JOHN WALLING 1889 – 1917

 250188 Private John Walling, 1/6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 8 March 1917 is buried at St. Sever cemetery extension, Rouen, France.[1]   He was 27 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.

Family Details [2]

 John was born 15 June 1889 at Evenwood the son of William and Sarah Walling.  There were at least 12 children, all born at Evenwood:

  • Elizabeth 1874-1932
  • Jane 1877-1946
  • Thomas who died in childhood, 1879-1880
  • William 1881-1926
  • Isabella born 1884
  • Margaret 1887-1936
  • John born 1889
  • Thomas born 1891
  • Sarah who died in infancy after 27 days, 1894
  • Frances born 1895
  • Robert born 1899
  • Mary Ellen born 1901

29 January 1910, John married Isabelle and they had 2 sons:

  • John William
  • Edgar

By 1911, they lived at the Oaks House, Evenwood.

Military Details

 John Walling was included in the Roll of Honour in Evenwood Church Magazines: [3]

“Married Men –

John Walling, Oaks, 6th Batt. D.L.I.”

John Walling enlisted at Evenwood into his local Territorial Force, the 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry and was given the regimental number 2278[4] then later 250188.[5]

The 1/6th Battalion were formed in Bishop Auckland in August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division and in May 1915 became the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division. The Division moved to France 16 April 1915 and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war. Other battalions were: [6]

  • 1/7th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/8th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/9th Battalion, DLI
  • 1/5th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancs. joined June 1915

Following heavy casualties in June 1915 the battalion merged with the 1/8th to become the 6/8th then it returned to its original identity 11 August 1915 and was then joined by:

  • 1/5th (Cumberland) Battalion, the Border Regiment joined December 1915
  • 151st Machine Gun Company formed 6 February 1916
  • 150th Trench Mortar Battery formed 18 June 1916

Up until autumn 1916, the Division took part in the following engagements:

  • The Second Battle of Ypres
  • The Battle of Flers-Courcelette (6th phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916)
  • The Battle of Morval (7th phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916)
  • The Battle of Le Transloy (8th  phase of the Battle of the Somme 1916)  [7]    

 Onto Misery

The Battalion was relieved by 5/DLI and went back to Mametz Wood then 30 November, it marched to billets at Warloy for a month of rest and training.

1 January 1917:  6/DLI was back on its way to the line in the area around Albert – 2 tours in the front line at Factory Corner, near Flers.

24 January:  6/DLI was relieved by the 1st Australian Division.  The Division then moved south into a sector hitherto held by the French, south of Peronne, still in the Somme area.  The Battalion was in the village of Foucaucourt as Divisional Reserve.  The village was “nothing but ruins”. The Battalion moved up the line to relieve the 5th Yorkshire Regiment.  The following description is given: [8]

 “Following on the methods adopted by the French the relief took place through very long communication trenches running from Estrees through Berny to the line in front of Misery.  These trenches as a result of the thaw were everywhere knee deep in mud and usually waist deep and men arrived in the line without boots and in a few cases without trousers, having lost them in the mud.  The experiences of X Company were perhaps the worst.  Leaving camp at about 5pm then 130 strong they were met by guides who lost their way and eventually arrived in the front line at dawn having lost over 10 men stuck in the mud.  The relief was not reported complete til 4pm the next day.  The front line trenches were worse if possible than the communication trenches and the days that followed were most unpleasant.  There was very little cover from enemy snipers who were pretty active and there were several casualties from fishtail trench mortars.  One night was marked by a very intense strafe for a short time with rifle grenades and trench mortars.  It afterwards appeared that this was the enemy’s parting shot for soon after the Division was relieved the enemy’s extensive retirement on this sector took place.  After 2 tours in the front line, one in support in trenches round Berny and one in reserve at Foucaucourt, the Battalion was relieved early in March by the 2/5th South Staffordshire Regiment (59th Division) who had just come from Ireland and had previously seen any fighting in France.  On relief the Battalion returned to Foucaucourt.”

Further details are provided:[9]

27 February: 6/DLI went into reserve

4 March: relieved by 5/Borders, 6/DLI moved into support at Berny.

“The enemy artillery and aircraft were very active and shelled Berny and surrounds.  This quietened down on the 7th of the month, giving the Battalion the opportunity to clean and repair their trenches.”

8 March: 50th Division was relieved by the 59th Division and 6/DLI relieved by 5/South Staffordshire Regiment and marched to Foucaucourt.

Private John Walling died of wounds 8 March 1917.  He is buried in St. Sever Cemetery Extension at Rouen.[10] The service details of Private John Walling and the 6/DLI War Diary have not been researched but it is assumed that he received wounds while on duty in the front line in early March or at Berny, possibly as a result of sniper activity, rifle grenades, trench mortar shelling or artillery shelling.

Report of his Death

The Evenwood Parish Magazine reported as follows:[11]

“Lastly, I have to record the death on active service of 2 more of our local young men viz. Pte. J. Walling whose people live at Oaks House and Pte. J. Million of South View.  The former died of wounds and the latter from pneumonia contracted in the trenches.  It is hard and well nigh impossible for one to express one’s feelings in words on the subject of these sacrifices.  Time alone can heal such wounds in the hearts of those who mourn them.  But the loss is all ours.  There is the victory and as we shall some day know the honour.  A life so sacrificed is a life not ultimately ended but complete.  It is a life which is called up by the great Giver of all life at its highest and best moment.  For these and such as these we may depend upon it that there will be ample compensation.  So may it be!”

Burial [12]

 Private John Walling is buried at grave reference O. VI. E. 2 St. Sever Cemetery Extension, Rouen.  There are 8,346 Commonwealth burials from the First World War.  During the First World War, camps and hospitals were stationed on the southern outskirts of Rouen.  Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war.  They included 8 general, 5 stationary, 1 British Red Cross and 1 labour hospital and No. 2 Convalescent Depot.  The great majority of the dead from these hospitals were buried at the city cemetery of St. Sever but in September 1916, it was necessary to build an extension.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] Family details provided by Mima Walling [Evenwood] & John Cowley [Butterknowle]

[3] Evenwood Church Magazines February & April 1915

[4] Medal Roll

[5] Soldiers Died in the Great War

[6] http://www.1914-1918.net/dli.htm

[7] http://www.1914-1918.net/50div.htm

[8] “The Story of the 6th Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry April 1915-November 1918” Capt. R.B. Ainsworth 1919

[9] “The Faithfull Sixth: a history of the Sixth Battalion, the Durham Light Infantry” 1995 H. Moses  p.81

[10] CWGC

[11] Evenwood Church Magazine  April 1917

[12] CWGC


WALLING J.  Family Bible

Family Bible

WALLING J.  Headstone