Baxenden Lads: Todd WC

1st July 1916

SGT. 15259 WALTER COUNSELL TODD of the 11th East Lancashire Regiment (the Accrington Pals) was killed in action on July 1st 1916 on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in France.

Walter was the only son of Mr. & Mrs. H. Todd. Mr. Todd was the headmaster of St. John’s School, Baxenden. Walter was twenty one years old, and lived with his parents and sister at the School-house adjacent to the School.

Walter went to St. John’s School and continued his education at Accrington Grammar School. He then became an analytical chemist with Kearns Allan & Co., Baxenden. He later worked at the firm’s central laboratory in Manchester. By his death a promising career was ended. Walter enlisted in the ‘Accrington Pals’ in September 1914 and was soon promoted to sergeant. He specialised in bombing (the use of hand grenades) and both in England and France he was an instructor in this particular branch of work.

When the ‘Pals’ were en-route to Egypt in December 1915, Walter fell ill and was placed in hospital in Malta. On his recovery he refused the chance to return to England for convalescence, and instead insisted he re-joined the battalion in Egypt. He did so on the eve of their departure for France in March 1916, and their ultimate participation in the Battle of the Somme.

Walter’s body was never found or identified. His name is therefore inscribed on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. (Together with Percy Bury he was one of the two members of St. John’s who died that day.) The Memorial is some four miles north east of the small town of Albert. It stands on a rise overlooking the battlefields. It is in the form of a triumphant arch, and is built of brick with limestone facings. (In the 1980’s much of the brickwork in the archways, which are a feature of the Memorial, was replaced by special bricks made in Accrington.)

On the stone panels are inscribed the names of over 73,000 men who died on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918 and have no known grave. Walter’s name is but one of 144 ‘Accrington Pals’ who are so named. Walter’s name is also on the Accrington Grammar School Roll of Honour.