Topic: Private William Henry Welsh

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A soldier of the Great War killed in action during the Somme battles.

Private William Henry Welsh – 6/3919

William was born 29th July 1892 at Rakaia, son of Ephraim and Jennie Welsh. Prior to enlisting he was employed as ploughman by Mr G. H. Gilbert, of Southbridge. He achieved distinction while still in his teens, as a competitor at the Ellesmere ploughing matches, gaining several prizes, while his work was greatly admired by competent judges. He was a popular and highly-respected young man and was a Past Master of the Southbridge True Blue Orange Lodge. He did have previous military experience having served with the Canterbury Yeomanry Cavalry. He was 5ft 7inches tall with a fair complexion, light blue eyes and light brown hair. He also had two scars on his right knee.

William enlisted on 18th October 1915 and was assigned to the Canterbury Infantry Regiment. He embarked with the 9th Reinforcements on 8 January 1916 on board the Maunganui bound for Suez, Egypt. He disembarked on 8th February 1916 and joined his battalion at Moascar on 8 March. After a month’s training he left for France on board the Ascania from Alexandria arriving 16th April. He was wounded in the field on 1st October during the battle for the Ancre Heights. He was attached to the signals company and was wounded in the leg. He was last seen heading in the direction of the Goose Alley Dressing Station about 200 yards away. The area was under heavy shelling and the board of Enquiry found that he had been killed in action on the 1st October, aged 24. His body was not identified so his name is recorded on the Caterpillar Valley Memorial to the Missing, Somme. In New Zealand William is remembered on the Ellesmere County War Memorial, Southbridge Plaque, the Dunsandel War Memorial and the Southbridge School Roll of Honour. The Press noted that flags were flown over public and private buildings in Southbridge when the news of his death came to hand.

Researched and written by L M Seaton.  If you have a photograph of this soldier please contact lmseaton@clear.net.nz

CWGC Cemetery locale history: Caterpillar Valley was the name given by the army to the long valley which rises eastwards, past "Caterpillar Wood", to the high ground at Guillemont. The ground was captured, after very fierce fighting, in the latter part of July 1916. It was lost in the German advance of March 1918 and recovered by the 38th (Welsh) Division on 28 August 1918, when a little cemetery was made (now Plot 1 of this cemetery) containing 25 graves of the 38th Division and the 6th Dragoon Guards. After the Armistice, this cemetery was hugely increased when the graves of more than 5,500 officers and men were brought in from other small cemeteries, and the battlefields of the Somme. The great majority of these soldiers died in the autumn of 1916 and almost all the rest in August or September 1918. CATERPILLAR VALLEY CEMETERY now contains 5,569 Commonwealth burials and commemorations of the First World War. 3,796 of the burials are unidentified but there are special memorials to 32 casualties known or believed to be buried among them, and to three buried in McCormick's Post Cemetery whose graves were destroyed by shell fire. On 6 November 2004, the remains of an unidentified New Zealand soldier were entrusted to New Zealand at a ceremony held at the Longueval Memorial, France. The remains had been exhumed by staff of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission from Caterpillar Valley Cemetery, Longueval, France, Plot 14, Row A, Grave 27 and were later laid to rest within the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, at the National War Memorial, Wellington, New Zealand. On the east side of the cemetery is the CATERPILLAR VALLEY (NEW ZEALAND) MEMORIAL, commemorating more than 1,200 officers and men of the New Zealand Division who died in the Battles of the Somme in 1916, and whose graves are not known. This is one of seven memorials in France and Belgium to those New Zealand soldiers who died on the Western Front and whose graves are not known. The memorials are all in cemeteries chosen as appropriate to the fighting in which the men died. Both cemetery and memorial were designed by Sir Herbert Baker.

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Private William Henry Welsh


First Names:William Henry
Last Name:Welsh
Date of Birth:29 July 1892
Place of Birth:Southbridge
Date of Death:01 October 1916
Place of Death:Somme, France
Memorial or Cemetery:Caterpillar Valley Memorial to the Missing
Age at death:23
User Name:L M Seaton
Occupation before enlisting:Labourer
Marital Status:Single
Nominal Roll:21/27
Regiment or Service:Canterbury Infantry Regiment
Country:New Zealand
Parents or Next of Kin:Son of Ephraim and Jennie Welsh. Native of Southbridge, Christchurch.
Service Number:6/3919
Rank last held:Private
Embarkation:8 January 1916
Place of Embarkation:Wellington
Transport:Maunganui
Cause of Death:Killed in action