Morecambe nostalgia: remembering soldier fatally injured in WWI battle

Private Walter Helmn the soldier from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment died of wounds on May 6,1917 at the age of 24.
Private Walter Helmn the soldier from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment died of wounds on May 6,1917 at the age of 24.

The Union flag will be flown at the Barton, Bilsborrow and Myerscough War Memorial next month in memory of Private Walter Helmn.

The soldier from the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment died of wounds on May 6, 1917 at the age of 24.

And clerk of the memorial Roy Bassnett tells the story of the life which will be remembered on Saturday, May 6.

He said: “Walter Helmn was born at home in Outer Moss Lane, Morecambe on March 1, 1893.

“He was the son of Thomas and Emma Helmn who had a daughter Florrie, and four other sons: William, Frank, Thomas and Samuel.

“Walter’s father was a bricklayer and the family later moved to Park Gates, Scorton. When Walter left school he took a job in Ambleside to learn cookery and subsequently held positions at Lytham, Canterbury, Broadstairs and Southsea.

“Finally he was appointed chef at the prestigious Park Hotel in Preston where he stayed until he enlisted. In the army he acted as chef for the battalion headquarters.

“Although he lived in the village of Eaves, near Woodplumpton, he spent much of his spare time singing in the choir of St Lawrence Church, Barton and he became very well known in the area.

”The 10th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment was formed at Preston in October 1914 and became part of 112th Brigade. On August 1, 1915 they landed at Boulogne. As Walter was not awarded the 1915 Star, he must have joined the battalion during 1916 or 1917.

“The 112th Brigade saw action in the major offensive on the Somme in 1916 and took part in various battles, including Albert, Bazentin and Poisieres, suffering many casualties.”

And it was the year after when Roy says Walter lost his life.

“During April 25/26 the battalion held Clasp Trench and on April 27 they were ordered to attack again, this time on Greenland Hill at dawn the next day,” Roy said.

“At 4.25am on April 28 the British barrage opened up and at 4.27am they advanced. The battalion again suffered heavily, only one officer remained. They at once began to improve the German trench they had taken, under heavy enemy machine gun fire from the Chemical Works on the right flank. What was left of the battalion held on here in shell holes all day. Then, in the early hours of April 29, they were withdrawn.

“The attack on Greenland Hill had failed, at an enormous cost to the battalion. Casualties for this operation from April 23 to 28 were 21 officers and 478 men killed, wounded or missing.

“Private Walter Helmn was injured during this action and died of his wounds on May 6, 1917. He was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and was buried at Etaples Military Cemetery, France, together with 11,480 identified casualties. Etaples was the location of immense concentrations of reinforcement camps and hospitals, where Walter was taken before he died.

“Walter’s father, mother and siblings placed the announcement of his death in The Preston Guardian newspaper on May 12, 1917, saying: ‘Sleep on dear son, in a far off grave, a grave we shall never see, no friends were near to say goodbye, but safe in God’s keeping you lie’.”