249 Sapper Alan Alexander Wilson-Walker

Remembered on this day 20th March 1916.

Searching for a Portrait
Searching for a Portrait

249 Alan Alexander Wilson- Walker was born in 1893 in Woolhara Sydney, to parents Alexander Wilson and Edith Gertrude Wilson nee Cater. Alan had a younger brother William Douglas and two sisters Sylvia and Dora.
His father Alexander died in tragic circumstances in  1897 when Alan was just four years old.
Widowed and with four young children Edith later remarried in 1901 marrying prominent Sydney Chartered accountant and businessman Charles Alfred Le Maistre Walker. The children then adopted the extended family name of Wilson – Walker.
Edith and Charles would later also have two son’s from their marriage Charles and Theobald.

The Wilson-Walker family were at this time a very prominant family due largely to their father Charles who was a very successful man. He was senior partner of his own  accounting firm C.A Le Mastrie Walker Son & Co. He was also a Director of John Shaw Aust Ltd, Director of  Universal Land and Deposit Bank Ltd, a member of The Farmers Relief Board and the Government representative on the Egg Marketing Board of NSW.

Alan Wilson-Walker grew up in the family home “Coolagalla”, a grand home which still stands today on the corner of Station and Grandview street Pymble New South Wales.

Alan and his younger brother William both attended The Sydney Church of England Grammar School –  today known as Shore school for boys in North Sydney and together they  enjoyed golf with their stepfather as members of the Killara Golf club. The Killara golf club later becoming well known for replacing golf competitions with rifle shooting competitions in the spirit of encouraging recruitment rather than leisurely sporting pursuits during wartime.
Alan also had three years in the Scottish Rifles while also working as an electrical engineer for Warburton & Franki Ltd. prior to enlistment.

When war broke out in 1914, the war became a family affair for the Wilson- Walker’s in a very unique way. They were a family that together would make the ultimate personal sacrifice abroad and suffer great loss, but with unswerving dedication to the war effort at home, they made huge personal contributions to establish war funds, comfort funds and organisations in support of families and soldiers. They played a significant part in the  Australian war time history at home, details that have been overlooked and never before been highlighted.

Alan was 21 when he enlisted as a sapper with the Imperial Expeditionary Forces. He was temporarily discharged possibly due to illness for a short time and was reinstated and placed with the 1st Reinforcements Field Coy. Engineers under Lieut. Bachtold on the 19th October 1914 and later embarked on the A35 Berrima and joined up with original members of the 1st FCE in Egypt.
His brother William Douglas Wilson-Walker, attended the University of Sydney, and became an Economics graduate perhaps planning on joining the family firm of C. A. Le Maistre Walker, Chartered Accountants, but the war interrupted any plans he may have had and he also enlisted in June 1915.
Meanwhile his parents Edith and Charles were also doing their bit for the war effort. Through his private firm of chartered accountants, Charles already connected to the most eminent citizens of New South Wales, put his position to extaordinary use.

Charles founded the Citizens War Chest Fund of NSW in 1914 and was Hon. Secretary for the duration of the War, he was also Hon. General Secretary of the Australian Comforts Fund 1916, he also organised the formation of the French Australian League of Help and organised the NSW Returned Soldiers Association in 1916.

Then in April of 1915 it was sapper Alan Alexander Wilson-Walker who would take the next step’s towards the making of Australian history.

Alan took part in the first landing at Gallipoli on the morning of 25th April and served up to 23rd July when suffering from Otitis, an acute middle ear infection, he was transferred to St Patricks military hospital in Malta.
Still unwell in September, he was eventually transferred to England and admitted to the 1st General hospital Birmingham.

During his time in recovery he took the opportunity to apply for an appointment in the  Royal Flying Corps (RFC) the air arm of the British Army during the First World War.
On December 6th 1915 he was discharged from the Australian forces and appointed to a commission in the Imperial Army Royal Flying Corp.


By January 20th 1916,  Alan had qualified as an airman, flying a Maurice Farman Biplane and graduated from Brooklands with his Aeronautics certificate and was now Second Lieutenant No 13 Reserve Squadron Royal Flying Corps.

Farman Shorthorn MF11
Farman Shorthorn MF11

On March the 20th exactly two months after graduating, Alan was killed.

On the 24th the coroners findings confirmed “accidental death” and his funeral took place on the same day with full military honours.
The Dover Express reported the findings of the coroner and also reported on his funeral.

AUSTRALIAN FLYING OFFICER KILLED.

