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George Walmsley was born in Preston the son of Edward James and Jane Walmsley (nee Moss), his parents married in Preston in 1888. George was the eldest of six children, his birth registered in the second quarter of 1889 and he had two brothers and three sisters; Ellen (1894), Alice (1895), Edward (1898), Robert (1901) and Jane Agnes (1904).

Edward James Walmsley was a butcher by trade and the family had a shop at 213 Ribbleton Lane in Preston. The Census of 1891 and 1901 shows the family living at that address and by 1911 still in the same place, George was now working alongside his father in the butchery business. His younger sister Ellen was also in work and apprenticed to a confectioner, Ellen specialising in pastries and cakes.

George enlisted into the Army on the 7th September 1914, joining the Preston Pals which was “D” Coy of the 7th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. His attestation papers confirm that he was single and was a butcher by trade and living at 213 Ribbleton Lane. He was aged 25 years and 3 months when he signed his papers and he declared he had no previous military experience. The Medical Officer noted his height at 5`7”, his weight at 137lbs and he had grey eyes and light brown hair. George named his father Edward James Walmsley of the same address as his legal next of kin for official purposes.

After the formation of the 7th Battalion and in particular the “Pals” “D” Company, the local newspaper published the names of all the recruits, below a small section showing George`s name (note his house number is shown as 313, all records show it as 213);

The Battalion was sent down to Tidworth to do their basic training and the photograph below shows the `Pals` on the march, newspaper dated 21st November 1914;

The 7th Battalion remained at home in training until word eventually came that they would be embarking for France in mid-July 1915. George was then appointed Lance Corporal (unpaid) on the 8th July 1915 before sailing for France with the Battalion on the 17th July. The strength of the Battalion was 30 Officers and 900 other ranks coming under the Command of 56th Brigade in 19th (Western) Division.

In July 1916 the 7th Battalion was involved in the actions during the Battle of the Somme and then at the end of July 1916 they had a brief spell on the Flanders front before returning to the Somme in October 1916, to a place they knew well around Albert and La Boisselle and where they had suffered so many casualties previously. By this time George had been promoted to Lance Corporal (paid) after Lance Corporal Heighway had been wounded.

On the 24th October 1916 the Battalion went into the trenches to the N. and N.E. of Thiepval, a recce had previously been carried out and found that the line was in a hopeless condition, trenches full of mud and nothing but wide ditches except the front line which was narrow, no trench boards and no notices to guide anyone.

Extract from Battalion War Diary

25th October 1916 – Considerable shelling throughout the day and preceding night. Patrols were sent out in front of our front line.

4.35pm telephone communication with Brigade cut, also to all Coys. Request sent to Brigade for more cable, as all our spare cable was already used up for repairs.

11.40pm orders received that Battalion would be relieved by 7 S.Lancs tomorrow. Urgent request for detailed report of position of Coys in the line.

26th October 1916 – Quiet night at first. Message received at 3.15am that Battalion would be relieved by a Battalion of 58th Infantry Brigade today. Details to follow.

4.45am – enemy opened up very heavy barrage on our front line: RANSOME AND BULGAR trenches, Battalion H.Q. and all ground between front line and Battalion H.Q. This continued for 2 hours. No telephone communication with Coys, Artillery or Brigade. Attempt to use lamp signalling to artillery caused immediate casualties.

Under the circumstances the S.O.S. signal by rocket was sent up and answered by our Artillery; they put up an excellent barrage behind the German front line in R.14.a which it is believed broke up an impending attack. The Battalion on our right was attacked without success and but for the artillery barrage from our guns it is thought that he would also have attacked on our front.

7.00am – Enemy barrage considerably less.

9.00am – Signalling communication again disconnected with artillery and `A` Coy in SPLUTTER trench.

9.30am – News received from 7 E.Lancs R. of the repulse of the attack on our right. Still no communication with Brigade except by orderly. N.B. Messages by orderly took an average 2 – 3 hours to reach Bde H.Q.

DONNET POST W.12 d.8.2

Total casualties for the 48 hours in the trenches were;

9 killed, 34 wounded – all due to shell fire.

Work of supply was very difficult; the mud was so thick that the labour of walking alone was enough to tire the men and strain the mules. All food and water was brought by pack mules to the Tank in Thiepval and carried forward by parties from the Reserve Company.

Sadly, Lance Corporal George Walmsley was one of the nine men killed during that 48 hour period in the trenches at Thiepval, his date of death confirmed as 25th October 1916. The news that George had been killed in action was sent back to his parents in Preston, the local paper, the Preston Guardian later confirming his death;

George`s papers do confirm that a bag containing his personal effects was sent to his parents on the 23th March 1917, however, there is no mention of any of them other than the `Soldier`s Small Book`.

After the war his father took receipt of the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals that his son was entitled to and he would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice. His body was never recovered from the place where he fell near Thiepval and as such George has no known grave and so his name was later inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing on the Somme.

George`s parents also completed one of the Submission Forms for his name to be included on the Memorial in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston, the form also proudly noting that he was one of the `Preston Pals`, below the Submission Form, George`s name as it appears on the Memorial;

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 13148
Date of Death: 25/10/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘D Coy’ 7th Bn.

Janet Davis
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