrangements having been bungled somewhere.
At dawn the O.C. 135th. Bn. A.I.F. reported regarding relief, but owing to the exposed positions the Battn. Held, it was impossible to effect this during daylight.
8 p.m. Battalion relieved by 135th Bn. A.I.F and marched to GENTELLES to billets.
A cheerless day, Battalion tired out.
30 stragglers rejoined.
It was somewhere in this muddle that Joseph Evan Walker died. Probably one of the 56 casualties on 30th March 1918.
His body was never found or identified and he is remembered on the Pozieres Memorial.
Pozieres is a village 6 kilometres north-east of the town of Albert. The Memorial encloses Pozieres British Cemetery which is a little south-west of the village on the north side of the main road, D929, from Albert to Pozieres. The Pozieres Memorial relates to the period of crisis in March and April 1918 when the Allied Fifth Army was driven back by overwhelming numbers across the former Somme battlefields, and the months that followed before the Advance to Victory, which began on 8 August 1918. The Memorial commemorates over 14,000 casualties of the United Kingdom and 300 of the South African Forces who have no known grave and who died on the Somme from 21 March to 7 August 1918.
The announcement of his death was made in the Rugby Advertiser of 4th May 1918:
News been received by Mrs Joseph E Walker, 41 Pinfold Street, New Bilton, that her husband, a lance corporal in the Royal Warwickshire Regiment, was killed action on March 30th. Lance-Corpl Walker, who was 29 years of age and joined the Army in January, 1916, formerly carried on business as a greengrocer in Bridget Street.
Joseph was awarded the British and Victory medals.
In mid 1919 Millie Walker remarried, to Joseph H Daniels. Mr Daniels can be found in the 1911 census at 35 Caldecott Street with his wife Elizabeth and 7 children. Elizabeth had died in 1914.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM