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  Lionel Bertram Walker 

Lance Sergeant E/1666, 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers
Killed in Action, 17/02/1917, aged 22, on the Somme (1), (France)

No Known Grave, but Remembered on :
Ewhurst War Memorial,  Memorial Plaque and Book of Remembrance
The Thiepval Memorial, the Somme, France (Pier and Face 8 C 9 A and 16 A)


 

 

 

LIONEL BERTRAM WALKER was born in Cobham in 1894 (2), the son of Francis William Howard and Eleann Walker, and brother of Frank (b1889), Percy (b1891), Lilian (b1896) and Robert (b1900).

The family had moved to Ewhurst from Cobham between 1896 and 1900, and in 1901 they were living in Alloways. Lionel's father's occupation was given as a brewers traveller.

With the commencement of the First World War, Lionel joined the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers, with a service number of E/1666.

The 22nd (Service) Bn (Kensington) Royal Fusiliers was raised in September 1914.  It moved to Roffey Camp in Horsham, Sussex, in October 1914. It moved to Clipstone Camp (near Mansfield) in June 1915 to join  served with the 99th Brigade, which was a part of 33rd Division. In August 1915 the men moved to Tidworth and finally to France, landing in Boulogne in November 1915. On 25th November 1915, the 99th Brigade joined the 2nd Division. Lionel arrived in France on 26th December 1915. (3)

The 2nd Division moved into the Battle of the Somme from the Vimy Ridge area in late July 1916. August and September saw the division in action at Delville Wood, Waterlot Farm, and Guillemont. In November the division was in action on the Ancre Heights and stayed on the Somme until March 1917.

Also serving with the 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers at the same time as Lionel, and also reaching the rank of Lance Sergeant, was the  famous author H. H. Monro, who wrote under the name of Saki. On 16th November 1916, outside the village of Beaumont Hamel, on the Somme, Monro, a member of 'A' Company,  was shot and fatally wounded by German sniper. He is also remembered on the Thiepval Memorial.


Lance Sergeants H H Monro & Lionel Walker, commemorated on
The Thiepval Memorial to the Missing

 ATTACK TOWARDS MIRAUMONT, 17TH FEBRUARY, 1917

With February 1917, 2nd Division were in action near Miraumont, attacking Boom Ravine and north towards Pys and Petite Miraumont. The action was to involve 3 divisions, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division on the slopes to the north of the River Ancre, attacking eastwards towards Miraumont, 18th Division south of the River Ancre, attacking north towards Miraumont, and 2nd Division to their east attacking in a northerly direction towards a line between Miraumont and the village of Pys.

The 2nd Division main attack was to involve just the 99th Brigade, capturing Hill 130, with a secondary attack involving a battalion of the 6th Brigade on the right flank, towards Pys. On the left of the 99th Brigade attacked the 54th Brigade of 18th Division. The ground over which the men were to attack had been subject to a five week period of freezing conditions, and the commanders decided that a rate of advance equal to 100 yards in three minutes for the first 100 yards, followed by 100 yards in four minutes thereafter was decided upon, punctuated by 30 minute pauses at each of the three fixed objectives. Zero hour was set at 5.45 am on the 17th February 1917. In the event, a thaw began on the 16th which rendered the rate of advance calculations inaccurate, and hence the rate of the moving artillery barrage that the advancing troops were to follow.

The 99th Brigade front consisted of 500 yards of line between the East Miraumont Road (right flank) and the West Miraumont Road (left flank & boundary with 54th Brigade).  On the right of the 99th, one and a half companies of 23rd Bn Royal Fusiliers were to advance in four waves towards the first objective of Blue Line (Grandcourt Trench) which they were then to hold. 'D' Company 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers were then to move up behind them to take up a flank protecting position along the East Miraumont Road between the British frontline and the Blue Line. At this point, the remaining elements of 23rd Bn Royal Fusiliers were to advance through Blue Line and on towards the second objective, Green Line (South Miraumont Trench). One company from 23rd Bn Royal Fusiliers were to continue the flank protection between the Blue Line and the Green Line.

The left element of  99th Brigade's front was to be attacked by four waves of 'A' and 'C' Companies of 1st Bn King's Royal Rifle Corps, augmented with members of 'B' Company 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers, who were at act as 'moppers up' (the remainder of the company acting as 'support' for the attack). The second objective, Green Line, was then to be assaulted by  'B' and 'D' Companies 1st Bn KRRC. The third objective, Yellow Line (the road at the foot of Hill 130 in front of Miraumont) was the objective of the final remaining two companies ('A' and 'C') of the 22nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers.

Having moved up to the front line on the night of the 16th, the men of the brigade took what shelter was available in shell holes and the existing trenches. Due to the anticipated frozen condition of the ground, the planners had opted away from preparing assembly trenches for the leading waves to advance from. During the night, the men were subjected to a sustained German barrage, which pointed to the probability that the Germans were aware that the attack was imminent.

At 5.45 am the British barrage fell on the German lines and the attack began. It was immediately subjected to heavy German machine gun fire. Elements of 54th Brigade moved across the brigade boundary of West Miraumont Road, pushing the 1st Bn KRRC lead companies amongst those of the 23rd Bn Royal Fusiliers. To the right flank, 'D' Company 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers established themselves along the East Miraumont Road in the face of German machine gun fire. Their commander, Major John Walsh (4), was mortally wounded, and Second Lts G.J.Fuller and G.H Evans were seriously wounded, at which stage Lance Sergeant Frederick Palmer assumed command of the company. His following actions, fighting off eight German counter attacks, won him a Victoria Cross. 

The attack was still progressing in the gloom of the early dawn and mist and smoke of battle. The ground over which the men were advancing had become a slippery, icy morass. In these conditions the second wave's advance towards the Green Line lost direction and became scattered. 'A' and 'C' Companies of 22nd Bn Royal Fusiliers also lost direction as they attempted to advance across Hill 130 towards the Yellow Line, and strayed west of West Miraumont Road. A Company and elements of C Company were led back towards their objective, but became surrounded and killed or captured in the region of South Miraumont Trench.

As the attack faltered, the Germans counter attacked towards Hill 130 from a ravine to the north of the Miraumont-Pys Road. By this stage there was little the depleted and tired men of the attacking force could do to resist, and gradually the advance was pushed back across the slopes of Hill 130.

It is not known which company Lance Sergeant Lionel Walker was serving with, but following the action he was posted missing. His body was never recovered, and he is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. Shortly after the battle, the Germans withdrew to their prepared positions known as the Hindenburg Line.

At the end of 1917, Lionel's status was transferred from 'missing' to 'killed', the news being announced in the Surrey Times on 22nd December 1917. On 12th January the newspaper carried an article stating:

“Mr and Mrs Walker of Ewhurst have received news that their son Sgt. Lionel Walker, Royal Fusiliers who had been reported missing since Feb 17th 1917 must now be presumed to have been killed on that date.  He was 22 years of age”

Lionel Walker was posthumously awarded the 1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.

 

 

 

Follow this Link to details about First World War Medals
 

 

Notes:
(1)
incorrectly recorded as "missing at Ypres" in the Book of Remembrance
(2) Birth registered in Epsom.
(3) Medal Record Card
(4) Major John Walsh lies in Ovillers Military Cemetery, although his grave has subsequently been lost and he is remembered on a special monument.
 

Other sources:

  • Book of Remembrance

  • Soldiers Died in the Great War

  • 1901 Census

  • Boom Ravine, by Trevor Pidgeon
     

Andrew Bailey, Ewhurst, Surrey
andy@ewhurstfallen.co.uk
Copyright©2005