Date of birth: 1881
Date of death: 27.11.1917
Area: Outwood, Wakefield
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light infantry
Family information: Son of Gad and Mary Walshaw
Service number: number : 242064 (5157)
Wilson Walshaw enlisted in March 1915, joining the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was later drafted to the 2/5th Battalion, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry, attached to 187th Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. On 16th January 1917 the 187th Brigade landed at Le Havre on its journey to join the British Expeditionary Force.
A month later, along with the 2/5th KOYLI, Private Wilson Walshaw went into the line at Mailly-Maillet. The weather was very bad and ground conditions atrocious, such that relief from the front line was taking place after 48 hours. On being relieved on the night of 22nd/23rd February, the 2/5th KOYLI had 43 men suffering from trench foot.
At this time the German Army was withdrawing to their defensive positions on the Hindenburg Line, with the Allied armies in pursuit. The 187th Brigade was not used during the Battle of Arras, in April 1917, but was in action at Bullecourt on the 3rd May. Here the 2/5th KOYLI succeeded in penetrating the German wire and entering the first trench, which they managed to hold with assistance from the 2/4th KOYLI. However further attacks against the second line trench were stopped by heavy enemy fire. The 2/5th KOYLI incurred 271 casualties during these attacks but remained in the area until the end of June when the 62nd Division moved to the Noreuil-Lagnicourt sector.
On 9th October 1917 the 187th Brigade moved south to Ypres, to prepare for the Battle of Cambrai, where they were to fight alongside tanks. At 21.00 hrs on 17th November 1917, the 187th Brigade, on the left of the Divisional attack, moved into the line at Havrincourt. The 2/5th KOYLI was on the brigade’s left, with orders to breakthrough and advance to a line between the village and the canal. At 06.30 hrs on 20th November, both KOYLI battalions advanced under constant machine gun fire, but nevertheless achieved their objectives, before being relieved. After a short rest to clean and replace equipment, on 25th November both KOYLI battalions returned to the front line near the sugar beet factory on the Bapaume-Cambrai road.
On the night of 26th November the 2/5th KOYLI, on the left of the 187th Brigade front, was in position ready for the frontal attack against the village of Bourlon. The night was cold and wet, with snow falling, driven by strong winds. Zero hour was 06.30 hrs on 27th November, however shortly before that time, German artillery started shelling the assembly positions at the edge of the wood, causing a number of casualties. The tanks, which were to accompany the 2/5th KOYLI, were delayed and the battalion started its assault some twenty minutes after zero hour. Nevertheless they fought their way into the village, until the tanks were brought to a halt by street barricades. At this time enfilade machine gun fire from the front and the flanks was causing great problems for the 2/5th KOYLI. With casualties mounting, the battalion was forced to withdraw to the ridge south of Bourlon village, which they were ordered to hold at all costs. The 2/5th KOYLI was relieved on the 28th November, having incurred 191 casualties during three days fighting.
Private Wilson Walshaw, whose body was never identified, was one of these casualties. His name is included on the Cambrai Memorial, which stands on a terrace within the Military Cemetery at Louverval, a small village situated beside the main road from Bapaume to Cambrai. This Memorial commemorates more than 7,000 servicemen who died in the battle and have no known grave.
Born in 1881, Wilson Walshaw was the son of Gad Walshaw, a coal miner and his wife Mary, formerly Asquith, of Potovens Lane, Outwood. By 1891 his mother had died and Wilson was living with his widowed father and step-sister at Ouchthorpe Lane, Outwood. On leaving school Wilson Walshaw obtained work at Messrs Armitage’s Brickworks as a labourer. At this time he was living with his married sister Laura Jane and her husband, Sidwell Gosnay, at Bell’s Houses, Ouchthorpe Lane, Outwood. In his spare time Wilson Walshaw also acted as librarian at Outwood Working Men’s Club.