Monday, 13 September 2021

Gilbert Parker


Gilbert Arthur Parker, was born on 14 July 1906 in Bristol to Arthur Parker, a commercial traveller, and Helen (nee Burton). Initially the family moved to Liverpool, then to Manchester in 1911, and lived at 17 Hartington Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy. By mid-summer 1922, Gilbert had completed his schooling with good results, having the Leaving Certificate and the University Joint Matriculation Certificate, and an excellent reference from Manchester’s Central Grammar School for Boys.

He was interested in a career in engineering, but his parents could see no future for a young man in England in the 1920s, and enrolled him in the Dreadnought Scheme.

He sailed from England on 23rd March 1923 on SS Euripides and arrived in Sydney on 11th May 1923. Gilbert was one of 58 Dreadnought Boys who arrived, but the Euripides also carried the first 32 Bernardo girls and 110 nominated migrants. The Sydney Morning Herald reported that the boys were ‘an exceptionally fine party and created a most favourable impression’ and were ‘amongst the finest types that have yet arrived’. The groups were met by a welcoming delegation and the New South Wales Minister for Labour.

From Sydney, Gilbert and the other new Dreadnought Boys were taken to the Skeyville Training Farm near Pitt Town, west of Sydney. After about two months training there, these boys were sent to farms around the country. Gilbert Parker worked at Morisset for 9 months, but then travelled to Stanthorpe in Queensland. In 1924, he worked at Diamond Vale dairy, on the Diamond Vale Road, east of Stanthorpe. Colonel Jones, the owner of Diamond Vale, was well-known for his upright posture while riding his horse, Gilbert later used him as the example for his sons, if their backs were less than upright. Across the road was the Knight’s orchard. Ted Knight was an English migrant who had arrived in Australia some years before. He had served in World War 1, and had established a successful apple orchard. The Knights were like parents to Gilbert and their close friendship lasted their lifetimes and on to the next generation.

Three years on, Gilbert was working further west in Queensland’s Darling Downs, mostly at Lyndley Hereford Stud, the Jandowie property of (later Sir) James Sparkes, doing cattle work and clearing. He also worked at Meandarra and Kumbia in the years to 1933, with visits back to the Knights in the course of those years. He celebrated his 21st birthday in 1927 at the Sparkes property. He was at the release of the cactoblastis insect that was instrumental in bringing the prickly pear scourge under control. Later in 1927, the Dalby Herald reported Gilbert’s trip to hospital after being thrown from a horse on Bunyan Bros Inglestone property. Apart from that incident, he kept a low profile.

In the 1933 Gilbert Parker was back in the Granite Belt, purchasing a rundown apple orchard at Thulimbah (12 km north of Stanthorpe) and, with the help of Ted Knight, bringing it back into production. In 1937, he married Gladys Esther Chalmers of Woodford. Two sons, John and David, were born. As World War 2 got underway, Gilbert Parker enlisted in the Australian Army and fought with the 25th Battalion in Papua New Guinea, most notably in the critical battle of Milne Bay in August/September 1942.

On discharge in late 1943, Gilbert returned to the orchard, dealing with its challenges and rewards over the next 25 years. He participated strongly in local community and church life, before retiring to Warwick. He died in September 1975, aged 69, and was survived by his wife, who died in December 1990.

 The Dreadnought Boys were to be  future farmers and soldiers – this was made crystal clear to the very first boys arriving in April 1911. Contributing significantly to rural production and serving his adopted country in war, Gilbert Parker was the epitome the Dreadnought Scheme’s ideal.

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

George Verryck


George Thomas Verryck, was born in Liverpool, England on 2 July 1893, to Louis and Charlotte Verryck. George's father Louis was born in Antwerp, Belgium, and moved to England as a young man. He was an interpreter for the British Home Office at Liverpool’s busy port.

George had his early schooling in England, but his teenage education was at the College Internationale in Brussels. During these years he lived with his Belgian grandparents.

On his return to UK, the family moved to Dovercourt, Essex. His father worked at the port of Harwich for several years before returning to Liverpool. While in Dovercourt, George became apprenticed to an Electrical Engineer.

The new Dreadnought Scheme and the ‘good life’ the lads could have in Australia was being advertised, and eighteen-year-old George successfully applied to join. He sailed from London on the SS Orontes with nine other Dreadnought Boys, arriving in Sydney on 14 September 1911.

