RFA West Lancs Bdes
681141 DVR. F. WALSH. R.F.A.
Fergus Walsh was born in Preston in October 1889. His father was Anthony Walsh (b. 1851 in Co. Mayo, Ireland), at one time a cotton weaver but later a labourer in a brick works. Anthony’s family had moved to England in 1860. In 1871 he married Elizabeth (Betsy) Higginson (b. 1853 in Preston), and the couple had six daughters before Fergus was born. Fergus’ sisters were: Kate (b. 1871), Sarah (b. 1878), Mary (b. 1878), Alice Ann (b. 1879), Maggie (1882-1900) and Lizzie (1886-1896). Anthony died in 1910. The same year, Fergus married Frances Gilgun (b. 1887 in Preston). The Gilguns were also Irish (from Fermanagh) and had come to Preston in the 1850s. Fergus and Frances had four children: Anthony (b. 1911), John (b. 1913), Annie (b. 1915) and Lilian (b. 1918). In 1911, Fergus and Frances and 2-month old Anthony were living at 38 Savoy Street, Preston. He gives his occupation as engine packing maker.
Fergus joined the Royal Field Artillery. He had an old-style service number, 3070, so he may have been in the Territorials before the War. His number was later changed to 681141. This is quite late in the numbering sequence so Fergus may not have been called up until late 1916 or even 1917. Of the men who enlisted around the same time, it seems that although they may have initially joined the West Lancashire Brigades, many were posted later to different units. It’s useful to note that Fergus’s daughter Lilian was born in February 1918, so Fergus must have been at home, on leave or recuperating, in May 1917. This may have been the point at which he was transferred to India.
Fergus was among a small number of men who were posted to 21st Brigade, which came under orders of 4th (Quetta) Division of the Indian Army and Fergus’s Battery was 101Bty. The Brigade was based in Quetta from June to December 1918. Quetta was then in British India but since partition it has been in Pakistan and it is close to the border with Afghanistan. Fergus died there, ‘of broncho pneumonia’, on 26 October 1918. He was 29 years old.
One of the sources of the flu pandemic outbreak in India in 1918 were troop ships arriving from Europe. One such ship arrived in Bombay at the end of May 1918. There was an initial outbreak of the disease in the summer but this was followed by a much more severe second wave of infections in the Autumn. By the time the pandemic ended in the Spring of 1919, almost 14 million people had died of the flu in British India.
Service No: 681141
Date of Death: 26/10/1918
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, 101st Bty, 21st Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Face 1.
Cemetery/Memorial: DELHI MEMORIAL (INDIA GATE)
Additional Information: (Buried Quetta Govt. Cem. XXV. 2574.).
Fergus’s brother-in-law was 20922 Pte John Gilgun who served in 6th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. John was born in Preston in 1884. He was sent to join 6Bn in Gallipoli on 14 November 1915. By then, the heaviest of the fighting had died down but the troops faced appalling conditions through the winter. They were withdrawn in January to Egypt and were then sent to Mesopotamia in the spring to relieve British and Indian troops under siege at Kut-Al Amara. The garrison eventually surrendered, in one of the most humiliating defeats endured by the British in the War. John was killed during the attempt to relieve the garrison, on 28 April 1916. He was 32 years old.