JOHN JOSEPH WALTON 1893-1917
19677 Lance Corporal John Joseph Walton, 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 14 August 1917 and is commemorated at the Tyne Cot Memorial, Belgium. He was 25 years old and is commemorated on the Evenwood War Memorial and the Roll of Honour, St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood.
John Joseph Walton was born 1893  in Evenwood. In 1901, 8 year old John Joseph lived with his grandparents John and Mary Jane Walton of the Oaks, Evenwood and their sons Robert, Charles and James and their daughter Elizabeth. 68 year old John Walton was a retired coal miner, 31 year old Robert and 21 year old Charles were both hewers and 18 year old James was a putter. By 1911, John Joseph aged 17 still lived at the Oaks with his 66 year old widowed grandmother and 41 year old Robert who was described as single. Robert and John worked as miners. Perhaps Robert was John’s father or more likely his uncle. By 1915, John Joseph Walton lived at Swan Street, Evenwood. 
16 January 1915: John J. Walton enlisted at Bishop Auckland into the 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment together with Ambrose and Charles Wilfred Gaffney from the Oaks, Evenwood. John Joseph Walton was given the regimental number 19677.  William Gray, the Hon. Secretary of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Fund provided Rev. G. J. Collis, vicar of St. Paul’s Church, Evenwood with a complete list of those who had enlisted into His Majesty’s Forces and the Roll of Honour published in the Church Magazine contained the following entry:
John Joseph Walton, Swan Street, Yorks. Regiment.
25 August 1914: The 6th (Service) Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) was formed at Richmond as part of Kitchener’s New Army, K1. It came under the orders of the 32nd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division which comprised: 
- 6th (Service) Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment
- 9th (Service) Bn., the West Yorkshires, joined August 1914
- 6th (Service) Bn., the East Yorkshires, joined August 1914 left December 1914
- 2nd Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment, joined May 1918
- 6th (Service) Bn., the York & Lancaster Regiment, joined August 1914
- 32nd Brigade Machine Gun Company, (formed March 1916)
- 32nd Trench Mortar Battery, joined July 1916.
John J. Walton entered France 2 October 1915. In July 1916, the 6th Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment landed in Marseilles, France after serving in Gallipoli and Egypt and spent the rest of the war on the Western Front. It was involved in the following offensives:
- The sixth phase of the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, 15 – 22 September 1916
- Operations on the Ancre, 11 January – 13 March 1917. Although the Battle of the Somme is officially recognised as ending with the capture of Beaumont Hamel in November 1916, operations in the Ancre Valley and on the surrounding heights continued through the freezing winter of 1916-1917. The fighting has three official stages:
- The actions of Miraumont, 17-18 February 1917
- The capture of the Thilloys, 25 February – 2 March 1917
- The capture of Irles, 10 March 1917
The 11th Division was engaged in the area during this period and witnessed some of the most severe fighting of the war – Gallipoli and the Somme.
The Third Battle of Ypres, more popularly known as Passchendaele was the next the next major battle of the war. But first, Messines Ridge which guarded the southern flank of the Ypres Ridge needed to be taken and the battalion was again called upon to assist operations.
The Battle of Messines: 7 June 1917 
In order to break the deadlock on the Western Front, a major campaign in Flanders was devised for the summer of 1917. The French effort, known as the Nivelle Offensive had collapsed in May 1917 and the French army had been seriously weakened by mutiny during April – May 1917 so there was increased pressure on the British to attack the German lines. The Third Battle of Ypres was aimed to recapture the Belgian ports of Ostend and Zeebrugge and the German submarine bases there. The plan was for the British Second and Fifth Armies to break out of the Ypres Salient which was surrounded by the German army occupying the higher ground to the east, advance several miles and then attack Ostend and Zeebrugge from the rear. Once this objective had been achieved then the British would drive the Germans out of Belgium. As a prelude to the campaign, the German held Wytschaete-Messines Ridge had to be captured since it overlooked the whole area.
In early 1916, meticulous plans were put in place to take the ridge. In preparing for the Messines battle, General Plummer authorised the laying of 22 mine shafts underneath German lines all along the ridge – work began some 18 months before the offensive. Tunnels from 200 to 2,000 feet in length at a depth of 100 feet had been laid. All 22 mines were to be detonated then the infantry would attack supported by an artillery bombardment, tanks and the use of gas.