After his training at Scheyville, he went by ship to Ballina. From there he went up the hill to Tom Leadbeatter's farm at Uralba. His years with the Leadbeatters were good, as Tom and Martha treated him well. While working there he met Leila Green, from Alstonville. Leila was working for Charles Nuttall in his confectionary, fruit and refreshment room in Alstonville's Main Street.

World War I was under way and, in September 1915, George enlisted in the army. He served with the 47th Battalion in Egypt, France and in Belgium where, in October 1917, he was wounded in action — the severe gunshot wounds left a piece of shrapnel lodged in his spine at the base of the skull, where it could not be removed. He received extensive medical treatment in England and returned to Australia on the hospital ship SS Borda, arriving in Sydney on 1 June 1918. Discharged medically unfit on 17 July 1918, he returned to Alstonville.

In Brisbane Hospital, a head/body brace was made for him. It was designed to hold his head steady, and he wore this for some years, until a more comfortable thick leather collar was made. Eventually, he was able to manage without the collar.

George Verryck, showing part of his body brace. (Dreadnought Archives).

Recovery was slow and farm work was out of the question, so as soon as he able, George obtained a 1915 Studebaker Touring Car. The Department of Repatriation helped him with a loan. After a promising start, the hire-car business didn’t work out and George turned to other matters.

In August 1919 Charles Nuttall decided to sell his business, in order to start a news-agency across the road. George bought the business where Leila was still working. The following month George and Leila were married in St Bartholomew's Church of England in Alstonville. They took over the business after the honeymoon. In 1921 Charles Nuttall sold the news-agency to George and Leila, and they operated this business until they moved to Sydney in 1925.

In Sydney, they initially lived in Lewisham, before moving to Marrickville where George and his family lived until 1953. While in living in Lewisham in 1928, George joined with some other men that he knew from the Ballina area, to be proprietors of the Alston Iron Foundry in Leichhardt. This partnership only lasted three months, George having the task of looking after its winding-up. The ownership of the iron works passed to one of the partners, George Banks.

In 1929 George Verryck, now 36, took over a Billiard Saloon at 301 Illwarra Rd Marrickville. Very soon after, he got a rude shock when the Saloon was raided by police late one night. George Verryck was fined £20 ($1,600 today) for permitting the premises to be used as a gaming house. Patrick Lyden, who was running the game (called “5’s and 6’s”), was also fined £20; another 41 men were fined up to £1 each for being found in a common gaming house.

George kept the Billiard Saloon through the ‘Crash’, but in 1933 he was struggling and unemployed. Eventually, he got work as a lift driver in the city.

After raising four children and 34 years of good married life, Leila died in 1953, and George went to back north to live with daughter Noela Trevillion, in Broadwater near Ballina. He died in July 1957, aged sixty-four.

George Verryck did not have a long life, and much of it was not easy – but, he was a survivor who’d “had a go”!

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Leslie Butler


The Covid-19 pandemic which has been sweeping the world, with its savagery and endless tragedy, has reminded us of the spread and trauma of the Spanish flu just over 100 years ago. Dreadnought boys and their families were amongst the millions marked by that flu pandemic. Leslie Butler and his family in UK certainly were.

Leslie was born in Mexborough, Yorkshire, in September 1911, the elder son of Percy Marsh and Ada (née Butler). Growing up not far from the home of his Butler grandparents and their children, who in age were more like older brothers and sisters, his life in Mexborough was content. There were some difficulties in his early school years because of a bullying Victorian headmaster, as well as suffering from what we know now as dyslexia. But family, friends and sport made up for these.

When the world influenza epidemic reached Great Britain in 1918–19 Leslie was stricken with a severe attack, nearly losing his life - but he was nursed back to health by his mother. Tragically, she then caught this Spanish ‘Flu and died just after the Armistice was signed, on 21 November 1918. The family was devastated, and although father Percy tried to cope, he and the boys eventually moved in with the Butler grandparents, as part of their extended family.

Leslie had developed a strong love of cricket, became an accomplished cricketer for his age, and kept that love of the game all his life. He did well at school and on leaving received an excellent reference from his teacher. It ended by noting that Leslie was a boy who will grow up with a strong sense of responsibility and fitness for his work.

