Waitomo News : April 17 2014 ANZAC
By todd ward brothers in arms IN OUR DEFENCE Thursday, April 17, 2014 3 LIVING peacefully on a farm in Mokauiti, the Walker family’s lives would be forever changed by the outbreak of World War I. Not only would John and Sarah Walker lose one of their sons on a Belgium battlefield, but another two would be wounded as they fought side-by-side in the bloodied trenches of Messines. Arthur, Frederick and Joseph Walker, with their parents and four other siblings, left England from the Tilbury Docks in October 1913, with the vision of greener pastures in New Zealand. The family arrived in Wellington in late 1913 and made the jour- ney north to New Plymouth where, in January 1914, Mrs Walker was allotted a 150 acre ballot farm in Mokauiti. The couple quickly began settling in on their Karaka Rd property until the outbreak of WWI on August 4, 1914 when England declared war on Germany, and three of their sons headed to the other side of the world to defend ‘King and Country’. These are their stories . . . ULTIMATE SACRIFICE Arthur Henry Walker (Service No 12306, 2nd Battalion, Auck- land Regiment, NZEF) The eldest of the three brothers, Arthur enlisted in the Army when he was 21-years-old. Selected for G Company of the 3rd Reinforcements to the 3rd Battalion, the young soldier embarked on May 6, 1916 from Wel- lington to Suez, Egypt. During his travels from New Zealand to North Africa and throughout his service in Europe, Arthur tracked his movements in a small red diary keeping detailed entries of dates and locations. He was serving with the Auckland Infantry Regiment at Ypres, Belgium when he was killed in action on August 1, 1917 – three weeks before his 24th birthday. For his sacrifice, Arthur’s family received a medallion and letter from Buckingham Palace honouring his service in ‘The Great War’. The letter, signed by King George V, reads: “I join with my grate- ful people in sending you this memorial of a brave life given for others in The Great War.” Inscribed on the medallion are the words – “He died for our freedom and honour.” Arthur is buried at Mud Corner Cemetery in Hainaut, Belgium. He is honoured on Te Kuiti’s WWI memorial cenotaph and on a plaque in Mokauiti’s War Memorial Hall. BROTHERS IN ARMS Frederick Dean Walker (Service No 29518, 1st Battalion, 18th Reinforcements, NZEF) Joseph Moody Walker (Service No 29519, 1st Battalion, 18th Reinforcements, NZEF) Inseparable in and out of the trenches, Fred and Joe were very close brothers and the best of friends. So when Fred enlisted in the Army on June 26, 1916 so too did his younger brother. But as Joe was too young at the time (18-years-old) both lifted their age by a year to go and fight together. Their tight-knit relationship was highlighted not only by their service numbers (29518 and 29519) but more especially in the heat of battle. After training in Rimutaka, the brothers in arms embarked on the Tofua from Wellington on October 11, 1916 for Plymouth, England. They remained in England until February 11, 1917 when they left for France and marched into the British training camp at Etaples. A few months later, they were sent to the frontline near the town of Messines in France, as members of the 3rd Rifle Brigade. BATTLE OF MESSINES New Zealand History Online describes the Battle for Messines as part of a vast Allied offensive launched in mid-1917. ‘The carefully prepared attack was a striking success. It began at 3.10am on June 7, 1917 with the explosion of huge mines that had been placed under the German lines by hard-working tunnellers. Almost immediately, New Zealand troops of 2nd and 3rd (Rifle) Brigades left their trenches and advanced towards the ridge in front of them, on which lay the ruins of Messines village. Australian and British troops on either side of them did the same. Following hard behind a meticulously planned sequence of stand- ing and creeping barrages, these troops crossed ‘No Man’s Land’ in minutes. Everything went to schedule, and by 7am the New Zealanders had cleared Messines of the enemy. Taking over the advance, 1st Brigade pushed beyond the village. A German counter-attack in the early afternoon was repulsed. Australian troops then moved through to secure the final objec- tive line 1.5 kilometres beyond the crest. The capture of Messines was achieved with relatively few casual- ties. German artillery fire had been disrupted in the early stages and had had little impact on the advancing troops. As the day wore on, though, German guns began to bombard the newly captured areas with increasing ferocity, and many New Zealand and Allied troops were killed. By the time the New Zealand Division was relieved on June 9, it had suffered 3700 casualties, including 700 dead. WOUNDED IN ACTION During the large scale offensive, Fred and Joe fighting side-by- side were hit and wounded by shrapnel believed to be from the same German shell. Fred was hit in the arm and due to the seriousness of his wounds was shipped back to New Zealand on the hospital ship SS Marama leaving England on December 29, 1917. He was discharged from the Army on March 28, 1918. Joe was wounded in the leg and after recovering in an English hospital, was sent back to Etaples. Although his wounds had healed, he wasn’t classed fit enough to return to the frontline and was assigned to the New Zealand Cycle Corps where he was based at Mons in Belgium with the New Zealand Entrenching Battalion. Joe remained in Belgium until the end of the war on November 11, 1918 where as a member of the Cycle Corps he rode trium- phantly through Mons alongside marching soldiers on November 15. He returned to New Zealand aboard the Pakeha on April 12, 1919 and was discharged from the Army on June 27, 1919 after serving two years and 232 days. AFTER THE WAR After reuniting at their Mokauiti home in mid-1919, Fred and Joe took over their parents’ farm. The family farm, named Pye Hill, remained under occupation licence until it expired after 25 years in 1939 when Fred excised the right to purchase. In 1920, Fred married Elizabeth Audrey Wigg and they had three children. A founding member of the Mokauiti Branch of the RSA, Fred was killed in a tractor accident on the farm on January 6, 1950 aged 55. He is buried at Te Kuiti Cemetery. A short time after working on his parents’ farm in 1919, Joe took up work for David and William Tappin on a farm on SH3. He married the brothers’ younger sister Elsie Tappin and the couple moved to Ward St in Te Kuiti in 1938. A member of the Te Kuiti RSA, Joe died at home of leukaemia on December 21, 1963 at the age of 68. His ashes were scattered by friends and family at the Hamilton Crematorium. > BAND OF BROTHERS: During World War I, Arthur Walker (above, far left) served with the Auckland Infantry Regiment in Ypres, Belgium while his two younger brothers Fred and Joe (left, centre) both served with the 18th Reinforcements in Messines, France. > NOT FORGOTTEN: Fred Walker (standing) and his younger brother Joe fought side-by-side in France during World War I while their elder brother Arthur (below) was killed on a battlefield in Belgium. All three were living in Mokauiti when war broke out.
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