East Lancs Regiment mustering on Southport beach in April 1915.
East Lancs Regiment mustering on Southport beach in April 1915.

Jimmy is not a relative, he appears in our family tree as Gertrude Kay’s (Alisons Great Grandmother) first husband. She  married James W. Walton on 8th July 1911 at Trinity Church Burnley, when she was 22 years old. We don’t know much about James beyond the bare facts. He was born in Facit, Whitworth, in Rossendale and worked in the mines as an underground pit drawer. He lived in Brush Street Burnley in 1911 just before he got married. According to Edna when she met him he always looked ill and was very thin.

Only three years after Gerturde and James were married, and just 6 weeks after the start of the war, he enlisted in Kitchener’s Third New Army on 4th September 1914. He joined the 9th Battalion of the East Lancs (Service) Corp. His unit assembled in the area of Eastbourne and Seaford and spent the first year of the war on the south coast of England where James was trained as a Bomb Thrower.

A Soldier from the 9th Bat East Lancs, in Salonika.
A Soldier from the 9th Bat East Lancs, in Salonika.

They were under the command of 65th Brigade in 22nd Division which crossed to France on 4th September 1915. Initally billeted near Flesselles north of Amiens the stay in France was a short one. Soon they were transfered to the war in the Balkans – arriving in Salonika, Macedoniaon on the 5th November 1915 . There an Anglo-French force was assembling to assist the Serbs in resisting Germany’s Bulgarian allies. Compared to other theatres of war, stalemate characterised this arduous campaign in mountainous terrain, with offensive operations largely confined to raids and patrolling. In December 1915 the 9th East Lancashires were in action at Kosturino and on 13th-14th September 1916, the same battalion saw more serious fighting at Macukovo. All three battalions took part in the first Doiran offensive, April-May 1917. After this last battle James was transferred  back to France. The Division had suffered casualties of 7,728 killed, wounded and missing during the war but vastly larger numbers were sick with malaria, dysentery and other diseases rife in the Salonika theatre.

In August 1918 he transferred to the Labour Corp, probably because of his illness. James had caught malaria in Salonica and by the time he was demobbed he also had an ear infection and Bronchitis. According to Edna she remembers him coughing a lot later in his life, presumably the effects of his war illness.

James named Alice Kay as one of his dependent children, although recorded as illegitimate. He did end up with a pension for Alice. In his Army Records he at first recorded his mother Martha Anne at 15 Brush Street as his next of kin. Later he changed that to his wife Gertrude at 1 Regent Street.

He was demobbed on 27th January 1919, getting a pension on 10/3 per week, which was enhanced becuase of his illnesses – they were attributed and aggravated by the war.

From James service records (which are one of the few to have survived) we can see that he was short, 5ft 4 ¾ inches, weighing 129 pds (58 kg) and 35in chest. He was small and thin, confirming Edna’s recollection.

James Walton Medals
James Walton Medals
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