The teacher would be proved right. From school, Leslie was apprenticed at the L.N.E.R. Locomotive Depot in Mexborough in 1925, and settled into the trade, making many friends there. When his father remarried, a disastrous relationship with his stepmother ensued. Those final years were very difficult, and he looked at emigrating to Australia, eventually signing up to come to Australia under the Dreadnought Scheme, to make a new life.

Leslie Butler arrived in Sydney with 40 other boys on the SS Ballarat on 19 December 1927. With four others he was sent for training to Cowra Experiment Farm and in early 1928, after farm training, was sent to work on Wattamondara Farm, 14 km south of Cowra. This farm was part of the original Wattamadara Station which, at its peak, was a pastoral lease of 23,000 acres. It was broken up for closer settlement following the passing of the New South Wales Crown Lands Act of 1884.

                                        Cowra Experiment Farm office and accommodation block.
                                                                                                    (Dreadnought Archives)                                                
Leslie was to spend several years in “mixed farming” work (and cricket) in the Wattamondara area. Eventually, he travelled up to Campbelltown, then still a rural area outside Sydney, to work on Jock Laird’s pig farm. In Campbelltown he met and married Eva Emily Beasley in 1935.

They later moved back to Wattamondara to work on the land, by which time the Second World War had started. From 1941 to his discharge in September 1945, Leslie served in the Volunteer Defence Corps of the army, posted locally where vital food supplies were being produced. This meant that his base was close to the POW Camp at Cowra. When off duty he was still able to play in the Wattamondara Cricket Team.

The Prisoner of War Camp at Cowra was built in 1941-42, to house Italian POWs captured during World War II. The first ones were marched into Cowra in October 1941. By the end of 1942, the camp had over 2,000 prisoners and internees. Between January 1943 and August 1944, over one thousand Japanese POWs and internees arrived. But at 1.50 am on August 5, 1944, about 1200 Japanese prisoners launched a mass suicide attack on the Australian soldiers guarding them. Crudely armed and poorly protected, the Japanese threw themselves on to barbed wire fencing and into the lines of fire from machine guns. With buildings burning behind them, some 350 Japanese managed to escape. All escapees were recaptured during the following week. Altogether 107 POWs were wounded, and 234 prisoners and five Australian soldiers died, in the Cowra Breakout. A Japanese war cemetery and the beautiful Japanese Gardens in Cowra, now mark a very different international relationship.

Leslie Butler never discussed his farm life, and lost connection with his English relatives. It was only in the mid-1990s that those in U.K. discovered that Leslie was a Dreadnought Boy, but that no-one seemed to know him. In 1995, good news came to them from the Salvation Army - his Australian family had been found. Sadly, Leslie had died of cancer in February 1984, and his wife Eva had died in a car accident in 1991.

With the Australian Butlers being put in touch with their English relatives, a whole new Butler network was established, after a gap of nearly seventy years.

Sunday, 28 March 2021

The Hawkes Bay Lads


This note appears in the ‘Remarks’ column for August 1914, in the ‘List of Ships Bringing Boys’ in the Dreadnought Boys Register. It seems to be the only Trust reference to them, and relates to a little-known aspect of the Dreadnought Scheme.

In the years prior to World War 1, the Australian state governments were strongly encouraging immigration. 1911 and 1912 were boom years, but during 1913 recruitment of migrants became more difficult and emphasis was put on bringing young people to Australia. New South Wales and Victoria had entered into a joint arrangement with the Commonwealth Government, in which the Commonwealth did the specific advertising for these States in UK. A lot of groundwork was done to ensure the flow of migrants, especially for agricultural work.

On 11 June 1914, SS Hawkes Bay left England bound for Melbourne, filled with 883 migrants recruited for Victoria. These included 430 lads listed as farm students, who were headed for farm placement on arrival. Of them, 53 had been successfully allocated to dairy farmers in the south and east of Victoria, but for the other 377 there was a problem.

From about April 1914, poor rainfall had given way to drought. This particularly affected the wheat growing areas of South Australia, the Wimmera and Mallee districts of Victoria and the Riverina in the New South Wales. This drought was to last until broken by good rains near the end of 1914. With no prospect of crops, with water shortages and limited income, the farmers in the wheat districts of Victoria were not able to take on additional workers. The 377 lads who were intended for these farmers, had nowhere to go.

