A Rough Carpenter

 

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35 Walter Ernest Robertson – photo courtesy AWM P10114.001

 

35 Walter Ernest Robertson – MM

Walter was a 27 year old “rough carpenter” or “bush carpenter” a familiar phrase in Australia and New Zealand 100 years ago.

Bush carpentry was very different to the carpentry we know today, with most of the timber cut on the property and worked by hand with  axe, saw, wedge, mallet, auger and chisel. The houses, sheds, wagons and even tools were made from the local available materials such as tree trunks , saplings, fencing wire, metal scraps and anything that could be recycled such as metal drums etc.

104 James Percival Polley,  was another experienced “Bush carpenter” who had been pliing his trade for 9 years. They were among the handiest men to have around at Gallipoli and the front.

The rough carpenter was very skilled, a man clever with his hands, methodical in his approach to work, able to improvise, very confident and always willing to learn new skills.
Walter was one of these men, a man not out of place even today.

 

He was born in Stratford, Victoria but was living and working his skills in New South Wales. His father, Archibald, his next of kin on his enlistment papers was living at Fairfield NSW.

Walter was wounded in Gallipoli, gunshot wounds to the hand and head on the 28th June 1915.  His casualty is mentioned in the Unit diaries AWM4 – June 1915.  He convalesced  at Hospital in Mena, Egypt and when fully recovered he returned to Gallipoli in September and remained until the company was evacuated.

In March 1916 Walter was transferred to the 15th FCE and it wasn’t long before Walter was among the action on the front line at the Western front,  where again he was wounded in action on 20th July 1916, a  gun shot wound to his right arm and left leg.

Once again Walter recovers from his wounds and rejoined his unit on 30th May 1917 . On the 29th September 1917 again in the front line  Walter is gassed and is hospitalized , but yet again  rejoins the unit on 11th December 1917

He was now Corporal Walter Robertson, the rough carpenter was one tough individual, wounded on three occasions and displayed continued commitment to his unit. He had a faultless service record and was ultimately awarded the Military Medal. – He was recommended by Lt Col. Mather originally for the Distinguished Conduct medal. The original recommendation on his war file. Original recommendation RCDIG1068281–41-

‘For great gallantry and devotion to duty. In the neighbourhood of PERONNE, during operations 30th, 31st August, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th September, this N.C.O., as senior N.C.O. of his Section, assisted his Officer in the successful completion of a footbridge across the SOMME Valley. He continually went up and down his men, urging them on, and throughout night and day showed untiring energy. Previous to this Corporal ROBERTSON had reconnoitred in a collapsible boat, 500 yards ahead of Infantry, over the swamp, locating the shortest route to be followed, to strike firm land. On the completion of this track he made valuable reconnaissance, and, despite casualties, sent in valuable information quickly. He has shown himself a capable leader of men under extremely trying conditions of machine gun and shell fire.’
Source: ‘Commonwealth Gazette’ No. 115
Date: 10 October 1919

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Walter returned to Australia safely on the HMAT “Devon” on the 24th November 1918.

Walter died suddenly in 1944 on 11th April  1944,  he was 56 years of age. The Returned Soldiers League of Cobar managed his funeral arrangements and he was later buried at Cobar Shire Cemetery, New South Wales, Australia. Walter was survived by one brother Neil Robertson and his five sisters.

Walter has his own page ……..please read more

 

Story Copyright © Vance Kelly 2015

 

 

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