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201213 Lance Corporal Walter Lawrenson MM “A” Coy 1-4th BattalionWalter Lawrenson was baptised in the Parish church of St. Michael in Kirkham on the 15th June 1895 the son of John William and Catherine Lawrenson (nee Hawkins). Walter`s father was from Preston and his mother was born in Kirkham and they married in St. Michael`s Church in Kirkham on the 23rd April 1892. Walter had five sisters and one brother although his eldest sister died in infancy; Dorothy (1893-1894), Edith (1898), Victoria Millicent (1901), Evelyn May (1905), Sidney (1909) and Dorothy (1910).

According to Walter`s baptismal record his father John William Lawrenson was an innkeeper. He had at some point been the landlord of the Prince of Wales Inn on the High Street in Preston but when Edith was born in 1898 he was employed as a carriage trimmer and by 1901 the Lawrenson family home was at 61 Gorst Street in Preston.

The 1911 Census shows Walter`s father still working as a coach trimmer while Walter was employed as an apprentice at a rubber heel works. The family had also moved out of central Preston to live at 1 Eccles Street in Penwortham. The address, although no longer there, appears to have been not far from the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in the Middleforth Green area of Penwortham where Walter was a regular attendee at the Sunday school. At some point between 1911 and January 1915 the Lawrenson family left Penwortham and returned to live in Preston at 13 Tyne Street.

Walter enlisted into the 4th Battalion TF for a period of four years on the 11th January 1915 at Preston. His original service number was 3581 which would later be changed to 201213. He was a single man and had no previous military experience and was still living at 13 Tyne Street with his parents. Walter`s medical inspection notes that he was 19 years and 8 months old and 5`5” tall. At some point prior to his enlistment he had left the rubber heel works and was in the employ of Messrs. Burgon`s on Fishergate in Preston as a grocer.

He was transferred to the 42nd Prov. Battalion on the 25/6/15 and signed his agreement to serve abroad on the 27th January 1916 before being transferred to the 3/4th Battalion LNL on the 28th February 1916.

Walter sailed to France on the 6th July 1916 with a batch of reinforcements and ten days later on the 16th July 1916 he joined “A” Company of the 1/4th Battalion. According to his service papers he also became part of the 164th Brigade Runner Section on the 20th August 1916.

Walter was awarded the Military Medal, the announcement appearing in the London Gazette 9/12/16. He sent a letter to his parents informing them of his award and the Preston Guardian published the following;

201213 Lance Corporal Walter Lawrenson MM “A” Coy 1-4th Battalion 2

In February 1917 Walter had a spell out of action suffering from laryngitis from 5/2/17 until re-joining the Battalion on the 23/2/17. A few months later he was also granted a period of leave home from 30th July 1917 until returning to France on the 10th August 1917. The following month he was appointed Lance Corporal (unpaid).

Sadly, just over three months later on the 30th November 1917 Walter was killed in action during the Battle of Cambrai.

Extract from the Battalion War Diary – 30th November 1917

07.40hrs – “Stand too” order received from the 166th Infantry Brigade. Intelligence Officer and scouts sent forward to reconnoitre.

09.00hrs – Our infantry and artillery observed retiring on our left in the direction of HEUDECOURT. Artillery reported that they had abandoned guns in VILLERS GUISLAIN. Battalion HQ under R.S.M. sent forward for form line on north-east side of VAUCELLETTE FARM, where they immediately came under machine-gun fire from the enemy advancing from VILLERS GUISLAIN.

A Company were ordered up on their left, and had to fight hard to reach their position: the enemy had already seized Chapel Crossing. All the Officers of this Company eventually became casualties.

B and D Companies were ordered to continue the line on the right of HQ on the east side of VAUCELLETTE FARM. All Companies were quickly in position: fire was opened and the enemy ceased to advance and took up a position on a line running from the BEET FACTORY to CHAPEL CROSSING. At the time there were no troops in position on our right or left flanks. This state of things prevailed until dusk, when the Canadian Mounted Brigade arrived.                                                                             

11.00hrs – Orders were received from the 166th Infantry Brigade to clear the enemy from VILLERS GUISLAIN. Battalion ordered to advance in extended order to clear enemy from VILLERS HILL. This they proceeded to do, led by Lieutenant Colonel R. Hindle D.S.O.

The men were firing from the hip as they advanced, and the foremost line of the enemy began to retire. The advance was successful until the centre of the line reached a point about 200 yards from the crest of the hill, when ammunition ran short. At this time fresh enemy troops advanced over the hill in considerable strength.

The Colonel was killed, and all three Company Commanders became casualties. The Adjutant took command of the Battalion and ordered a withdrawal to VAUCELLETTE FARM. This was carried out slowly, under covering fire from the left flank.

Total casualties were: Killed – Lieutenant- Colonel R. Hindle D.S.O., Second Lieutenant J.H. Livesey, Captain R.N.L. Buckmaster, 7 other Officers were wounded. Other ranks; 11 were killed, 84 wounded and 15 missing.

News of Walter`s death reached his parents and the following article was later published in the Preston Guardian.

201213 Lance Corporal Walter Lawrenson MM “A” Coy 1-4th Battalion 3

Walter`s body was never recovered from the battlefield and as such he has no known grave, his name was later inscribed on the Cambrai Memorial at Louverval.

His father signed for his son`s Military Medal on the 4th April 1918. After the war his parents would also receive their sons British War and Victory Medals as well as his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

Walter is also remembered on the War Memorial in Penwortham where he once lived.Penwortham memorial Penwortham memorial panel

Rank: Lance Corporal
Service No: 201213
Date of Death: 30/11/1917
Age: 22
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.
Awards: M.M.

Janet Davis
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