“The inquest on Lieut. A. Wilson Walker, who was killed near Dover in an aeroplane accident on Monday at 11.30 a.m., was held on Wednesday afternoon by the County Coroner (Mr. R. Mowll). The evidence was that the deceased officer was returning from a cross-country flight, and was seen near the Dover end of the Guston tunnel to be flying at a dangerously slow speed and then to turn. The machine sideslipped and nose-dived 1,500 feet, striking the ground and smashing to pieces. The deceased was found strapped in the machine dead, his spine being fractured, skull fractured, and both legs and one arm broken.

It was stated that he was an Australian, 22 years of age, and had served all through the Gallipoli affair, taking his ticket January 10th, and had done sixteen hours’ flying. The elevator, which was the only way of getting a machine out of a nose-dive, was in good order after the accident.

The Coroner expressed their sorrow at this gallant young officer’s death, and the jury returned a verdict of accidental death.”  – Source: – ‘ Dover Express ‘

 

Dover Express – Friday 24 March 1916

“FUNERAL OF LIEUT. A. A. WILSON-WALKER. The funeral took place, with full military honours, at St. James’s Cemetery, of Second Lieut. A. A. Wilson-Walker, Royal Flying Corps, who died on March 20th, at the age of 22 years. The officiating clergyman was the Rev. C. Haines, C.F.; and the band attendance was that of the 6th Royal Fusiliers. The mourners present were Mr. and Mrs. Muggleton, Mr. and Mrs. Theobald, and Mr. Keigwin. There were floral tributes from the officers of the R.F.C. (consisting of a large cross of white lillies 4ft. in length); warrant officers and sergeants, and from the corporals and air mechanics, R.F.C. The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs. Flashman and Co., of Dover and Folkestone.” Source –Dover Express – Friday 24 March 1916.

St James Cemetery Dover Kent England
St James Cemetery Dover Kent England

During his time in England while preparing to be an aviator, Alan was having his correspondence sent to a  C .Theobald Esq. at 11 Egerton Place London, possibly a relative of the Walkers in the UK. They were more than likely the same Mr.and Mrs Theobald who attended his funeral.

Four months later his brother  7162 William Douglas Wilson-Walker, also died from severe shrapnel wounds to his abdomen at Armentieres, France, on the 18th July 1916, aged 20 years. He had been a Gunner with the 110 Howitzer battery. The Rev. P Baker provided details to the Red Cross enquiry on the death of William.

William Wilson Walker Red Cross Files RCDIG1054629--1

William Wilson Walker Red Cross Files RCDIG1054629–1

 

 

Headstone - photo source - Angus882 Great War Forum
Headstone – photo source – Angus882 Great War Forum

A headstone had been placed in memory of both Alan and William in St.James cemetery, perhaps arranged by the Theobald family connection……it is showing some wear from 100 years of standing quietly, however it still reads well enough………….

Honoured and Loving Memory

of

Alan Alexander Wilson Walker 2nd Lieutenant RFC of Sydney, Australia, accidentally killed whilst flying at Dover 20th March 1916, aged 22 years. Listed in the Australian Imperial Force  August 1914, took part in the first landing at Gallipoli 25th April 1915 and subsequently joined the RFC

per ardua ad astra

Also of William Douglas Wilson-Walker, Gunner, Australian Imperial Froce, brother of the above, who died of wounds at Armentieres, France, 18th July 1916, aged 20 years

“When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow these gave their today”

 per ardua ad astra  is latin for “Through adversity to the stars” or “Through struggle to the stars” and is the motto of the Royal Air Force and other Commonwealth air forces such as the RAAF, dating back to 1912 and used by the newly formed Royal Flying Corps.

The brothers were later memorialised back home in Australia, The Torch Bearer the magazine of  The Sydney Church of England Grammar School reported in its May 1921 edition that the chapel had laid tablets in memory of Alan Alexander Wilson Walker, and William Douglas Wilson Walker.

 

Letter from Edith 1920
Letter from Edith 1920

 

Edith and her family  would be shattered by the news, their hearts broken on two separate occasions within a four month period.

However Edith was quite a remarkable woman, and having been actively involved with the war effort at home, she was not going to let the tragic loss of both her son’s account for nothing or let the pain engulf her, she remained brave and stoic and in spite of the devastating setbacks to her family, she somehow found the strength to continue her extensive community work.

Husband Charles must have been a great support and was no doubt also a very influential partner.  Edith and Charles together were a force that knew no bounds and after the war both continued there efforts in serving the community.

Edith was a remarkable woman and her sons although having died in the great war would have been as equally proud of her, as she was of them.

