34714 John J Walsh, Cameron Highlanders

John Joseph Walsh, exhumed in 1927, is probably not the Private J. Walsh whose name appeared on a list of pre-Truce absentee British soldiers in Ireland held by the Irish Department of Defence; on this list J. Walsh was returned as a Cameron Highlander who had gone missing in August 1920. Within the Walsh family there were conflicting dates of his disappearance, with an aunt dating it to June 1920 instead of June 1921—the date given at the 1927 inquest by his brother.

1918. WO 364 records on Ancestry show that S/50177 and S/50323 were both transferred to the 11th Cameron Highlanders on 4 July 1918, via Labour Coys. of their respective regiments (Yorkshire Regt & Royal West Surrey Regt). So it would appear that Ward S/50242 and Walsh S/50244 were also transferred on that date.

1920 Aug 9. Year of Disappearances p167. missing Cork. Also missing same day H Ward, Cameron Highlanders, S/50244.

The Year of the Disappearances in Appendix 1 gives in his list of "Pre-truce absentees from British Troops in Ireland, taken from Dept of Defence Papers MA A/07304

Testimony given at the coroner’s inquest held at the Midleton courthouse on 18 October indicated that on 15 October a farm labourer named John Sinclair, who had been opening a drain at Ballyvodock near Midleton, had found a human skull above ground and then other human bones. He and the owner of the land initially covered up the bones, but on Sunday morning, 16 October, they reported their discovery to the Civic Guard, who quickly exhumed the remains and ‘found portions of clothing in a rotting condition. They also found a rosary beads attached to the clothes, the case of a revolver bullet, a comb, [and] a pair of boots, out of which the bones were protruding.’ The victim’s brother Timothy Walsh of Dickinson’s Lane, Midleton, also identified the clothing, belt, and boots (with rubber heels) as those of his brother John Joseph Walsh (a labourer aged ‘about 30’ at death), whom he had last seen (he said) on 7 or 8 June 1921, when his brother had disappeared from the Midleton house of his aunt Bridget Morrison. [Bridget Morrison and her husband Patrick resided at 3 Dickinson’s Lane in Midleton in 1911.] The coroner’s jury accepted the evidence of Timothy Walsh as accurate in identifying the deceased as John Joseph Walsh. See Cork Examiner, 19 Oct. 1927.

An IRA source at the time (in June 1921) had noted the execution of Walsh and a second suspected spy. In the Diary of Activities of the Fourth (Midleton) Battalion of the Cork No. 1 Brigade for June 1921, there appeared the following notation about B and D Companies of that battalion: ‘2 enemy spies, J. J. Walsh, Midleton, and M[ichae]l Callaghan, Carrigtwohill, shot. Latter believed to be of importance.’ See Richard Mulcahy Papers, P7/A/23 (UCDA).

The Regimental Museum says I have been quite unable to trace either Walsh or Ward. Though I cannot be sure, the regimental numbers you quote for them are not Cameron Highlander numbers at all. I thought the numbers looked unfamiliar at first sight and have consulted a learned and detailed paper about Cameron numbers, from the earliest days up to beyond 1922 when 2nd Camerons left Ireland. There is no such series as S/50000. I then read through the Regimental Magazine issues from 1918 to 1922, looking at the Orderly Room notes for the 2nd Bn and for the Depot to see if I could find any S/50000 soldiers at all or any J Walsh or J Ward with any number. There was no such soldier as far as I could see but I accept that this is not a definitive answer.

Ger Murphy Cork Examiner re the finding of Walsh's body in 1927. Like everything the goalposts changed over the three days between the finding of the body and the results of the inquest. Basically he was a John Joseph Walsh and was an ex-soldier, being described as having been a member of the 'reserve strength' in 1920. He disappeared from his aunt's house (a Mrs Morrison) in Midleton around 7/8 June 1921 (not 1920 as previously reported). He was working as a labourer when he disappeared. The coroner found it impossible to establish how he had died - so presumably he was not shot through the head. He reckoned he was aged somewhere between 30 and 50. His brother was a Timothy Walsh of Dickinson's Lane, Midleton. It might be worth checking Ancestry to see if his service record survives.He was found by workmen digging a drain on the land of a man called Edward Moore - who seems to have no idea he was there. All this is in the Examiner of 17-19 October 1927.The thing is I don't know where this leaves us re the Cameron Highlanders. He may not be the same man. However, the interesting thing is that in the Midleton area all soldiers were regarded as Camerons seeing as they were the local garrison at the time. It is possible that Walsh who might have been from any regiment  just got called a Cameron in Irish Free State records.

Graeme Marfleet emailed me. The Army numbers shown are impossible for the year 1920. The numbers must be 7 digits or less. No British soldier had an 8-digit Army number until about 1942. If they were serving in the Camerons when the entire Army was renumbered in August 1920 then their numbers would start with 292, as these do. My guess is that the actual numbers are 2923714 Walsh and 2923713 Ward. If they both transferred into the Camerons on the same day then I would expect their numbers to be sequential or very close to one another. 2. The Camerons certainly used numbers in the 50000 series during WW1. I don't know why that series was used but will certainly use these two unfortunate men as examples.

 

British Soldiers died in Ireland