The Victorian Government approached New South Wales about the lads and, on 13 July 1914, Premier Holman announced that New South Wales had agreed to accept the 377 boys who were coming on the Hawkes Bay. He noted that the lads would be treated as Dreadnought Boys. The NSW Government would be responsible for them, and they would be sent to Pitt Town Farm (Scheyville) for training. He saw no difficulty in finding employment for them in country areas, when they were ready.

When the Hawkes Bay actually berthed in Sydney there were only 352 lads aboard, because 25 boys were able to stay in Victoria with relatives or friends. The names of the 352  are known, along with the ages of most of them. There is nothing recorded about their subsequent placement.

The SS Hawkes Bay arrived in Sydney on the 4th of August 1914. On the very next day, news of the Declaration of War between Britain and Germany reached Australia. The first Allied shot in the war was fired at midday by Australian artillery at Fort Nepean on Port Philip, in Victoria, when the German ship Pfalz attempted to leave. It is little wonder that records of these boys are so hard to find.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Charles Wells

 Charles Edward (Charlie) Wells was born in Kent in 1899. When just 2 years old, he broke his back as the result of a bad fall. The treatment recommended at the time was for him to be kept in a fixed posture to give his spine time to heal. To do this the family made up a wooden box, so that Charlie could be laid down with his movements quite restricted. After some years, and several boxes later, the spine healed and he was able to walk again. However, his education was severely set back.

 His older brothers worked as fitters and turners at the Chatham Dockyards; when war was declared in August 1914, they were classed as being in Reserved Occupations, and could not enlist. Charlie was too young to enlist, although drummers and buglers as young as 14 years old could join, but that was not for him. The Dreadnought Scheme provided another option for him, and with it, he left London in July 1915 aboard the RMS Osterley, bound for Australia.

 Trust records show that Charles Wells arrived in Sydney on the 10th of September 1915, with three other Dreadnought Boys - Sidney Bingle, Robert Raquet and Stanley Tiffin. Two other boys were meant to travel with them but had missed the sailing. The Trust records show that all four were sent "Direct to Employment". In Charles Wells case, this turned out to be on a large property called Arrawatta, on the Macintyre River, just north of Inverell in northern New South Wales.

 Arrawatta was a large sheep station, and when it was bought by Thomas Bowling in 1903, it had 8500 acres and was running 11,000 sheep. Bowling had a vision for a dairy estate, and by 1908 had begun to make it reality. He divided the property into smaller tenanted farms for dairying, and by 1912, he had built a cheese factory which processed the milk from 450 Dairy Shorthorn cows, and had integrated operations for the distribution of fodder to the farms. With more than 50 people on the estate, it was even necessary to build a school.

 Drought which hit in 1919 and 1920, jeopardised viability, and revealed the extent to which Thomas Bowling had over-capitalised the development of Arrawatta. He arranged for the New South Wales Government to take over the property for 5 years, during which time it would be used for farm training of new migrants. This was to include the training of Dreadnought Boys, and the first of these came in August 1924. Over the next 5 years, 277 Dreadnought Boys were trained at Arrawatta. In May 1925 a new Lang Labour Government was elected to power. It immediately tried too close the farm operation, but yielded to very strong local reaction and desisted until 1929, when the training farm was closed down, the property broken up and sold off at prices well below valuation.

Charles Wells’ placement on Arrawatta in September 1915 would have been with one of the tenant farmers. Charlie would get his farm training the hard way! Charlie did learn and he continued in farm work for some years, particularly in dairying. He had gone from being a kid with a broken back, to a strong fit outdoor working man. He was also trusted with milk deliveries to customers in Inverell.

Charles changed jobs from time to time, and during 1922 was employed by Hawke and Co, produce merchants in Inverell. On 31 October, he and a bootmaker next door had their bicycles stolen from where they were parked outside their shops. Police found the bicycles at Glen Innes - they had been stolen by two men, who were already well known to the courts for their thieving.

 Around this time Charles Wells had come know Laveen Campbell. Marriage was planned for the end of 1924, and with this in mind he took a job on Percy Buttenshaw's dairy farm in May that year; there was a cottage which went with the job. Charles did the milk deliveries for him as well as other farm duties. The working relationship deteriorated, mainly over the actual accommodation arrangements, and Charles gave up a week's pay in lieu of notice, finishing at the end of October - a week and a half before the wedding. Just days before the wedding, an irate Percy Buttenshaw took Charles Wells to the Police Magistrate's Court for breaching the Master and Servant Act in leaving his employment without reasonable cause. The case was dismissed, Charlie had done what was required.

