Walter MAY
Rank: Private
Number: 352512
Unit: C Company, 17th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 27 March 1918
Age: 21
Cemetery: Pozieres Memorial, Somme, France

The May family are known to have lived at Warren Road, Adswood and later at 63 Osborne Road, Shaw Heath. Walter, senior, was an insurance agent and was married to Mary. The 1901 Census records them as having six children - Ethel (then 15), Herbert (13), Sidney (10), Louie (8), Elsie (5) and the future soldier, Walter (3).

In later life, Walter went to work at Carrington's hatworks in Cale Green and also furthered his education by attending the local Sunday School.  

Walter enlisted into the army at Stockport and the fact that his service number has six digits confirms this was not before 1917. It is also a number associated with the Regiment's 9th Battalion so it would be reasonable to assume that he joined it as part of a draft of replacements for casualties sometime after the late spring of 1917. At some later point, he was possibly wounded or otherwise away from the Battalion for a considerable while due to illness. When he was fit enough to return to duty, the 17th will have been in greater need of replacements and this will be why he transferred.

A major German offensive had long been anticipated in the spring of 1918 and it was duly delivered on 21 March. Walter and his comrades were in the main "battle zone" a couple of miles behind the 16th Battalion holding a front line outpost line. The 16th was quickly overrun and, by late afternoon, the Germans had reached the positions held by the 17th. Very fierce fighting took place and, eventually, there was no option but to withdraw.

Further attacks came over the following days and the British Army continued its retreat. The ground steadily won over the previous two years was being lost in days. By the 26th, the Battalion was in reserve at Folies. They had retreated about 60 kilometres since the battle had begun and casualties had been inflicted each day. Command of the Battalion had passed to a comparatively junior officer - Captain Keefe.

The Battalion's War Diary entry for the 27th records ""The enemy attacked at 12 noon. The front line withdrew through our lines and owing to the withdrawal of battalions on flanks, the Battalion was compelled to withdraw. A position 1000 yards to the rear was then taken up and then under heavy machine gun fire, the line was advanced slightly."

Walter had been killed. Robert Keefe was also killed, at about 2pm - his command lasting less than 24 hours. Neither has a known grave.

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