Mrs Edith Gertrude Le Maistre Walker
Mrs Edith Gertrude Le Maistre Walker

When Edith died in December 1935 her obituary and the list of mourners who attended her funeral reads like the who’s who of 1935. Family members of the retailer David Jones, distinguished members from the Arnotts family of Arnotts biscuits fame, Judges, lawyers, politicians, high profile property developers and prominent businessman of the time, all attended her funeral.
There was no doubt as to her popularity and the high esteem in which she was remembered.

Charles Alfred Le Maistre Walker for all his extraordinary charitable and humanitarian work was awarded an MBE in 1916, a CBE in 1920 and the Medaille de Roi Albert from Belgium.

 

Story © Vance Kelly 2016

 

Sources:

AWM, NAA, NLA, sussexhistoryforum.co.uk, nationalarchives.gov.uk, The Torch Bearer – The magazine of – The Sydney Church of England Grammar School, Angus882 Great War Forum.

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The Scottish Inventor

 

In the final year of the great war in France, a significant piece of engineering  was designed for the welfare of the troops. It was designed and constructed by  an ‘original’ from the 1st Field Company Engineers, a Scotsman who became an ANZAC legend.

He has been forever digitised in the war history books and made famous for all historians and followers of the 1st FCE to discover.

The Australian War Museum website has recognised the “Johnston” Shower invented by “original” 158 James Johnston and today we celebrate his distinguished service and his story.

Please Click Here for his full story………….

85 John “Jack” Gilbert Ashton

Joy remembers them all

Photo of  85 John Ashton property of Joyce Anderson  – Article published by Noosa Today  – see link to original article below.

85  John “Jack” Gilbert Ashton

85 John Gilbert Ashton was a 29 year old bricklayer,  a native of Lincolnshire  England. His mother was Sarah Ashton (nee Hutton), his father, Benjamin was a building contractor, and John was his apprentice.  There were opportunities for skilled builders and bricklayers in Australia in the 1900’s, the lure for John may have been good pay for his skill and a new life in Australia.

John was with the other sappers as ‘dawn landers’ at Gallipoli and lost his best friend “nugget”  and a few good mates on that day. John was active at Gallipoli up to and including the Battle of Lone Pine and the assault on the German officers trench. 

From the 6th to the 10th August, John spent a few long days and nights with fellow sappers during the ‘Battle of Lone Pine’ and may have been too close to the constant shelling for long periods, or was even a victim of a close call from an exploding shell. This often left survivors shocked and suffering deafness for extended periods of time.

John Ashton was suffering from deafness in both ears and his condition never quite improved and while not one hundred percent fit to return to active service in the field, he remained for two years attached to the permanent staff company at Perham Downs England and was promoted to temp. Sergeant.

John’s deafness continued and like many before him suffering a similar debility, he eventually returned home to Australia on the “Runic” in Feb. 1918 and was later medically discharged on 16.4.18

John had fought as an ANZAC and after the war returned to Australia, returned to his trade and married.

John and his wife Edith had two children, Joyce and Frederick.

John was a member of the 1st FCE Re-Union Association which was established in 1922 by the originals. He was an active and esteemed member and no doubt maintained his friendships with many of the surviving “originals”.

Badge AIF Eng Asscn.
Original Badge for members of the AIF Engineers Association

 

Sadly John died in 1954 in his home at Birrong and Edith his loving wife died just four weeks later.

The following notices were published in the Sydney Morning Herald Notice – published

A I F 1914- 18 Reunion Assn – The Members of the above Assn are invited to attend the Funeral of their late esteemed Member JOHN GILBERT ASHTON For further particulars see family notice Wednesday’s Herald
H A MURRAY Pres NORMAN H JARVIS Hon Secy

 

Family Notices published…..

ASHTON, Edith Harriet. -June 13, 1954, at hospital, of 28 Stephenson Street, Birrong, adored wife of the late John Gilbert Ashton, loving mother of Joyce and Eric (Fred). Privately cremated 15th June.
ASHTON John Gilbert -May l8 1954 at his residence 23 Stephenson Street Birrong dearly beloved husband of Edith Ashton and loved father of Joyce and of Frederick (Eric) and loved brother of Mary and Hubert aged 68 years

 

85 John Jack Gilbert Ashton was honoured and remembered on the centenary year by his daughter Joyce Anderson and a tribute in the ‘NoosaToday’ and a story by Katie De Verteuil.

The article is available to view and download, please follow the link below and enjoy the story of her brave father.

23 April 2015 7:31 AM .

CLICK LINK.

Acknowledgements:

Noosa Today Newspaper & Real Estate Lifestyle

 

Notes:

The identity of “nugget” ????