 Charles and his wife initially shared a house with his brother-in- law. Later they had their own place in Evans Street Inverell, where they lived for many years and where their four children grew up. Charles Wells settled down to a generally quiet life, often doing labouring work. He died in 1958 aged 59 years, Laveen survived until 1966.

 Charles Edward Wells was no high-profile individual but, by looking into his life, we have been able to find a lot more information about Arrawatta, and its farm training role.


Saturday, 7 November 2020

Walter Brownlee

The Armistice which ended World War 1, now 102 years ago, is still remembered on the 11th November each year. Walter Brunton Brownlee was one of those young men who did not come home. As we reflect, Walter is of those we can remember.

Walter was born in late 1896 in Liberton on the southern outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland, and was the fourth son of dairyman Arthur Brownlee and wife Mary. With war looming, 17 -year-old Walter linked up with the Dreadnought Scheme and, on the 13th October 1914 (10 weeks after the Declaration of War), left London's Tilbury Dock on the SS Indrapura bound for Australia.

He was one of a group of 18 boys who reached Sydney on 3rd December 1914, where 5 of them were sent for training while the other 13, including Walter Brownlee, were sent direct to their employer.

Walter was placed with John Affleck at Nabiac, about 240 kilometres north of Sydney. Affleck ran a motor service between Taree, Nabiac and Tuncurry, and had come from the same place in Scotland as Brownlee. After 6 months of being 'shaped up', the sturdy young Walter Brownlee went to dairy work with Mr W H Abbott of Wallamba, where he proved his worth. However, change was coming to the farm, so Walter Brownlee decided to take up sleeper cutting, and soon became skilled with the broad- axe and adze.

In news from Liberton, he discovered that two of his brothers had enlisted in the British Army, and Walter felt the strong need to enlist also. But Walter Brownlee had a problem, he was only 4ft 111/2 in. tall. Despite many attempts to enlist, wherever he went he was continually rejected, because he was too short. By April 1917 he'd moved to Sydney, and had joined the No.2 District Guard at Marrickville. Having put his age up 8 months to be over 21 years of age, and rounded his height up to 5ft 0in., Walter Brunton Brownlee was finally successful in enlisting on 3rd May 1917 - at his 16th attempt! 

Walter Brunton Brownlee
(from AWM P08321.001)

He sailed from Sydney on the HMAT Euripides, and in April 1918 was in northern France with the 3rd Battalion AIF. He was wounded in action on the 19th June and died the following day. He is buried in the Borre British Cemetery, and is remembered on both Liberton and Nabiac War Memorials.

Walter Brunton Brownlee was clearly a young man of great determination.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Walter Roberts


Walter (“Wally”) Roberts was born on 15 August 1907 in Newcastle-on-Tyne UK, the eldest son of Welsh parents, Walter and Elizabeth Roberts. The family moved to London, to 40 Elmsleigh Road Wandsworth, where Walter Roberts Snr worked as a printer and specialised in selling through direct mail.

Walter was clever at school, Elliott Central, and was remembered by one of his teachers, who kept in touch by mail for over forty years. As a boy he was fond of cycling, even riding his pushbike from London to Brighton and return (more than 170 km) in one day.

After his mother’s death in September 1921, home life became difficult. With his father’s encouragement he decided to immigrate to Australia. At Australia House in London, he learned of the Dreadnought Scheme. The floor of Australia House sloped and an official suggested he stand at the higher end as, "We’ve got enough jockeys in Australia already." Wally was a short lad.

Aged 16, he sailed on the SS Sophocles from Tilbury in 1924, in a big group of 61 Dreadnought Boys. During the voyage he and his mates helped the stokers in the boiler room, eating with the crew, then rushing upstairs to their own dining salon as well. Growing boys were always hungry. On arrival in Sydney on the 1 August, the boys went to Scheyville for three months farm training. The food was so poor, that Wally later told army mates who grumbled about poor rations, that they didn’t really know what bad food was.

After Scheyville, Walter was placed with a dairy farmer at Purfleet, near Taree on the Manning River. Hardly a farmer, this man was an alcoholic engineer from Sydney whose wife brought him to the Manning, in an effort to ‘dry him out’. Unfortunately for Wally, the engineer got a job in charge of the Taree and Wingham Water Works. He told his young apprentice, “You can’t stick around here by yourself talking to gum trees—you’d better find something else to do,” leaving a very disillusioned young British lad, who knew no one in this strange country, to look after himself.

