Long-lost relative laid to rest
NINETY-five years after Casino soldier Leslie Gordon Walsh was killed in action on the bloody battlefields of Fromelles in northern France during World War One, his family finally was able to lay his remains to rest in a special headstone dedication ceremony last week.
One of his great nephews, Adrian Walsh of Alstonville and formerly of Casino, attended the ceremony at the Fromelles (Pheasant Wood) Military Cemetery where Minister for Defence Science and Personnel Warren Snowdon unveiled the headstones of 14 Australian soldiers whose remains were discovered in a mass grave in 2009 and identified in April this year.
Another great nephew Peter Walsh, who is a Casino solicitor, was unable attend the ceremony last week but plans to visit his uncle’s grave next year.
He said the unveiling of the grave meant a lot to the family who could have lost Pte Walsh’s memory forever had it not been for the discovery of the mass grave at Pheasant Wood.
Mr Walsh said the family only became aware of Pte Walsh’s existence after his remains were identified.
He said no one in the family ever spoke about Pte Walsh, and while his name had come up in family history searches no one until last April had been able to figure out where he fitted into the family tree.
With the help of Pte Walsh’s military records, the family has since discovered he was the 10th and youngest child of James and Flora Walsh (Peter and Adrian’s great-grandparents) and a grandson of Thaddeus Walsh, Casino’s first police officer.
He was just 22 years and seven months old when he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on July 26, 1915, and only 23 years old when he died less than a year later on July 20, 1916 in what has been described as the bloodiest 24 hours in Australia’s military history.
A total of 5500 Australian servicemen were either killed, wounded or taken prisoner at the Battle of Fromelles.
Mr Walsh said the family was “totally flabbergasted” when they found out about Pte Walsh and he still didn’t really know why the soldier, who was originally listed as missing in action, was never mentioned by relatives who would have either known him or known about him.
Of the 250 soldiers discovered in the grave at Pheasant Wood, only 110 have been named, while a further 100 have been identified as serving with Australian forces.