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Joseph Ernest Wallbank was born on the 11th August 1889 in Longridge to Richard and Mary Ellen Wallbank (nee Wells). Richard Wallbank, a quarryman, married Mary Ellen Wells, daughter of farmer Joseph Wells in St. Lawrence`s Church in Longridge on the 25th February 1884. Joseph was one of seven children, four of whom survived; Sarah (1884), Joseph Richard (1885-1885), Thomas Wells (1887), twins, Mary Elizabeth (1898-1898) and Rachel Ellen (1898-1898) and the youngest Elizabeth Ellen (1899).

The Wallbank family had been living at 22 Market Street in Longridge but by 1901 Richard, Mary Ellen and the children had moved in with Mary Ellen`s father Joseph Wells at Seven Acres on the outskirts of Longridge. In the Census of 1901 Joseph`s father is recorded as being a stone quarry man, his sister Sarah and brother Thomas both worked in a mill, Sarah as a weaver and Thomas as a `tenter`.

Joseph`s father Richard Wallbank passed away in 1904 and three years later his mother remarried to William Whittle at St. Lawrence`s Church in Longridge. By 1911 Joseph had moved in with his widowed Aunt, Mary Proctor at 11 High Street in Longridge, the rest of the household at the time being; Mary Proctor`s brother James Wallbank, a niece, Jane Turner and two boarders, George Sharples and William Cookson. Joseph, as his father had been previously, was now employed as a stone quarry man.

On the 3rd August 1914 Joseph attested into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment with the number 321, this would later be changed to 200162 when the Territorial Force was renumbered in January 1917. He was unmarried and confirmed his occupation as a quarry man and Joseph named his Aunt, Mary Proctor of 13 High Street, Longridge as his legal next of kin. The Medical Officer noted that Joseph was just 5`2” tall and that he had brown eyes and black hair and had a tattoo on both arms of a woman and a heart, these being his only distinguishing features.

Joseph sailed to France on the “SS Onward” with the 1/4th Battalion as a member of “A” Coy on the 4th May, 1915. A week after landing in France the Battalion became part of the 154th Brigade of 51st (Highland) Division.

During the early part of the operations known as the Battle of Festubert, the 51st Division remained in reserve to the Indian Corps, being held ready to move up to the front at short notice. On the 14th May 1915 they marched to the area Caestre-Borre-Merris-Meteren and came into G.H.Q. Reserve to say in billets on the east and north-east side of town of Meteren. On the 18th May the Battalion moved into billets in Locon where they remained until the 25th and then on this date the Battalion was sent to relieve the 7th Black Watch of the 153rd Brigade, taking over a sector about one mile west north-west of Festubert. “A” and “D” Companies and the machine-gun section occupied the fire trenches with “C” in support and “B” Company in reserve.

The Divisional History in referring to the state of the ground in this area states that; “in the case of the front taken over by the Division, the normal difficulties were accentuated by the fact that digging in was only possible to a depth of two to three feet. Everywhere in the Flanders mud, below that level, water was encountered. It was therefore necessary to erect above ground double rows of traversed breastworks, between which the men must live and have their being. The difficulties of consolidation in this mud country requires to have been experienced to be fully appreciated”

The Germans kept up an intermittent fire all day of shrapnel and high explosive shells and it was here that the Battalion experienced their first casualties of the war. The Battalion was relieved on the 1st June and withdrawn to billets at Cornet-Malo, half a mile to the north-west of Locon Church. Just eight days later an entry on Joseph`s record dated 9th June 1915 states that he was sent to a Convalescent Coy, there is no mention of him having been wounded or indeed any illness noted. He did not return to the Battalion until some six months later on the 31st December 1915.

At the beginning of 1916 the Battalion was transferred to the 164th Brigade of 55th (Western) Division.

Another entry on his record dated 14th June 1916 states that Joseph was awarded 7 days Field Punishment No. 1 and had to forfeit one days` pay for; “Overstaying his leave from 7.50am to 2pm (6hrs 10mins).

In mid-July 1916 the 55th Division was sent south to the Somme and by the 30th July they were in position having taken over the line opposite the village of Guillemont, an attack was planned for the 8th August. Prior to the opening of the attack the Brigade and the 1/4th Battalion had suffered much from the German guns during the preliminary occupation of the line, 3 Officers were killed and 31 men wounded. The attack went ahead as planned but once again the casualties were heavy, 3 Officers and 9 other ranks were killed or died of wounds, 3 Officers wounded along with 97 other ranks, 2 Officers and 107 other ranks reported missing. After being relieved on the night of the 14th-15th August the 55th Division moved back to the west of Abbeville to rest and refit.

Having received two strong drafts from the Manchester and East Lancashire Regiments the Battalion spent the rest period in billets at Saigneville and later at Millencourt. However, on the 7th September the Brigade was recalled to the front and the Battalion marched from Fricourt for Montauban; here the sector of the front line taken over extended from the eastern edge of Delville Wood in the direction of Ginchy, the Battalion and the 2/5th Lancashire Fusiliers occupying the trenches. “B” and “C” Companies were in front with “A” Company in support.

Orders were received for an attack on the 9th September, the Battalion War History noting that prior to the attack the British Artillery were in action all day and at 16:00hrs the barrage started;

Battalion War History

“At 16:45hrs on the 9th September 1916 the 1/4th Battalion was part of an attack launched by the XIV Corps. 164th Brigade (including B and C Companies of 1/4th LNL) were to attack and take a line of trenches that ran between Ginchy and Delville Wood. The plan was to `go over the top` and take Hop Alley and then Ale Alley. Hop Alley was taken but Ale Alley wasn`t reached due to the intensity of enemy machine-gun fire. The attackers fell back to their original line.

The casualties were heavy, 24 men killed including Second Lieutenants W.E. Pyke and E.F. Falby. There were also 125 men wounded and a further 79 men missing, many were also later identified as having been killed”.

After the attack and under the date 9th September 1916 Joseph was admitted to a casualty clearing station, his record showing simply `w/shell sh`. The following day he was admitted to hospital in Rouen and then on the 13th September 1916 he boarded the Hospital Ship “Asturias” bound for England. Joseph was sent up to Liverpool where he was admitted to Toxteth Park Military Hospital. The hospital record notes that he was suffering from “shell shock” and then another note states “had some bronchitis”. He spent 18 days in hospital and was then discharged. Joseph was finally discharged from the Army after 2 years and 236 days service on the 16th March 1917, his discharge as a result of “no longer being physically fit for war service” due to sickness. He was awarded Silver War Badge No. 38015.

For his war service he was entitled to the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals, however, sadly,  Joseph did not live long enough to see them, he passed away on the 8th January 1919 aged 29 years. He was laid to rest at St. Lawrence`s Church in his home town of Longridge.

LONGRIDGE (ST. LAWRENCE) CHURCHYARD

Joseph Wallbank is remembered on the War Memorial Plaque inside St. Lawrence`s Church; as is his brother Thomas who was killed on the Somme six days after Joseph was wounded, on 15th September 1916, serving with the Northumberland Fusiliers.

Rank: Private
Service No: 200162
Date of Death: 08/01/1919
Age: 29
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, ‘A Coy’ 1/4th Bn.
Cemetery: LONGRIDGE (ST. LAWRENCE) CHURCHYARD

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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