Joseph Albert Walsh

Cornelius Michael Walsh and Susan Emily O’Meara were married in Wagga Wagga in August 1880. A son, James, was born the following year, followed by a daughter, Mary in 1883. A second son, Joseph Albert Walsh was born in Orange is 1894, followed by three more daughters. Cornelius was well-known in Orange, being a veterinary surgeon and a breeder of trotting horses.

Joseph was educated by the Patrician Brothers in Orange, under whom he passed the Public Service Examination. He proceeded to join the Orange Land Board Office as a deposition clerk. Joseph also served four years with the Orange Troop Militia Light Horse, gaining a Certificate for Commission from Duntroon Military College.

In November 1915 the Land Board Office granted Joseph military leave to serve in the First World War. By the time Joseph enlisted he was the only remaining son in his family; James had died in 1898, as had his youngest sister, Gertrude in 1901.

Joseph was assigned initially to the 1st Australian Light Horse. In September 1916 he was transferred to the 29th Battalion, 11th Reinforcements. He embarked A19 Afric in Sydney on 3 in November 1916, arriving in Plymouth on 9 January 1917. Private Walsh undertook further training at Hurdcott camp and proceeded to France in March. On 7 April 1917 he was Promoted to Lance Corporal, and, a month later, to Corporal.

During the last two weeks of July 1917 Corporal Walsh attended Musketry School in the field; he was promoted to Sergeant on 6 August.

On 27 September 1917 the 29th Battalion was engaged in the Battle of Polygon Wood. It was here that the 23 year old Sergeant Walsh was killed in action. According to a fellow soldier he received a gunshot wound to the leg followed by a fatal shot to the head. Joseph was buried in the Hooge Crater Cemetery at Ypres.

In a letter to his parents dated 9 September 1917 Joseph confided:

Nothing can give us greater ease and trust than frequent Holy Communion. Whenever I get an opportunity I go, and take the boys of my platoon. The line has no terrors for us, fortified as we are by God’s grace in Holy Communion.

On 29 September 1917 Cornelius Walsh wrote the following letter to the Army Base Records Office:

Dear Sir
I am in receipt of a communication from the Defence Dept informing me of the death in action of my only Son, No 4387, Sert JA Walsh, B Company, 29th Battalion, AIF Between 26 and 27 Sept.
This information is too meagre. Can I not ascertain where my Boy was killed or be given some particulars as to the manner of his death…
…Can you send me the address of the Catholic Chaplain of the 29th Battalion? I am most anxious to know if my beloved son received burial.
Thanking you in anticipation
Yours faithfully
CM Walsh

The Officer in Charge replied:

The only available information regarding him to date is that contained in a brief cable message “Killed in action on 26 or 27 September 1917.”

On 6 November 1917 Cornelius wrote a second letter, stating:

I am anxious to receive his personal belongings and his uniform if possible. Can you procure there for me if possible or advise me of what steps to take to secure them. I would also derive some consolation from hearing of the manner of my dear boy’s death.

Cornelius received the following reply:

I have to state that in due course any personal effects that may be recovered relating to your son…will be forwarded to this Office for transmission to you, or in accordance with any testamentary instructions that may come to hand. His uniform and military equipment will not be returned.

Undeterred, Cornelius wrote a third letter dated 6 May 1918, advising:

I have not yet received any intimation of the personal belongings of my late beloved son…I am most anxious to receive them

It was not until October 1918 that Cornelius received his son’s personal effects: two wallets, a razor, a silver wrist watch, photos, cards, letters, certificates. Joseph’s identity disc followed in June 1920, his war medals in April 1921, and his memorial plaque in September 1922.

In 1923 the Anzac Memorial Avenue of trees was planted along Bathurst Road to commemorate fallen WWI soldiers. A tree was planted in honour of “Sgt JA Walsh”; it was donated by CR Campbell. Very few of the trees are still standing today.

Joseph Albert Walsh is commemorated on the Patrician Brothers’ Roll of Honour, St Joseph’s Church Orange Honour Roll, the World War I Roll of Honour on the southern face of the Orange Cenotaph and on panel number 116 on the Roll of Honour at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. He is also remembered on a commemorative plaque on his mother’s grave in Orange Cemetery, Catholic Section TG – 93/94.

In completing the details for the Roll of Honour Circular Joseph’s father observed:

He gave every promise of a brilliant career and was a general favourite

Joseph Albert Walsh commemorative plaque, Orange Cemetery. Image courtesy Orange Cemetery.

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This entry was posted on September 28th, 2017.