Date of birth: 1898
Date of death: 04.10.1917
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of William and Clara Walters
Service number: 40392
In the absence of his service record, it is not certain when Joseph Walters joined the army, or whether he was a volunteer or a conscript. However, he was drafted to the 9th (Service) Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, serving with 64th Brigade, 21st Division, in France.
The 21st Division sailed for France on 11th September 1915. Two weeks later, on the 25th September, they were involved in the Battle of Loos. The 64th Brigade was in Divisional reserve, however, as the enemy pushed the attackers back from Hill 70, the trenches they occupied became involved in the fight. During the afternoon, amid some confusion, the 9th KOYLI moved forward without official orders and advanced to counter-attack the enemy towards the Loos-Hulloch road. The attackers started up the hill but were cut down from the flanks by machine-gun and shrapnel fire, forcing them to withdraw to their original line. The 9th KOYLI incurred 216 casualties during this action.
When the Battle of the Somme began, at 07.30 hrs on the 1st July 1916, the 21st Division held the line from La Boisselle to Fricourt. Five minutes before zero hour, the leading companies from 9th and 10th KOYLI crept out into “No Man’s Land” under cover of the barrage from their own guns. At 07.30 hrs, when the barrage lifted, the battalions advanced, only to be cut down by machine-gun fire. However the first objective was taken and they pressed on to Crucifix Trench. Here the line was consolidated and held by the 64th Brigade, until relieved the following morning. During the first day of the battle 9th KOYLI incurred 495 casualties and was withdrawn, in Division, to north of Arras.
The 21st Division returned to the Somme and on 15th September, the 64th Brigade moved into Flers Trench, in front of Gueudecourt. With the attack due to begin at 09.20 hrs the following morning the 9th KOYLI went forward over open ground, under cover of the barrage, to positions some 50 yards from the enemy trenches. They had incurred heavy losses in the process and were unable to press home their attack when the barrage lifted. On the 25th September the 9th KOYLI, in Brigade, once again attacked Gueudecourt before withdrawing the following night and moving north of Arras.
On 7th April 1917, the 9th KOYLI, in Brigade, went into the line in preparation for the assault of the Hindenburg Line about the Henin-Heninel road. The attack commenced on 9th April, through deep snow, but was checked at the enemy’s second line. The battalion was forced to seek temporary cover in shell holes, until ordered to withdraw and consolidate the first position south of Heninel. During the night the 9th KOYLI withdrew, having incurred 182 casualties.
The third Battle of Ypres had been in progress some weeks when the 21st Division was deployed to the battlefront. On 3rd October 1917 the 9th KOYLI was in the front line opposite Reutel, being constantly shelled, but at 06.00 hrs on the 4th October they advanced towards the German lines. Their objective was to occupy a section of the road west of Reutel, at which time the 10th KOYLI, in support, were to pass through and enter the village of Reutel. The ground in front was swampy and raked by machine-gun fire. The enemy barrage was intense, but the first objective was taken and defended against counter-attacks. The 9th KOYLI held their position until relieved the following night, having incurred 381 casualties.
One of these casualties was Private Joseph Walters, killed in action on the 4th October 1917. His body was not identified and consequently his name is remembered on the Tyne Cot Memorial. The Memorial bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men from the United Kingdom and New Zealand, who died on the Ypres Salient after 16th August 1917 and who have no known grave.