23808 PTE. W. HIGHAM. L.N.LAN.R.
Walter Higham was born on 1 July 1891 at Howick, near Penwortham, and was baptised at Farington St. Paul’s on 4 October. [SDGW says he was born at Horwich but this is a mistake – I am very grateful to Janet Davis for helping me untangle the records!] His father was John Higham (b. 1854 in Longton), a gamekeeper and agricultural labourer. His mother was Alice Brewer (b. 1854 in Cuerden). John and Alice were married at Farington St Paul’s in 1879 and they had 8 children, 7 of whom survived (this is according to the 1911 Census, though I have only been able to trace 6): John (b. 1882), Harriet (b. 1885), Alice (b. 1888), then Walter, then Cicely (b. 1893) and finally James (b. 1898).
In 1911, Walter was working as a gamekeeper at High Worsall Farm, near Darlington in North Yorkshire and was a boarder with Robert Dobbie and his family, but in 1915 he was back in the Cuerden area as on 28 April that year he married Isabella Walmsley (b. 1892, a cotton winder from Farington). He would have enlisted shortly afterwards, in Bamber Bridge, joining the Loyals and being assigned to 9th (Service) Battalion, with service number 23808.
9th (Service) Battalion was formed at Preston in September 1914 and came under command of 74th Brigade in 25th Division. They went to France on 26 September 1915, however Walter was not with this first group. He was not awarded the 1915 Star so he must have arrived with a later draft. According to the Regimental History, a draft of 5 officers and 43 other ranks arrived to join the Battalion at Steenewerck in February 1916. For the next three months the Battalion was moved around a lot spending various periods in the trenches, in reserve and in billets. 74th Brigade joined the action at the front on 5 July when they occupied a portion of the front line near La Boisselle and over the next few days they were engaged in an advance towards the Pozières Road. After this success, they were moved to Beauval and then in August they were moved further north to occupy a portion of the line near the River Ancre.
In September, they were withdrawn for training near Abbeville, and on 5 October they moved back to the front where the attacks on Stuff Redoubt and Stuff Trench were in progress. It had been planned to push on with this attack on 19 October but this was postponed due to bad weather until the 21st.
Early in the afternoon of 21 October, the 74th and 75th Brigades moved out under cover of a creeping barrage. They attacked and captured their objectives “without much difficulty, but some stiff fighting took place in Regina Trench”. The War Diary continues: “very few casualties occurred until we reached the enemy’s wire, when a considerable amount of trouble was caused by an enemy machine-gun and snipers”. The machine-gun was eventually captured and the trench was taken, along with over 200 prisoners. Over the 14 days that the Battalion was in the trenches, they had 4 officers and 48 other ranks killed, 8 officers and 148 other ranks wounded and 18 men missing. CWGC records 45 men from 9 Battalion as being killed on 21 October 1916, including Walter Higham. He was 25 years old. His body was not recovered.
Walter’s effects including £1 10s 10d were returned to his wife and after the War she received a War Gratuity of £3. In 1921 Isabella remarried, to Richard Hayhurst (b. 1885, a motor driver from Leyland). They lived at Bridge Street, Bamber Bridge.
Service No: 23808
Date of Death: 21/10/1916
Age: 25 (CWGC incorrectly states 26)
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 9th Bn.
Panel Reference: Pier and Face 11 A.
Memorial: THIEPVAL MEMORIAL