The 11th Division together with the 16th, 19th and 36th Divisions made up the IX Corps which attacked with the X Corps and the 2nd ANZAC’s.
21 May: a heavy preliminary bombardment was commenced. It involved 2,300 guns and 300 heavy mortars delivering 3.5 million shells.
7 June 1917: the bombardment ceased at 02:50 then at zero hour 03:10, the order was given to detonate the mines. 19 exploded, 600 tons of explosive blew the crest off the Wytschaete-Messines Ridge. The noise of the explosion was heard in Downing Street. The effect upon the German defenders was devastating. Some 10,000 men were killed during the explosion alone. The 9 Divisions of infantry including the 6th Yorkshire Regiment advanced under protection of a creeping artillery barrage and tanks. Gas canisters using the new Livens projectors, were thrown directly into the enemy trenches.
All initial objectives were taken within 3 hours and by mid afternoon Reserves from General Gough’s Fifth Army and the French First Army reached their final objectives.
8 June: the German troops counter-attacked without success and this action diminished by 14 June: the entire Messines salient was in Allied hands.
The Battle of Messines Ridge, greatly boosted morale among the Allied troops and signified for the first time on the Western Front that defensive casualties actually exceeded attacking losses: 25,000 against 17,000. 7,000 prisoners were taken. It was one of the most complete “local” victories of the war and there was no reason to delay the main Flanders campaign.
The Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele)
31 July – 10 November 1917 – an overview 
The offensive had 8 distinctive phases:
- Battle of Pilckem, 31 July to 2 August
- Battle of Langemarck, 16 to 18 August
- Battle of the Menin Road, 20 to 25 September
- Battle of Polygon Wood, 26 September to 3 October
- Battle of Broodseinde, 4 October
- Battle of Poelcapelle, 9 October
- First Battle of Passchendaele, 12 October
- Second Battle of Passchendaele, 26 October to 10 November
Many Divisions visited the Ypres Salient during the Third Battle of Ypres and on more than one occasion. A total of 54 Divisions were thrown into battle. For example, the 11th Division saw action at Langemarck, Polygon Wood, Broodseinds and Poelcapelle. The offensive cost the British nearly 310,000 casualties, the Germans slightly less and it consumed all of the available reserves. On the 6th November, the village of Passchendaele was entered and the whole campaign ended a few days later when more of the ridge was taken. It achieved none of its objectives although the Germans could no longer look down on the Ypres Salient which had been deepened by about 5 miles and they had been prevented from attacking the French when its army was in disarray following the failure of the Nivelle Offensive.
From the outset, it was obvious to the German Fourth Army that a new attack was being prepared and the previous year they had begun to strengthen their defences. The British did not force home their initial advantage and it was not until the 11th July that an air offensive began.
18 July: a massive artillery bombardment commenced.
31 July: the attack itself began and the British Fifth Army attacked north-east from the Ypres salient. Initially, good progress was made but a strong counter-attack resulted in only a 2 mile advance. Heavy rain fell on the first night flooding the swampy ground whose drainage system had been totally destroyed by the 10 day bombardment. As a result the whole operation was held up but offensive actions still took place.
A description of the action of August is: 
“So desolate, so meaningless were these August struggles that the record of them in histories and memoirs fill one with a certain weariness. Listlessly the men assemble at the jumping-off tapes. Behind the same familiar barrage they advance through the same narrow porridge-like strip of ground. The same hidden machine-guns greet them; the same whiz-bangs open up at them. Here and there a strong-point is captured, a new outpost is reached, to which a few riflemen forlornly cling. Some of these are held, and occasionally the line is advanced a few hundred yards. Brownish masses of German troops slog forward and everywhere nasty hand-to-hand encounters take place. The men on both sides are lacerated and punctured, bleed and die, in numbers that baffle the imagination. Nameless new beings take their place, but nothing else changes.
