Walter George Peel was born at Stratford. He grew up in the Blackwarry district in the Shire of Alberton and attended the state school at Blackwarry. His parents – Ernest William and Maria Peel – operated a family farm in the district and before he enlisted in the AIF, Walter worked on the farm. On his enlistment papers, he gave his occupation as ‘farmer’. The family was well known in the local area. On the (National) Roll of Honour form, Blackwarry was given as the place with which he was ‘chiefly connected’.
He completed his medical and enlisted at Yarram on 27 November 1914. His age on enlistment was 19 years and 10 months and so parental permission was required. It was dated 25 November 1914: I hereby give my consent to my Son Walter Peel enlisting in the expeditionary force.
He was single and his religion was given as Church of England. He was issued with a railway warrant (64) for travel to Melbourne on 30 November and he joined the 4 Light Horse Regiment reinforcements.
Prior to leaving for overseas, he was given a community farewell at Blackwarry. On 10 March 1915 the Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative detailed a farewell for a young local patriot, Walter Peel which had been held at the Blackwarry hall the previous week.
A subscription list was taken round the district, and all showed their gratitude and patriotism by liberally responding to the call. The local hall, though large, was taxed for space with friends and relations, who had a merry time. Mr Cooke presided, and ably addressed the gathering in a neat speech in favour of the chocolate soldier. Mr. Peel responded thanking everyone for their kindness. He did not expect anything, but thought it everybody’s duty, who was young, able and free, to help the British Empire.
The reference in the article to ‘chocolate soldier’ is odd. Presumably, it is an idle reference to the German operetta The Chocolate Soldier (1908) which was based on Shaw’s Arms and the Man. At some point, and certainly in WW2, the term took on the uncomplimentary meaning of ‘not a real soldier’.
Trooper Peel embarked from Melbourne for overseas on 7 May 1915 and joined 4 LHR on Gallipoli on 5 August 1915. Within less than a month – 2 September – he was badly wounded at Lone Pine – Gunshot [probably shrapnel] wounds leg, eye, nose and neck. Dangerous. He was evacuated from the Peninsula but died of wounds – carotid aneurysm r. side of neck – in hospital at Alexandria on 5 September. He was buried the next day (6/9/15) at Chatby War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria, with the Rev. C.P. Triplett officiating. On the (national) Roll of Honour form, his mother gave his age at the time of his death as 20 years and 8 months.
At the time he was injured, the war diary for 4 LHR indicates that the 2 Light Horse Brigade was drawing men from each of the light horse regiments to garrison Lone Pine. It was done on a rotation basis and each group of men went in for 48 hours before being replaced. Approximately 20 men from 4LHR were on duty at Lone Pine on 2 September 1915. The diary indicates that 2 September was quiet with ‘nothing to report’. However there were 2 casualties and one of these must have been Trooper Walter Peel. He was probably hit by a Turkish ‘bomb’ or hand grenade. The detailed history of 4 LHR (Holloway 2011, p.90) notes that Trooper Walter Peel died from wounds on 5 September. He had been with the regiment less than a month when severely wounded by shrapnel in the leg, eye, nose and neck. Given that Trooper Peel joined the regiment on 5 August this account matches him being wounded on 2 September at Lone Pine. On the (National) Honour Roll the mother also recorded Lone Pine as the place where her son was ‘killled or wounded’.
A certificate of death, with the date of death as 5 September 1915, was issued by the civil authorities in Alexandria on 6 September. The official AIF report of death, with the same date of death, was not issued until 6 October, but the cable advising of the death appears to be dated 12 September 1915 and the parents appear to have been informed round 16 September. Personal effects were sent to the parents in April – Disc, Handkerchief. – and May 1916: Testament, Note-Book, Cards, H’chief.
The family placed a death notice in the local paper on 24 September 1915:
On Active Service
PEEL- On the 5th September, died of wounds, at the Dardanelles, Private Walker [sic] George, 5th Reinforcements, 4th Light Horse Regiment, dearly loved son of Maria and Ernest William Peel of Blackwarry. Aged 20 years 8 months.
You answered to your country’s call,
But the voice of the cable tells
That a dauntless boy in khakee clad
Died at the Dardanelles.
On the first anniversary of his death there were 2 in memoriams for him in the local paper. They were obviously from close personal friends, and there is again the strong sense of the young life lost.
The first was placed on 6 September 1916:
On Active Service
Died of wounds at Gallipoli, 5th Sept., 1915. Private W. G. Peel
A hero he lived, a hero he died,
Though only a lad, he fought for his side:
He gave his young life for a cause that was true,
Fighting for his country – what more could he do.
A better pal never lived, not one so true and kind,
His equal in this world we very rarely find.
-Inserted by his dear friends, M.M. May, E. May, and Little Henry.
M. M. May was probably Margaret May of Mack’s Creek and E. May, Elizabeth May of Stacey’s Bridge
The second was placed on 8 September:
PEEL – In fond and loving remembrance of my dear friend, Walter George Peel, who died of wounds at Gallipoli, Sept. 5th, 1915.
Dear is the grave where my friend is laid,
Sweet is the memory that will never fade;
Gone and forgotten by some you may be,
Others may have forgotten you, but never by me.
-Inserted by his loving friend. Clarice Warren, Tarwin Meadows.
Tarwin Meadows was near Inverloch.
As indicated the family was well known in the local district and the son’s name is included on both the Shire of Alberton Honor Roll and War Memorial. His name is also included on the Blackwarry Kjergaard Roll of Honor 1914-1918.
Another son – Allan Peel 2440 – enlisted in July 1915. This was before his younger brother had been wounded, or even seen action. Allan Peel was 23yo and single. He had his medical in Yarram and completed his enlistment in Melbourne. He joined 23 Battalion. He was wounded – severe – on the Western Front but survived the War and returned to Australia in January 1919.
Gippsland Standard and Alberton Shire Representative
Holloway, D 2011, Endure and Fight: A detailed history of the 4th Light Horse regiment, AIF, 1914-19, The 4th Light Horse Regiment Memorial Association.