William Walter Balham
Service Number: 6197
Date of Birth: 1882
Regiment: 1st Devonshire Regiment
Date of Death: 31 Oct 1914
Age at death: 32
Cemetery / Memorial: Le Touret Memorial
Grave / Reference: Panel 8 & 9
Relatives: Son of William Baalham and Sarah Ann Mann.
Address: 33 New Cut, Hadleigh
In the early 1900s it was quite common for individuals to change the spelling of their name slightly. While researching William Walter Balham we noticed that his name had been spelt in two different ways, Balham and Baalham. The later is common in and around Hadleigh.
William Walter Baalham was born on 23 August 1882 at Layham and baptised on 8 July 1883 Hadleigh Congregational Church. His parents were William Baalham (1852-89) and Sarah Ann Mann (1852-1935) who married in 1874. Their other son Thomas appears in all census’ and served in the Royal Field Artillery and kept the name Baalham. William Walter seems to be off the census radar until 1911 when he was living with his mother in Fulham. They were still spelling their surname Baalham.
When we research William’s military history, we find his name spelt with a single a, Balham and going by William’s regimental number, it is thought that he joined the Devonshire Regiment in 1900. In 1903 he was awarded the King’s South Africa medal. To qualify for this medal you had to have spent 18 months in a theatre of war, serving on or after 1 Jan 1902. Since hostilities ceased in July 1902 he would have to have arrived in South Africa on or before Jan 1901. While in South Africa he served with the 2nd Battalion which had arrived there in Nov 1899 so he must have gone out as a replacement draft. The battalion was still there in 1904 but we do not know when William left the Army. What we do know is that by 1911 he had left the army and was living at home with his mother in Fulham.
When war broke out William was a reservist. He was mobilised and joined the 1st Battalion the Devonshire Regiment in Jersey where they had been since 1911. They travelled to Northern France landing at St. Nazaire on 1 Sep 1914. For the first four weeks they were used as line of communication defence. On 30 Sep 1914 they were transferred to the 14th Brigade in the 5th Div, but soon after were moved to the 15th Bde.
Private Balham is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.
The Le Touret Memorial commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave.
After the seeing action at La Bassee they moved to Festubert and on 29 Oct together with remnants of some Indian Army units were placed under the command of the colonel of the Bedfords. During fighting on 30 Oct to defend the trenches against German attacks 39 men were killed and 45 wounded.
According to the war diary, 31 Oct 1914 was a quiet day with only four men killed. The battalion was relieved and withdrawn from line.