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Leonard Reid WALKER


Rank Reg/Ser No DOB Enlisted Discharge/Death Board
Capt 6 29y4m 26/09/14 14 Apr 1920 1

Captain Leonard Reid Walker MID (1885—1951)

Walker Brothers Booklet

Brothers Leonard and Philip Walker enlisted early in the 1st AIF – Philip in Brisbane in August 1914 in the 3rd Field Ambulance and Leonard the following month in Adelaide in the 10th Infantry Battalion.

Both served on Gallipoli, and although subsequent health problems precluded front line service for them both, they contributed significantly in administrative support roles for the rest of the war.

Family background

Their parents were William John Walker, an insurance manager and Margaret Adelaide née Reid. William was born in London but his parents – John who was an engineer and Anna née Cunningham – emigrated when William and his brother Robert were young.

William worked in several States, and was resident secretary of the Victorian Branch of the AMP Society prior to his passing in 1909. He was survived by his wife Margaret as well as two sons and two daughters.

Daughter Anna Ruth was a talented singer and frequent soloist at Saint Andrew’s Church in the Brisbane CBD, and the wife of Dr Joseph Espie Dods (also listed on the boards).

Enlistment

Leonard Reid Walker was born in Burwood, Sydney in 1885. At the time of his enlistment in the 1st AIF his occupation was soldier, and the details he gave were five years with the 2nd Battalion Cadets, two years as a Lieutenant of school cadets, and five years on instructional staff.

He enlisted in Adelaide on 26 September 1914 and was placed with the 10th Infantry Battalion as signalling Sergeant. He was tall at 185cms, solidly built in that generation at 81kg, and had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. For his religion he wrote ‘Protestant’.

Leonard embarked with the Battalion on HMAT Ascanius A11 on 20 October 1914. After linking up with other ships in Albany, WA, the Ascanius proceeded to Egypt, arriving in December 1914.

War service

The 10th Battalion was one of the units first ashore at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915 and like the others, suffered heavy casualties. On 7 May Leonard was made Regimental Quarter-Master Sergeant, and served on the Peninsula until 20 August 1915.

In August 1915 he was evacuated to No.2 Australian General Hospital in Cairo and admitted with varicose veins. Discharged from hospital on 20 September 1915, Leonard was certified fit for light duty at Base in Egypt, as well as promoted to Warrant Officer.

Subsequently he received a Mention-in-Despatches (London Gazette 20 July 1916 and Australian Gazette 21 September 1916) for his work:

He is in clerical charge of the Records Sub-section and had shown much ability since he has been with the Base. He has been recommended for a commission on account of his qualifications and ability displayed.

In July 1916 Leonard was moved to the AIF Administrative Headquarters in Horseferry Road, London, and in the following January promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and Quarter-Master.

His mother Margaret made an inquiry with the Red Cross in August 1916 about Leonard’s current address, saying that she had not heard from him since April 1916 and understood that he was now in London. Margaret received a reply with his address in January 1917.  Perhaps Leonard had been totally pre-occupied with his work - in February 1917 he was ‘brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for War for valuable services rendered in the War’, with this being promulgated in Military Order No. 290 of 14 July 1917.

He continued as a Quarter-Master – being promoted to Captain in November 1918 – until late in 1919.

Post war

Leonard commenced 1920 on leave without pay from the AIF working with Messrs William Pearson Ltd in London. On being given a guarantee of employment by Messrs Douglas Boyd and Co Ltd, Importers and Exporters of Finsbury Square, London Leonard applied for discharge from the AIF in the UK.

In giving his reasons he put forward that:

My employment is not guaranteed on return to Australia and the disability from which I suffer will be aggravated by a hot climate. I have no dependents in Australia. Also my future wife does not desire to go abroad.

Discharge in the UK was approved and took effect from 14 April 1920.

We then have a gap of 29 years in available records about Leonard’s life – with an intriguing but scanty reference in his death certificate to him being married in India, but without the date or name of his wife being stated. The certificate does not list any offspring.

Questions abound – what happened to the apparent engagement in England to a woman who did not wish to travel abroad, when and why did Leonard go to India and what did he do there, who did he marry? Available records give no answers. We do know that by 1949 he was back in Australia because he is listed in the 1949 electoral rolls as living in Warringah, NSW.

Two years later – on 23 August 1951 - he died of congestive cardiac failure in Brisbane Hospital, aged 66. He was buried in the South Brisbane Cemetery with Presbyterian rites administered by the Rev. Norman Webster from Saint Andrew’s Church. (corner of Ann and Creek Streets in the Brisbane CBD)


 Select bibliography
• Australian electoral rolls.
• Australian War Memorial – embarkation rolls.
• Melbourne Grammar School archives.
• National Archives of Australia – service record.
• Queensland deaths register.
• South Australian Red Cross Information Bureau 1916-1919 records.
 
• Austin, Sue and Ron. The body snatchers: the history of the 3rd Australian Field 
• Ambulance, 1914-1918 (Slouch Hat Publications, McCrae Victoria, 1995).
• Wilmot RWE ed. Liber Melburniensis, 1858-1914: a history of the Church of England Grammar School, Melbourne (Melbourne, Arbuckle Waddell and Faulkner, 1914).
 
• Brisbane Telegraph. 25 August 1951 p6.
• The Australian Star (Sydney) 8 March 1909 p4.
• The Sydney Morning Herald. 9 March 1909 p6.
• The Telegraph (Brisbane) 5 December 1934 p15.

Written by Ian Carnell AM, Buderim.   January 2017.

 

 

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