Walter Gill – War Casualty

Headstone

Walter Gill is my second cousin, thrice removed. He was born circa 1879 in Manchester. According to the 1911 Census he was a Sanitary Labourer for Sheffield Borough Council and lived at 9 Weigh Lane, Park, Sheffield. Special thanks are owed to Trevor Higgins for writing the following text:-

Walter was a member of the 8th btn York and Lancaster Regiment, which was formed from men of the same geographical area at Pontefract. It was a regiment never given the ‘Pals Battalion’ title as were many other locally formed regiments.

The 8th were part of 70th Brigade and assigned to the Western Front of theSomme. On the night of the 30th June 1916, the soldiers of the battalion were located to trenches between Authille Wood and Ollivers . Their orders were to take the village of Ollivers when the attack was launched at 7.30 am on the 1st July.

The attack did not go well and many men were killed almost immediately. Those that remained, 70 of them, actually reached the third line of defence of the Germans, but none ever returned. Of those left defending the first trench, including members of the KOYLI Regiment, stood their ground until eventually overwhelmed.

Of 680 soldiers and 23 Officers, only 68 remained to return to the rear.

Blighty Valley Cemetery

The Battle of the Somme is written in history as the greatest military loss in one day of conflict, some 19857 men killed or missing. It has also been suggested it was never a battle designed to win but, a campaign to cause the Germans to withdraw troops from Verdun in the south to defend the Western Front. Whatever the reason the battle was bloody and sacrificial. German losses were described as ‘the muddy grave of the German Field Army’.

Walter is buried in close proximity within Blighty Valley Cemetery, Authuile Wood, which lies 4 klms north of Albert on the Somme. He are buried with other casualties of the 8th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, and is probably one of those interred at the commencement of the cemetery shortly after the 1st July 1916. There are 1027 burials within the cemetery, 536 of which are unidentified.

This is a revised version of a post which was originally published on my WordPress Blog on 10/01/2010 and republished on Mollekin Portalite on 16/05/2011.

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