Thomas Patrick WALSH


WALSH, Thomas Patrick

Service Numbers: 1443, 1244
Enlisted: 14 October 1914, Melbourne, Victoria
Last Rank: Private
Last Unit: 59th Infantry Battalion
Born: Scarsdale, Victoria , June 1895
Home Town: Scarsdale, Golden Plains, Victoria
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Clerk
Died: Killed In Action, Fleurbaix, Northern France , 18 August 1916
Cemetery: Nieppe-Bois (Rue-du-Bois) British Cemetery, Vieux-Berquin
Buried alongside Pte William James Wilson (POB – Dunolly), Pte J.D Carrington (POB Seymour) 59th Battalion, All Killed on 18/08/1916 , Rue-Du-Bois Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, Bethune, Nord Pas de Calais, France
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour
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World War 1 Service

14 Oct 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, SN 1443, Melbourne, Victoria
2 Feb 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1443, 8th Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
2 Feb 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 1443, 8th Infantry Battalion, HMAT Clan McGillivray, Melbourne
18 Aug 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 1244, 59th Infantry Battalion, Battle for Pozières

Help us honour Thomas Patrick Walsh's service by contributing information, stories, and images so that they can be preserved for future generations.

Biography contributed by Jack Coyne

Thomas Patrick Walsh was born in June 1895 at Scarsdale, a small town south west of Ballarat in Central Victoria. He was the youngest son of Daniel and Melvina Walsh who were both deceased at the time of his enlistment. Thomas was the youngest of nine children with three older brothers and five older sisters. His older brother John would later enlist and be killed in action in France in 1918.1

Thomas was nineteen when he enlisted on the 7th of October 1914, just 2 months after war had been declared. Like all other Victorian country lads volunteering for war it was necessary for Thomas to make the journey (approximately 100 miles) from Scarsdale to Melbourne to enlist. His enlistment record puts his calling (occupation) as a ‘Labourer’ although on his Medical examination completed at the Victoria Barracks a few days later, states he was a ‘clerk’.

 Thomas was nitially enlisted into the 2nd Reinforcements of the 8th Infantry Battalion, which consisted of men recruited from Ballarat, Central and Western Victoria. His initial training took place at Royal Park and then the newly opened Broadmeadows barracks.

Four months after enlisting, Thomas embarked on February 2nd 1915, on-board the HMAT A46 Clan MacGillivray from Princess Pier, Port Melbourne to join the Military Expeditionary Force for the Gallipoli campaign. The Clan MacGillivray carried the 8th Infantry Battalion, 1-6 Reinforcements and sailed to Egypt, arriving in Alexandria on April 5, 1915, a two month sea journey.

On arrival in Alexandria they joined the already assembled AIF Battalions from the first AIF flotilla who were to set up camp at the Mena Camp ten miles west of Cairo on the river Nile looking towards the great pyramids of Giza. 

At the Mena Camp they were drilled six days a week – marching through the sand, digging and attacking trenches and it was here that they were formed into the ANZAC Corps, with the New Zealand forces. Major-General William Birdwood, a 49-year old British officer was given command of the corps. 

All this training was to end in the early days of April, 1915 when the 8th Battalion again would return to the Alexandria port for the fateful journey to the Gallipoli peninsula. After a relatively short sea journey this time they were to join over 50,000 AIF, New Zealand, Britain, and French troops at Lemnos Island in Greece for the greatest amphibious landing force in history ever assembled. 

 On April 21, 200 ships were ready to sail the 110-kilometre journey from Moudros harbour (Lemnos) for the famous Gallipoli landing on April 25. However, young Thomas was probably not on board these ships.

His medical records indicate he is admitted to the 1st Australian Stationary Hospital on Lemnos Island for Tonsillitis on April 22. His medical record indicates he was sent to Gallipoli 3 weeks later on the 16th of May, 1915. 

Thomas missed the initial April 25 landing, Australian War Memorial records indicate his 8th Battalion along with other Victorian AIF battalions landed on April 25 from 05:30 am.  Their objective was to cross the 400 Plateau and head to Hill 971. Turkish machine guns, mountainous terrain and poor maps and instructions from ‘on high’, meant a terrible toll was taken by all ANZAC brigades on that first day.

Ten days after the landing, the 8th Battalion was transferred south from ANZAC cove to Cape Helles to help in the attack on the village of Krithia. It was probably here that Thomas rejoined his brigade and battalion. Later in the campaign the Victorian battalions including the 8th battalion returned to ANZAC Cove to help defend the beachhead, again with horrendous casualties.

Thomas Walsh was to survive approximately 6 ½ months on the Gallipoli peninsula. His ‘Casualty form’ states he was wounded at Anzac cove on the 12th of December, however ‘Remaining on Duty’. Thomas would not have known that this would be the last week of the ill fated Gallipoli campaign with Lord Kitchener giving the order to evacuate all Allied troops commencing December.

