No.2057 – Private George Walter – 16th Battalion AIF
George Walter enlisted for active service in World War One to serve his country and fight for the freedom of the Empire. George was the son of William Daniel Walter and Jane Walter. They had nine children, five sons (with George being the youngest boy) and four daughters.
George was just one of three Walter sons that went to war – he was joined by his brothers Arthur andWilliam.
George was born and educated in North Fremantle (his note above to Rose indicates that the family lived on Bayley Street, North Fremantle) and became a labourer on leaving school. He enlisted at the North Fremantle Town Hall on 15 February 1915 just three days after his brother Arthur had signed up. George was 19 and Arthur 21. They both trained at Blackboy Hill Camp in Greenmount for 3 months where they were drilled in armed and unarmed combat, rifle and bayonet warfare.
Poignantly, George wrote the following verse in his sister Rose's autograph book a few short months before enlisting.
The two brothers set sail on the Hororata on 26 April 1915 bound for Gallipoli, Turkey. Their parents, brothers and sisters along with several thousand other well-wishers lined the Fremantle wharf to wish the 16th Battalion good luck and goodbye. The ship sailed across the Indian Ocean to Cape Town South Africa and then Egypt where they did additional training to prepare them for trench warfare and action on the battlefield. They departed Egypt late May 1915 and arrived in Anzac Cove on 22 June 1915 and went straight into battle in the trenches. They were witness to many men being wounded and killed by Turkish sniper fire. George and Arthur remained together for approximately 3 months before Arthur sustained a gunshot wound to the chest and was transferred to a hospital ship and then taken to Lewisham Military Hospital in England via Malta.
George continued the fight alongside many other ANZAC soldiers. He was a great correspondent and frequently wrote to family and friends to let them know he was in good health and how much he missed them all.
Below is a very sweet postcard that George sent to his young niece, Evelyn, promising to bring her something nice when he returned home.
Shortly after, George receives a letter of thanks from Mollie, George's sister-in-law (wife of William Walter) and mother of Evelyn. She sent a scene of Fremantle and promises to send a snapshot of North Fremantle to his brother, Arthur, the next week. Included with the postcard above, it seems that Arthur and George sent their young niece a handkerchief that "she shows everybody."
George wrote to his niece again in 1916 lamenting the fact that he can't be home picnic-ing with her just as the figures are in the postcard.
On 14 November 1915 George was wounded with a bayonet to the thigh and was sent to Egypt to recover. On recovery he was sent to England with the 16th Battalion to train and prepare to fight on the Western Front in France.
His Battalion was involved in the Battle of Mouquet Farm, which began on 5 August 1916. This military action was an offensive strategy during the Battle of the Somme. A decision was made by the British to gain control of the ridge around Mouquet Farm to create a gap in the German lines. By capturing Mouquet Farm, the British hoped it would destabilise the German position and create a strong hold for the allies. This was a terrible time and in just a 3 day period over 637 men died, which was over 75% of the 16th Battalion!
Sadly George was one of those fatalities and was killed in action on 31 August 1916. His remains were later interred at the Villers-Bretonneux Memorial Cemetery in France.
George’s family was devastated by his loss. The Walter’s had always been a very large, close knit family. Although they received a memorial plaque and scroll in recognition of his sacrifice for King and country, these could never take his place.
For many years after his passing his family remembered their much loved son and brother who fought so bravely by placing memorial notices in the West Australian newspaper on the anniversary of his death each year.
They would also visit the North Fremantle War Memorial on which his name was inscribed.
This story has been written by Judith Cunnington and her sister Bernadette Cross, great granddaughters of William Henry Walter. They would like to thank their great aunt Lyn McGowan, great aunt Shirley Simpson and her husband Harry, and mother Veronica Cross for providing Walter family history and ephemera that were used in the writing of George Walter’s story.