Gaunt, blackened remnants of trees drip in the one-time forests. The shells of countless batteries burst deafeningly and without ceasing; the dank smell of gunpowder, wet clay, poison gas and polluted water spreads over the battleground and drifts eastward. The men hardly know what they are doing or how affairs in general are progressing. By mid-August they were told even less than soldiers are usually told: move up there; start walking that way; occupy those shell-holes; wait near the barn; surround that pill-box; relieve those chaps (you can’t see them from here) behind the canal and wait for further word. After two weeks such was the status of Haig’s grand offensive which was to have burst out of the Salient, bounded across the ridge, released the prancing cavalry steeds, and with flying banners capture the Channel ports.”
The 6th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment – an account
The battalion did not take part in the opening action, the Battle of Pilckem.
1 – 7 August: it was encamped in woodland in close proximity.
8 August: the battalion moved up to the Yser Canal dug outs to take over from the 51st Division and provided working parties for the next 2 days and nights. The German artillery hit the roads with gas shells.
11 August: the Battalion moved up to relieve the 8th Duke of Wellington’s Regiment. “A” & “C” Companies were in the line and “B” & “D” were in reserve.
12 August: quiet and patrols went out at night to discover enemy positions.
An attack was planned for the 14th and the following details are taken from the 6th Battalion War Diary:
“13th 4 am. – Outposts withdrawn to W. of STEENBEEK to allow heavy Artillery to shell enemy’s posts. These posts were re-occupied at “Stand-to” in the enemy.
14th – at 3 am. Outposts withdrawn to W. Bank of STEENBEEK and formed up preparatory to an advance. “A” Coy attacking on the right with 2 ½ platoons and 1 ½ platoons in support to occupy the old line of posts. 2 platoons of “B” Coy immediately in rear to occupy a prepared position on the W. bank of the STEENBEEK. “C” Coy. On the left with 2 ½ platoons and 1 platoon in support to occupy old line of posts.
At 4 am. The barrage came down and the advance commenced. “C” Coy. gained their objective on the left. “A” Coy held up on the right by hostile M.G. fire from the dug outs untouched by bombardment. Enemy delivered several small attacks during the day on “A” Coy. which were easily repelled by rifle fire. Intense shelling all day by the enemy. At night battn. relieved by 5th Dorset Regt. who took up positions on the W. Bank of the STEENBEEK our posts being withdrawn through them.
Casualties 2nd Lt. C.S.M. WELDON and 2nd Lt. W.F. JELLEY wounded. OR 20 killed. 63 wounded. 26 missing.
15th – Relief completed at 4.30 am. Battn. moved into dug outs on E. Bank of the Canal. March from E. Bank of Canal at 7.45 am. to Hutments A 30 Central.”
14 August: Lance Corporal John Joseph Walton was killed in action. He has no known grave. It is therefore assumed that Lance Corporal John Joseph Walton was one of the 26 Other Ranks recorded as missing. The Green Howards Gazette of September 1916 reported 19677 Lance Corporal J. Walton as wounded then the edition of October & November 1917 recorded 19677 Private J.J. Walton as Killed in Action. Later research records that 6th Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment lost 27 Other Ranks killed in action or died of wounds 14 August 1917 and over the next 4 days a further 8 men died.
Lance Corporal J.J. Walton was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.
Lance Corporal John Joseph Walton is commemorated at Panel 52 to 54 Tyne Cot Memorial. The Tyne Cot Cemetery is located 9 kilometres north east of Ypres, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Memorial to the Missing if one of 4 memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient which stretched from Langermarck in the north to Ploegsteert Wood in the south. The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms the north-eastern boundary of the Tyne Cot Cemetery and bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are unknown. The memorial was unveiled in July 1927.
 Commonwealth War Graves Commission
 England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.258 Auckland 1893 Q3
 1901 census
 1911 census
 Evenwood Church Magazine April 1915
 Yorkshire Regiment “Regimental, Recruiting or Militia and Volunteer Artillery District” register – 19674 Gaffney A and 19678 Gaffney C. W. 19677 Walton J.J.
 Evenwood Church Magazine April 1915
 Medal Roll
 www.firstworldwar.com/battles/messines.htm & web.westernfrontassociation.com/thegreatwar/articles/timeline/messines.htm
 “In Flanders Fields” L. Wolffe 1959 p.142-3
 6th Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment War Diary
 Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War
 Medal Roll