Marcus Clark

 

16 Marcus A Clarke portrait
16 Driver Marcus Adamson Clark

 

16 Driver Marcus Adamson Clark

One of the youngest to volunteer was 19 year old 16 Marcus Adamson Clark, another  strapping young fellow from country Narandera. He was a blacksmith and farrier and at 5 ft 10” and 12 stone he was one of the youngest and fittest in the company. He also couldn’t wait to get on a horse and get to Sydney as quickly as possible to enlist as he enlisted on the 1st day and was assigned service number 16.

Marcus was also a skilled Horseman and was featured in the Sydney Mail in January 1916.

Marcus and Horse 2
Incorrectly titled Trooper.

Marcus Clark’s story is available and offers some insights into the driver’s of the 1st FCE.

Please read his story……………..click here

21st December 1915 – Remembering Lieut. Noel Biden

“A loyal and promising officer”

 

Lieut. Noel Ernest Biden
Lieut. Noel Ernest Biden

 

The small village of Portianos is on the west side of Mudros Bay, on the island of Lemnos, Greece. The Portianos Military Cemetery is on the outskirts of the village, on what is called Anzac Street.

It was established in August 1915 and continued military burials until August 1920. The cemetery now contains 347 Commonwealth burials of the First World War and five war graves of other nationalities. There are 50 Australians and 29 New Zealanders  identified and buried at this Military Cemetery.

One of these Australian’s is original 1st FCE Officer Lieut. Noel Ernest Biden – on the 21st December 1915 … it was his final resting place.

 

 

This the 100th Anniversary of ANZAC –  we commemorate this  loyal and promising officer.

Please read more of his story ………… click here.

 

 sources: GWGC, AWM NAA, NLA

8th December 1915 Remembering 56 Alexander Garden

Otago Peninsula Fallen Soldiers Memorial and Otago Harbour,New Zealand.

56 Spr. Alexander Garden

The tallest man in the company at 6ft 2″was 24 year old Alex Garden . He must have seemed like a giant to many of his fellow sapper’s.  He was certainly considered soldier material, the perfect image of a man the Australian military authorities wanted to show the rest of the world. Interestingly before Alex enlisted, his early attempt to join the Victorian police force was unsuccessful as they claimed his body weight was not in proportion to his height, and he was rejected as a possible recruit.

Alex was born in Dunedin New Zealand, his parents James and Jane Garden – nee Henderson. He enlisted stating he was a carpenter by trade working for the Henderson Family business in Anderson’s Bay, Dunedin, New Zealand.

Searching for a Portrait
Searching for a Portrait

 

Alex arrived in Australia in 1910 and like most men coming to Australia, he was keen to seek out new opportunities. His early unsuccessful attempt at joining the police force must have been quite a disappointment, however once the call to war came Alex would follow a new path as a soldier with the AIF.

In the early months at Gallipoli Alexander suffered with a mild case of measles and later diarrhea but nothing serious enough to keep him from returning at full strength. He managed to see through the entire campaign almost to the end.

In the final weeks of November 1915 at Gallipoli, the weather conditions had taken an unexpected turn. Snow was falling, accompanied by heavy winds and the ground was frozen hard. The Turkish bombardments towards the end of the month became more intensive. It was just a few more weeks before the Gallipoli campaign would see its final chapter… evacuation.

On the 29th November the heavy shelling at Gallipoli had claimed up to 150 casualties and as many as 30 were killed and the following day 151 Ernest Murray noted in his diary , there was another day of heavy shelling and sapper 56 Alexander Garden was wounded.

Just two days later the general evacuation of Gallipoli commenced and at the same time Alex Garden had been transferred directly to no. 19 General Hospital in Alexandria with a shell wound to his thigh and a serious compound fracture to his femur, his leg later requiring amputation.

His general health would have been very poor, and suffering from a serious wound and an amputation, Alexander Garden unfortunately died on the 8th December 1915.

Just six days later on the 14th December the last of the originals still at Gallipoli –  “12 old boys left” –  by Ernest Murray’s  estimate, departed Anzac in the night and arrived at Lemnos the following day.

Alexander was later buried at Chatby Military Cemetery Egypt, in the same cemetery as fellow sapper 212 Charles “Chook” Carrington Fowle.

Chatby Military and War Memorial Alexandria Egypt
Chatby Military and War Memorial Alexandria Egypt

 

News of Alexander’s death was published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Christmas Eve 1915. Alex’s mother somehow found the strength to write a letter to the war office on Chrstmas Day and fowarded the letter below sorrowing for her loss and her needy situation. She was not impressed with this war business , but remained dignified and courteous in her letter.

