Tributes have been paid to a Lancashire military historian who has died at the age of 92.

Walter Holmes was an Accrington Pals historian who worked for decades to uncover the heroes from the town and surrounding villages who laid down their lives at the Battle of the Somme in World War I.

Walter began his work in 1986 and worked alongside fellow Accrington Pals historian and author Bill Turner to ensure their story and legacy is never forgotten.

Walter Holmes, known to many as 'Retlaw', died on Tuesday, January 2.

His family said.  "Walter passed away following a short illness, being cared for by his family at home. 

"We have been extremely moved by the many phone calls, messages, emails, received from family, friends, colleagues and from people who we have never met but knew him through his historical knowledge and famous Lancashire dialect.

"He was one of Accrington's characters but a man who shied away from the limelight and publicity, preferring to quietly get on with his research, his hobby. 

"His local historical knowledge and that of the Pals, some of whom he grew up with and went on trips back to France with, was second to none".

Walter's efforts saw him check and cross-reference original records, which contained a list of the 1,698 Accrington men and the wider 4,292 men of the 11th Battalion East Lancashire, which the Pals regiment became.

The finished 398-page document meant the identities of the men who enlisted in the regiment in September 1914 could be fully honoured.

A total of 19,240 British soldiers lost their lives at the Somme - making it the bloodiest day in the history of the armed forces.

Fellow researcher Bill Turner died in 2007.

In 2013, Walter was praised for his efforts in the House of Commons after he helped the then-Hyndburn MP Graham Jones to find his ancestor’s Army records.

Lancashire Telegraph: Graham Jones (left) posted this image of Walter Holmes

Mr Jones, who will be running to win back the Hyndburn seat for Labour at the next election, said: “My deepest condolences to the family and friends of Walter Holmes.

"Walter was the borough's fountain of knowledge on many historical things but he'll be most remembered for a lifetime's research on the Accrington Pals. 

“He said on more than one occasion, ‘All the bloody war memorials are wrong, there's folk missing’.

"He campaigned to get Hyndburn Council to honour those that had fallen and to have them added, recognised for their sacrifices.

"As a result of Walter's hard work and his colleague Bill Turner, Hyndburn's war memorials are being updated. 

“We also had a closer connection. Walter was an apprentice turner at Howard and Bullough's with my grandad, his mentor on the next bench. He had some fond tales to tell. 

“Walter's passing is such a sad loss and he will be very much missed but Walter and his work will be seen forever as record of a lifetime's effort. 

“He will be sadly missed and my thoughts are with Cath, Ali and the family and friends. RIP Walter.”

Lancashire Telegraph:

Speaking in 2012, Walter said: “I thought I was finished about six months ago, but then I remembered I hadn’t yet included men who received silver war badges.

"These were given to the injured, sick and wounded to prevent people handing them the insult of a white feather for cowardice.

“I would say every source has now been explored. I wanted very much to carry on the work Bill started and I will be honouring the Pals in 2014 with exhibitions.”

Following a Civic trip to Serre, France, 1 July 2016 to commemorate the centenary of the first day of the BattIe of the Somme, a medal was presented for Walter by the Maire de Bapaume, Jean-Jacques Cottel for Walter’s  work on the Accrington Pals and 11th (Service) Battalion (Accrington) East Lancashire Regiment . 

It read: “The honour is presented to a person who has contributed to the town’s reputation or played an important role in the life of the community.”  

Daughter Cath said: "Walter's knowledge, collection of photographs and information were central to many of the Commemorations around the 2014-2018 (and up to being taken ill), events and projects locally, nationally and internationally, to remember the Great War and those who gave all. 

"It is poignant that next week, works begins on refurbishing the Pals Memorial Garden on Church Street, Accrington.  A project I pushed Hyndburn Council for and Walter supported."

You can listen to Walter Holmes speak about some of his work here.