On this date, Thomas Walsh’s Casualty form has him ‘admitted to hospital’ on Anzac Cove this time ‘sick’. The next day, (most likely in the evening) on the 18th December, his sickness is listed as ‘Influenza’ and he is finally taken off Anzac Cove onto the hospital ship ‘Devanha’ and two days later on the 20th of December he is transferred to the hospital ship ‘Dunkirk Castle’ for return to Mudros harbour on Lemnos Island.

December 17-20 saw 83,000 Allied troops from Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove evacuated from Gallipoli Penisulu. Not one soldier or sailor was killed in the withdrawal and the enemy were unaware of the evacuation-taking place as great effort was taken to conceal the evacuation from the Turkish defenders. 10

After three days aboard a hospital ship, Thomas was back in Alexandria, Egypt listed as suffering ‘Influenza’ and admitted Christmas Eve to the in Heliopolis, outside of Cairo. This was no tent hospital he had experienced in Anzac Cove and Lemnos, but rather the Heliopolis Palace Hotel & Casino which was a substantial entertainment complex complete with Luna Park at the time. The Palace Hotel had been converted to a military hospital for Australian and New Zealand soldiers during the Gallipoli campaign and Thomas spent Christmas 1915 in this extremely crowded but palatial hospital building in Egypt.11 

Thomas’s remaining time in Egypt is not without drama. He is discharged to his unit on 30th of December only to be readmitted the next day (New Year’s Eve) spending nearly 4 weeks this time in the No.2 Auxiliary Hospital at Ghezirah, on the west bank of the Nile quite close to the Pyramids and Great Sphinx.

He is discharged on the 28th of January and two months later on March 20, he must have somewhat recovered and is charged with being ‘Drunk in town and creating a disturbance’ and awarded a punishment of 6 days CTB ‘Confined to Barracks’.

Records suggest Thomas would not have been alone in receiving this punishment. ‘The behaviour of Australian troops would continue to be a sticking point throughout the war. Looser discipline was considered by many of the superior officers as an acceptable ‘price’ when put beside their performance on the battlefield. Australians and New Zealanders were known as among the most fearsome and willing troops of the Allied forces’.

Following the punishment, he is sent to the Garrison headquarters on March 26 where he is allotted to the 60th Battalion (15th Training Battalion) at Tel-el-Kebir, 50 miles north west of Cairo. Another month of training, and then it’s back to Alexandria to embark with the B.E.F (British Expeditionary Force) on the ship ‘Ivernia’, bound for the western front.     

Landing at Marseilles in Southern France nine days after leaving Egypt on June 30 would have been quite a change for Thomas and the young AIF soldiers. “The harbour in spring was a beautiful site after our long stay in desolate Egypt” wrote Private Roy Ramsey of the AIF 3rd Field Ambulance. We all hoped for a few days in Marseilles but the authorities were reluctant to let us loose on the city, no doubt on account of our doubtful reputation earned in Egypt.” 

The Australians journeyed by troop train up the Rhone valley heading for Calais, then eastwards to the western front in French Flanders, 200 km north of Paris. Estaples was their destination close to the Belgium border. By mid August 1916, Thomas is deployed to the heavily depleted 59th Battalion, which was, reeling from major loses incurred a month earlier in the ill-fated Battle of Fromelles.

The Battle of Fromelles, was planned by the British HQ with the intention primarily as a feint to draw German troops away from the Somme offensive further south. The attack was the début of the AIF on the Western Front and the Australian War Memorial describe the battle as "the worst 24 hours in Australia's entire history". Of the 7,080 B.E.F (British Expeditionary Force) casualties, 5,533 losses were incurred by the 5th Australian Division, which included the 59th Battalion. German losses were little more than 1,500. The Battle of Fromelles inflicted some losses on the German defenders but gained no ground nor deflected many German troops bound for the Somme.

Despite grievous losses, the units of the 5th Division which included the 59th battalion manned the front line around Fromelles for a further two months. Thomas was to join the conflict here on August 15 tragically surviving just three days at the front, being killed in action on August 18, 1916.

Three witnesses cited in Red Cross Wounded and Missing Bureau Files indicate a shell killed Thomas and two other AIF soldiers whilst they were working in a trench at Fleurbaix, Northern France on August 18th.  The two other soldiers were William James Wilson (336) from Dunolly in Northern Victoria who had been with Thomas from their enlistment and James Daniel Carrington (4379) who joined the boys in the 59th in Egypt fresh from Australia.

In the same Red Cross File, ‘Corporal Theodore Brandenberg (2580) said he saw their bodies, one of the other soldiers was his school friend from Ballarat Pte J.D Carrington and that he knew Thomas Walsh very well.’ Another witness, Private G.M Northcote said that the men killed were his personal friends. A shell buried them in a dugout at Fromelles and they were got out by Pte F Whitechurch. Private Northcote said their bodies were taken back, wrapped in a blanket and buried in Rifle Avenue near the entrance to Brompton Avenue.

Thomas Walsh and his two fellow battalion members are buried side by side in the front row of the small Rue-Du-Bois Cemetery, Fleurbaix under a giant oak tree. Thomas has a pink rose bush alongside his grave.