 

Otago Peninsula Fallen Soldiers Memorial and Otago Harbour,New Zealand.

Alexander’s name was included on the Otago Peninsula Fallen Soldiers Memorial pictured above.

The following press article by Ron Palenski describes this marvelous memorial, a truly organic looking monument.

“The memorial was designed by architect Edward Walter Walden and sculpted by Robert Hosie, the infantryman in greatcoat with rifle slung over his left shoulder stands about 3m tall atop a bluestone column of about 10m.Together, they are fixed on top of what used to be known as ”the Big Stone” but which shortly before the memorial unveiling in 1923………….The weather was not kind the day the memorial was unveiled. The Rev Andrew Cameron, one of the leading Presbyterian figures in New Zealand at the time, provided the religious accompaniment and the local member of Parliament, James Dickson, the secular.

But Cameron also delved into pre-Christian times when he quoted from The Iliad: ”The brave meets danger, and the coward flees, To die or conquer, proves a hero’s heart,  And knowing this, I know a soldier’s part.”

How many people were there for the unveiling was not recorded: it was ”a large concourse” in the Otago Daily Times and ”a very large gathering” in the Evening Star. During the formal ceremony the people, said to be from all over the city and the peninsula, sheltered as best they could in the lee of the great rock from the southerly that swept in over Tomahawk and Anderson’s Bay.

It is not difficult to imagine among them the mothers, the fathers, the widows, the brothers and sisters, those for whom this became the surrogate grave of the men they had farewelled with an emotional mix of pride and trepidation not long before”… Ron Palenski

Otago Peninsula Fallen Soldiers Memorial and Otago Harbour,New Zealand
The Unveiling Ceremony 1923

 

 

 

The Original Plaque on the Otago peninsula Memorial now replaced
Alexander Garden’s name on the Original Plaque on the Otago Peninsula Memorial now replaced with a new plaque in 2015.

 

REL41104.054

 

56 Alexander Garden – ANZAC –  Always Remembered

 

StoryCopyright©VanceKelly2015

Sources:

AWM, NLA, NAA – Article by Ron Palenski

Acknowledgments:

Anzac Snow Photo’s – Courtesy of the Bob Lundy Collection

Article by Ron Palenski

 

 

 

“The place where they grow men,”

 

Croix de Guerre - Front
Croix de Guerre – Front

 

This impressive looking medal is the Croix de Guerre, or sometimes known as the Belgian “War Cross”. It is the military decoration of the Kingdom of Belgium established by royal decree in 1915. It is primarily awarded for bravery or other military virtue on the battlefield. This splendid decoration was awarded to original sapper 121 Percy Talbot Griggs, a young plumber from the remote country town of Narandera, NSW Australia.

121 Percy “Talbot” or ” Sprigger ” Griggs  the young plumber from the bush, was a special young man, and during the entire war he served his country and his mates with unwavering devotion and bravery.

The enthusiastic and often ‘Gungho’ 129 Phil Ayton shared tents and dug outs with Percy  or “Talbot”  or “Sprigger” as he was known. Phil Ayton wrote to Percy’s sister Agnes while on the hospital ship, wounded, and updated her on their situation at Gallipoli.

“I am writing at your brother’s wish. He is alright, it is not he that is sick, it is I.    I have been a “cobber” of Talbot’s since we enlisted in Sydney, and I have been ever since. Not a bad kid is ‘”Sprigger,” as we call him. We were in the same tent at Moore Park, also at Mena Camp, in fact we have always been together. During the past three weeks of action in Turkey, our dug-outs have been together……………………………………………”A few of our chaps have been wounded, but Sprigger reckons he has a good chance of seeing Narandera again. He skites a lot about Narandera……………………………..The place where they grow men,” ………………he says”

He says you must not worry about him if you do not get any letters. That is why he asked me to write. He hasn’t the time or the chance on shore, and has no paper nor envelopes. As I had to come on board here, he asked me to write and tell you the news. If he gets snuffed out the papers will tell you, but he will get through all right. “

This would have been a very welcome and timely letter for the concerned family, although the full letter may have given them some cause for concern, Phil Ayton was forever the optimist and always full of enthusiam, he expressed how he and Talbot had no desire to return home, they were keen to stay on and clean up the Turks and then move on and help finish off the Germans, only to return when the job was complete.

 

Both of these great Australians stories are now on their own pages……………………….. links below.

121 Percy Talbot Griggs –  M.M  and Croix de Guere

129 Philip Owen Ayton