16889 PTE. J. BALSHAW. E.LANCS.R.
Joseph Balshaw was born in Bamber Bridge in the first quarter of 1897. His father was Thomas Balshaw (b. 1867 in Preston) a cotton loomer by trade; his mother was Alice Mills (b. 1863 in Bamber Bridge). They were married at Brownedge St Mary’s in 1886 and they had 10 children, 8 of whom survived infancy: John Aloysius (b. 1888), Wilfred (b. 1889), Mary (b. 1893), Elizabeth (b. 1895), then Joseph, Margaret (b. 1899), Thomas (b. 1902) and Jane Alice (b. 1905).
In 1911, the family was living at 160 Station Road, Bamber Bridge, where the father and older children all worked in the mill, and Joe at 14 had started work as a spinner.
Joe enlisted with the East Lancashire Regiment in late 1914 or early 1915 and was posted to 6 (Service) Battalion. He probably lied about his age, since he was barely 18 and even at 18, although able to enlist, he would not have been permitted to fight abroad. 6Bn had arrived in Gallipoli on 7 July 1915. The initial Gallipoli landings in April that year had failed to achieve their objectives so a second landing was planned for August. Joe joined 6Bn on 1 August 1915 as they were planning the assault at Suvla Bay which began on 6 August. Initially the assault met little Turkish resistance, but the British military commanders failed to take advantage and this gave the Turks the time to regroup. When the British attempted to advance from their beachhead they encountered stiff Turkish resistance (the Turks were commanded by Mustafa Kemal, who after the War as Kemal Ataturk would go on to found the modern Turkish nation). The Allies suffered more than 15,000 casualties. On August 15, the British Commander, Stopford, was dismissed, his command being considered one of the most incompetent performances of any general in the First World War. The troops dug in for a period of trench warfare in the searing summer heat. In the autumn, the decision was taken by the British to end the campaign and withdraw the troops, but even this task, under heavy Turkish fire, proved difficult and dangerous, nevertheless by the end of the year the evacuation was complete.
The majority of 6Bn then went on first to Egypt to re-equip, then on to Mesopotamia. Joe however was briefly in reserve before being posted to 1Bn in France. Having survived the frying pan of Suvla Bay, Joe was now to be thrown into the fire of The Somme.
The British plan was for the artillery to smash the German defences (and morale) and for the infantry then simply to march to their objectives. The artillery bombardment began on 24 June and the Anglo-French advance began on 1 July. The plan was an almost total failure, since intelligence had failed to take account of the strength of the German defences. When the bombardment began, the Germans simply retreated into deep, well defended bunkers, and when it was over they set up machine gun posts to mow down the advancing Tommies. The British suffered 60,000 casualties (20,000 deaths) on that first day, including Joe Balshaw, who was still only 19 years old. His body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
The East Lancashire Regiment lost 304 officers and men that day (killed), 174 from 1st Battalion.
Service No: 16889
Date of Death: 01/07/1916
Regiment/Service: East Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Panel Reference: Pier and Face 6 C.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL
Joe’s brother Wilfred enlisted with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on 1 September 1914 but was discharged about a month later as medically unfit.
Joe’s sister, Mary, was married in 1914 to Henry Dewhurst. 203106 PTE. H. DEWHURST served with 1/4Bn L.N.LAN.R. and was killed on 7 June 1917.