East Lancashire Regiment Gallantry Medal Group First Day of 3rd Battle of Ypres
2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment
Military Medal and Great War Medal trio to 19279 L. CPL. W. ADAMS. EAST LANCASHIRE REGIMENT with Original Parchment Gallantry Certificate.
Walter Adams was born in Cadishead, Lancashire in 1874. His wife is named as Mary Adams of 17 Whitfield Street, Cadishead, near Manchester.
He entered France, when over 40 years old, with the 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment on the 4th of August 1915.
On 31st July 1917 he took part in the First Day of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. The 2nd East Lancs were part of 24th Brigade, 8th Division, which was part of II Corps, Fifth Army. The parchment certificate that accompanies these medals describes the gallant actions of Walter Adams at the Black Line, Westhoek Ridge, and is transcribed below.
Transcription of the Parchment Certificate for Gallant Conduct during action 31st July 1917 as follows:
Parchment Certificate for Gallant Conduct and Devotion to Duty awarded by the General Officer Commanding 8th Division to:
No. 19279 Private Walter Adams
2nd East Lancashire Regiment
Action for which commended:
‘During the operations East of Ypres on 31st July, 1917, on arrival at the Black Line, he went forward into a shell hole and shot several hostile snipers who were doing considerable damage to our men, he then found a Lewis gun which was out of action and putting it into working order, made good use of it throughout the day. He dispersed a party of machine gunners who were causing us many casualties and also carried messages under fire.’
Signed by – General Sir William Charles Giffard Heneker
Commanding 8th Division
It is also reported that Walter Adams again acted with gallantry on the 20th November 1917. This is reported in a newspaper article that reports a letter from Walter to his wife reported in the Warrington Guardian. This letter is transcribed below.
Transcription from the Warrington Guardian dated 5th Jan 1918 adds a bit more detail regarding his gallantry awards
ANOTHER MILITARY MEDALLIST
The wife of Lance-corporal Walter Adams, of the East Lancashires, who lives in Whitfield-street, Cadishead, has received from her husband a letter of congratulations from the Lieutenant General commanding the division upon the honour conferred upon him by his Majesty the King in awarding him the Military Medal for gallant conduct on the 20th November. No further details have been received. Prior to the war Lance-corporal Adams was employed by the Manchester Ship Canal Co. as a coal trimmer. It is the second honour he has achieved, just a few months ago he was awarded a parchment certificate for “gallant conduct and devotion to duty.” The certificate set forth that during operations on July 31st Lance Corporal Adams entered a shellhole and shot several hostile snipers who were doing considerable damage. He afterwards found a Lewis gun, which he turned to good account during the day. He dispersed a party of machine gunners who were causing considerable casualties, and he also carried messages under fire. Lance-corporal Adams has a large family and is well known in the Cadishead district. He is the ninth local soldier to have gained the Military Medal.
He was presented with the Ribbon for the Military Medal whilst in the Field by Brigadier General Haig, Commanding 24th Infantry Brigade. This was part of a Regimental Inspection and Presentation on December 14th 1917. This is recorded in the 2nd Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment War Diary.
The family has also provided a reproduced photograph in which Walter has been identified.
Family information records that worked for the CPS (part of the CO-OP) so it is very possible that this was a works photograph. The photograph was taken in front of the then Council Offices (now a bus stop) which was where the initial sign up was conducted, they all then boarded a train into Manchester for the formal procedures which are believed to have been carried out at Manchester Town Hall.
He was awarded the Military Medal for his actions on the 20th November 1917 which was Gazetted 23rd February 1918
The medals are presented in a modern wooden frame with an East Lancashire Regiment Cap Badge. The group is court mounted and the medals are named as follows:
Military Medal: 19279 PTE. L-CPL. W. ADAMS. 2 / E. LANC. R.
1914 / 15 Star: 19279 PTE. W. ADAMS. E. LAN. R.
BWM & Victory Medals: 19279 PTE. W. ADAMS. E. LAN. R.
His medical records show that he suffered from Myalgia and Trench Foot. He was discharged, demobilised, 3rd February 1919.
Walter survived the War and died in 31st August 1943. He is buried in Holinfare Cemetery, Hollins Green, Warrington, Cheshire. Also provided is a recent image of his Grave, on which his medals have been placed for the photo. The medals come from a grandson of Edith Adams (Walter and Mary’s daughter).
Extracted from the website of the Lancashire Infantry Museum regarding the action of the 2nd Lancashires on the 31st July 1917.
THE THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES (April 1917)
Six weeks after the capture of Messines the main British offensive of 1917 opened in Flanders.
This battle, better known as ‘Passchendaele’ after its truly terrible final phase, was launched on 31st July in torrential rain which turned much of the battlefield, its drainage system destroyed by artillery, into a deadly swamp. The German defence was based on machine-guns, sited in depth in strongpoints and concrete pill-boxes, with reserves concentrated for prompt counter-attack. To compound the horror, this battle saw the first use of mustard gas. The offensive went on for three dreadful months and involved 26 battalions of our Regimental predecessors.
Initially the British attack, with massive artillery support, made some progress. In the centre the South Lancashire and Loyal North Lancashire TA battalions of 55th Division captured all their objectives, but had to yield some of their gains in the face of heavy counter-attacks. Some two miles to their south 2nd East Lancashires, of 8th Division, took their objectives on and beat off three counter-attacks, while further south again 8th East Lancashires and 10th Loyal North Lancashires of 37th Division and the three 7th Battalions in 19th Division mounted diversionary attacks. The following day 2nd and 8th South Lancashires, both in 75th Brigade of 25th Division, relieved 8th Division on Westhoek Ridge. Waist-deep in mud and pounded by artillery, the endurance of the two battalions over the next fortnight was truly heroic.
War Diary November 1917 for the East Lancashire Regiment.
On the 18th November they received sudden orders that the Brigade was march to relieve other Regiments with Paschendaele to the east. The march on the 19th is described as “uneventful” up to “Waterloo”. At 04.40 on the 20th November 1917 the enemy bombarded with gas shells requiring gas respirators to be worn. Bombardments continued by both sides and many East Lancs boys were buried. “Great difficulty was experienced in reaching the HQ of the supporting boy at Mosselmarkt and established with the front line who were quite cheerful although they had suffered a considerable number of casualties. At 4.30 p.m. an S.O.S. went up from the unit on our left and a heavy bombardment ensued on both sides. The attack by the enemy took place and the situation was normal again by 5.30 p.m. The day was fine but dull.”
It is possible that Walter Adams actually won his Military Medal during this engagement.
Family legend has it that he was initially cited for a VC but it was downgraded to a Military Medal. He was, as his photo seems to confirm, a tough man who did not suffer fools and would have been an abrasive soldier toward his senior officers.