|Date of Birth||May 9, 1892|
|Place of Birth||Peterborough, Ontario|
|Next of Kin||Mrs. Joseph Record (mother), Young's Point, Ontario|
|Trade / Calling||Bar Tender|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Port Arthur, Ontario|
|Date of Enlistment||October 5, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||23|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||September 21, 1916|
|Age at Death||24|
|Buried At||St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France|
|Plot||B. 17. 30.|
The Somme Offensive was a series of battles that lasted from July to November 1916 and resulted in enormous casualties for both the Allied and German armies. The Canadian Corps moved to the Somme area in late August and their first major engagement began in mid-September. Private Maurice Andrew Walsh was one of 24,000 casualties suffered by the Canadians in their 2-1/2 months at the Somme.
Maurice was born and raised in Peterborough, Ontario. His parents, Patrick Walsh and Catherine Sweeney, were both of Irish ancestry and they had three children: Agnes (1885), Maurice (9 May 1892) and George (1893). Patrick was a farmer and he died of blood poisoning in March 1896 when Maurice was four years old. Sadly George died accidentally that same year, in August 1896, at age two years and nine months. Maurice’s mother had been a widow when she married Patrick and she married again after he passed away. Her third husband Joseph Record was from Quebec and he worked as a blacksmith.
In November 1910 Maurice was a witness at the marriage of his sister Agnes in Owen Sound, Ontario. When the next census was taken, in the spring of 1911, he was living in Owen Sound with Agnes and her husband Francis (Frank) Record, who was probably their stepbrother. Maurice was working as a waiter and also staying with them was their half-sister Elenor Record, age 8. Catherine and Joseph were still living in Peterborough and by 1915 they had moved a little further north to the village of Young’s Point.
The war started in August 1914 and Maurice enlisted with the 52nd Battalion in on 5 October 1915 in Port Arthur, Ontario. His occupation was bartender and sometime before enlisting he’d lived in Kenora for awhile. The 52nd (New Ontario) Battalion was based in Port Arthur and recruited in the Lakehead area as well as Kenora and nearby towns. The battalion left Port Arthur on 4 November 1915, headed to St. John, New Brunswick on the first leg of their journey overseas. On the way through Ottawa they were inspected by the Governor-General of Canada, the Duke of Connaught. The men embarked from St. John on 23 November on the SS California and arrived in Plymouth, England ten days later. After a further two months of training they were sent to France on 20 February 1916. They spent the night in tents in a snowstorm before being moved to Belgium by train the following day.
Early in March the battalion went into the trenches for orientation and they had their first combat fatality on the night of 11-12 March. Later that month the Canadian Corps took up positions in the south part of the Ypres Salient in Belgium and the 52nd moved there on 1 April. Although there were no major battles at the time there were casualties from rifle, machine gun and artillery fire and Maurice received a minor head wound on 7 April. He spent a week at a casualty treatment centre then was sent back to his unit. He was listed in the Toronto World on 28 April 1916: ‘Wounded — 439858. Maurice Andrew Walsh, Young’s Point, Ont.’
The Battle of Mount Sorrel started on the morning of 2 June with an intense bombardment of the Canadian lines followed by the explosion of underground mines. Trenches and equipment were destroyed and some companies were almost wiped out. After the barrage German infantry advanced and captured Mount Sorrel and nearby areas. A counter-attack was planned for 3 June and additional units were brought in, including all four companies of the 52nd Battalion. The men left Ypres around midnight and even before they arrived at their positions, just after dawn on 3 June, they faced rifle and machine gun fire and a heavy artillery barrage. On 5 June they were given two days rest and the battalion was back in the front lines on 7 June. Over the next six days the men endured cold weather, rain, a shortage of food and water and constant shelling by the Germans. They were finally relieved at 11:30 pm on 13 June. The two week battle ended with little change to the front lines but it cost the Canadian Corps over 8,000 casualties.
The Somme Offensive started later that summer and the first major battle for the Canadians would be at Flers-Courcelette (15-22 September 1916). The 52nd Battalion boarded trains on 7 September and a week later they were in the Somme area. On 16 September they took part in an attack near the village of Courcelette. During the advance the men faced heavy machine gun and rifle fire and they suffered over 200 casualties while crossing open ground to reach the objective. Maurice was wounded in the hip and abdomen by a rifle bullet. By 19 September he was seriously ill and he was evacuated to a hospital in Rouen. He died of his wounds two days later, on 21 September.
Maurice is buried in St. Sever Cemetery in Rouen, France. According to the local newspaper, Le Journal de Rouen, schoolchildren were sent to attend the burials of soldiers. The Last Duty Committee arranged the funerals then had notices printed in the paper, and children from all the local schools took turns attending.
Maurice is commemorated on the Kenora Legion War Memorial and on the Cenotaphs in both Kenora and Peterborough, Ontario.
His mother died in 1930 in Owen Sound and she’s buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Peterborough. His sister Agnes and her husband are buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Owen Sound. They had at least two children, Joseph (1911) and Maurice (1913).
By Becky Johnson
Photo at the top: St. Sever Cemetery, Rouen, France.