James was born in1890, the fourth son and ninth of eleven children of Patrick and Elizabeth Walsh of Brodies Plains near Inverell. They were among the original pioneer settlers of the district. Before the War, James worked as a farmer on the family property.
He enlisted in Inverell in January 1916 as one of the First Contingent of The Kurrajongs and served with C Company of the 33rd Battalion, known as the New England Battalion. After training at Narrabri and Armidale, they sailed from Australia in May 1916 on HMAT A74 Marathon. In England, further training was undertaken at Salisbury Plain until the Battalion was deployed to France in November, on the Isle of Man ferry SS Mona Queen.
He saw service in France and Belgium, entering the line in the Chappelle D’ Armentieres Sector, Northern France on 29th November 1916 and took part in the trenches and battles of Messines, Ypres, Passchendale, Menin Road and the first battle of Villiers- Bretonneux, (24/25 April 1918) in which he was badly gassed. Although he rejoined his unit in Rouelles in June 1918 he was repatriated to England in August, before returning to Australia by hospital ship HT Somali in November that year. He was discharged from Hospital at Randwick as medically unfit on 15 July 1919. Total service, 3 years 184 days. Overseas service 2 years 287 days.
In 1920 he married Rachel Lewis in Sydney with George Cartwright VC, a pre-war friend and fellow soldier from the 33rd Battalion, as best man. The family settled at Belfield NSW, where he was known as a quietly spoken and well respected family man. Although re-trained as a boot maker, ill-health from the effects of the mustard gas caused him to follow outdoor employment and he spent most of his post-war years as a gardener. He died in 1974, three days before his 84th birthday and was buried at Rookwood NSW.
Descendants include 6 children (5 deceased), 7 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren and 15 great, great grandchildren (1 deceased).
The name of Private James Walsh is inscribed on the Inverell Honor Roll.
Submitted by family
Photo: private collection