Dedicated to the memory of all the men and women of Bridgnorth, Shropshire, who died during the two World Wars.
LT Col H. E. WELCH D.S.O. ------------------------- Lieutenant Colonel Harold Echalaz C Welch. Died: 29 Mar 1918, Age 39 (so born 1879/80) GRO Q1 1879 Woburn 6th Bn KSLI. D.S.O. and Bar Grave I. C. 78 Bouchoir New British Cemetery. Son of Mr. and Mrs. A. Welch; husband of Lisalie Welch, of Cantryn, Bridgnorth, Salop. Probate to Rose Marguerite Welch, spinster and Christopher Hugh Maude esq. Effects £50710 8s 5d. 1891 census: Age 12, scholar b. Bedfordshire, Husborne Crawley, living with Parents Alfred & Ellen (both b. Luton, Beds) and Grandfather Alfred Welch (all living on own means) at 14 East Castle Street. 1911 census: Captain, 4th Bn Middlesex Regt. Aldershot. 32, single. BJ: 6 Apr 1918: Killed in action. Lieut-Col Harold E Welch of Cantreyn. Born 1879. Son of the late Alfred Wood Welch and Mrs Welch of East Castle Street. BJ: 17 Aug 1918: Will mentioned. From Lancing College War Memorial (http://www.hambo.org/lancing/) which has a photo. Harold Echalaz Welch was born at Husborn Crawley in Bedfordshire on the 8th of March 1879 the only son of Alfred W Welch and Helen C Welch later of Bridgnorth in Shropshire. He was educated at Lancing College where he was in School House from September 1891 to April 1898. He was a member of the Football XI in 1897/8 and was appointed as a Prefect in 1897. He went on to Oriel College Oxford from 1898 to 1899 and played cricket for the OLs. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 4th Battalion Cheshire Regiment (Militia) on the 2nd of May 1898 and was seconded for service in the South African War on the 18th of April 1900 serving with the 2nd Battalion Middlesex Regiment. He was awarded the Queen's Medal with three claps and the King's Medal with two clasps. He was promoted to Captain on the 4th of June 1904 which was antedated to the 4th of May. On the outbreak of war he rejoined the army, was appointed to the rank of Captain on the 19th of September 1914 and was attached to the 6th Battalion King’s Own Shropshire Light Infantry. He was promoted to Major on the 18th of October 1914 and was given command of D Company. He landed in France at Boulogne with his battalion in the early hours of the 23rd of July 1915. He saw action at the Battle of Loos on the 25th of September 1915 where his Company took the German front line trench but were forced back to their own trench by 2pm. On the 6th of October 1915 he was appointed as second in command of the battalion replacing Major Cotton who was taken ill and sent home. On the 7th of September 1916 he took command of the battalion when the Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel E.A. Wood, was gassed at Arrowhead Copse on the Somme and had to be evacuated; he commanded the battalion throughout the rest of their campaign on the Somme. He was promoted to Acting Lieutenant Colonel while in command of his battalion on the 12th of September 1917 while Colonel Wood was again absent through sickness. On the 19th of September 1917 he led the battalion during the Battle of the Menin Road part of the Third Battle of Ypres, constantly going forward to reconnoiter the ground personally. For his actions during this battle he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order which was announced by the War Office on the 19th of November 1917. On the 5th of November Colonel Wood was promoted to command the 55th Infantry Brigade and Harold Welch was given command of the battalion. As a result he was confirmed as a Temporary Lieutenant Colonel on the 9th of November with seniority backdated to the 12th of September. In November 1917 the battalion took part in the Battle of Cambrai, where he again made several journeys up to the fighting line for which he was awarded a bar to his Distinguished Service Order which was announced by the War Office on the 18th of February 1918 and the citation read:- "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. His battalion was in immediate support to an attack which was held up by machine-gun fire from concrete posts, and it was found impossible to continue the advance without further artillery preparation. His battalion meanwhile was held up in a most exposed position. During the hours which elapsed before the advance could continue he moved about under fire regardless of danger, reconnoitring the situation, visiting his companies, and issuing orders. Owing to his efforts his battalion was eventually able to continue the advance successfully. His leadership and courage set a magnificent example to all ranks." He was mentioned in dispatches twice. On the 21st of March the Germans launched their spring offensive. At this time the 6th Battalion Shropshire Light Infantry were in positions in quarries around Bray St Christophe. At 1.30pm on the 22nd the Germans attacked and drove the battalions holding the line in front of the Shropshires, out of their positions. Orders were received to withdraw but they were verbal and Welch did not like verbal orders. As the three front companies withdrew, Welch and A Company stayed and as a result caught a large group of Germans by surprise causing a large number of casualties among them before the Shropshires withdrew into the mist. By 8.30pm on the night of the 22nd the battalion was in new positions between Bray and Aubigny. At midnight a large group of German assault troops used the mist to creep up to the British trenches and rushed part of the Brigade's line forcing gaps in the British defences. Harold Welch had organised his battalion headquarters staff for the defence of Aubigny and led them to counter attack the Germans but was forced back by overwhelming numbers. By dawn Welch was trying to locate the men of his battalion from who had become separated and found them at Lannoy Farm. On the 28th they were concentrated with their Brigade to the east of Hangest and later that day they were sent to support 59th Brigade which was under attack in the Meziers area. At 2.30pm on the 29th the 6th Shropshires were in reserve to the north of Villers and came under heavy shelling. Harold Welch was wounded by a piece of shrapnel and died fifteen minutes later near Villers-aux-Erables. The regimental history records:- "A more gallant officer and true gentleman never wore the King's uniform." He was married in Kent in early 1916 to Lisalie Marie (nee Maude) of "Cantreyn", Bridgnorth Salop in Shropshire.
This memorial has mostly been compiled from official sources. It would be good to be able to expand it with more personal material - memories, stories, photos, etc. If you have any suitable material or any corrections please contact Greg. For news of updates follow @BridgnorthHeros on Twitter.