Wally’s next opportunity was a dairy farm near Wingham; he also worked on the new Killawarra Bridge over the Manning River. Wingham became a turning point for Wally. He became involved in the local Methodist church, making lifelong friends, especially Stella Western, Rev. Charlie Judd – and Wally now had a motorbike.

Wally moved north to Wardell on the Richmond River in 1935, at the instigation of Rev. Judd, now minister at Ballina. He took up a Crown lease and started to clear the land to grow pineapples. It was tough work clearing the heath land with mattock, shovel, axe and brush hook. Rev. Judd used to help with the clearing on his day-off.

Wally’s ‘home’ was a very basic humpy, that leaked so much that he had to stay standing up on rainy nights. The Leeson family next door, accepted the young Britisher as part of their family. Hearing of these conditions, Mrs Leeson insisted that he came over to sleep in her sons’ room when it rained. Bill Leeson helped Wally build his first home - a small, two-roomed house with verandahs.

Now with his own farm, Wally was encouraged by Rev Judd him to marry the love of his life, Stella Western. Married in Wingham in 1939, they returned to live at Wardell. It was the start of a long and busy life of service to the Wardell and later, Alstonville communities. Wally joined the Grand United Lodge, the Hall Committee, the Rifle Club, and commenced a twenty-year stint as poll clerk at state and federal elections. Walter Roberts had been growing ginger as well as pineapples. He became the secretary of the Ginger Growers Association.

In 1936, as the war clouds were starting to gather, he joined the 41st Battalion of the Militia, riding his pushbike nearly forty kilometres to night parades in Lismore. At the outbreak of World War II he tried to enlist. Although a serving member of the Militia, he was told to forget it as he was too short, and in an essential industry. Next time he ‘got lucky’ when he mentioned that he was a good motorbike rider. After guaranteeing that the essential primary products of pineapples and ginger would continue to be grown for the war effort, he was allowed to enlist in the 6th Division, Signals as a Dispatch Rider in June 1940.

                                                             Wally Roberts

Wally served in Palestine, Syria and the Canal Zone, then returned to Australia to serve in the defence of Darwin, and in North Queensland. Then he served in New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Bougainville, until demobilised in late 1945. Walter’s courage and commitment were recognised when he was awarded the British Empire Medal (Military Division). The citation notes that he "gave outstanding service as a dispatch rider with the 23rd Australian Brigade Signals during the preparation for the defence of Darwin and throughout the Bougainville operations as a linesman. His willingness to undertake difficult and dangerous tasks………..earned him the admiration of the formation."

Returning to Sydney after the war, he searched for a utility to make farm work easier. However, there were none available for him so he settled for a 1924 Chevrolet car. Back in Wingham, with his father-in-law’s help, Wally cut the back of the car out and installed a tray body. It became a utility (it had been utilised!). The Roberts family, with daughter Olwen, were able to return to Wardell. Son Alun was born in 1946.

By 1948 Wally had joined the staff of Tintenbar Shire Council. In 1955 the family moved from Wardell to Alstonville, where he became thoroughly involved in the community. Among organisations to benefit were the RSL, Junior Hockey Association, the Shire Employees Union, Methodist Church and Sunday School, Red Cross, Civil Defence, the Patriotic Committee, Maranoa Units, Meals on Wheels, Senior Citizens Group, and every major fundraising.

There was recognition of his selfless contribution to the community. In 1981, being the Ballina Shire Senior Citizen of the Year, he was also one of six finalists in the Senior Citizens Awards for NSW. In 1991, the Ballina Council awarded him for outstanding community service. Meanwhile, his partner for fifty years, Stella, had passed away in 1988.

Wally was always a wheel man, and his bicycle was part of his identity. He rode it everywhere until it was stolen in 1995.Then aged 87 years, he switched to a 'gopher' (mobility scooter).

Wally was one of those people who made a difference wherever he went. Phrases from the full Army BEM Citation say it well – “his amazing capacity to deliver………his irrepressible enthusiasm and cheerfulness has been an inspiration.”

Walter Roberts BEM passed away in February 2008, being 100 years old.