John Edward WALKER

WALKER, John Edward

Service Number: 45
Enlisted: Not yet discovered
Last Rank: Able Seaman
Last Unit: Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force
Born: Townsville, Queensland, Australia, 17 December 1884
Home Town: North Sydney, North Sydney, New South Wales
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Not yet discovered
Died: Killed in Action , Bita Paka, Isle of New Britian, New Guinea, 11 September 1914, aged 29 years
Cemetery: Rabaul (Bita Paka) War Cemetery, Papua New Guinea
Burial reference: - Plot AA. Row A. Grave 5.
Memorials: Australian War Memorial Roll of Honour, Crib Point RAN WW1 Roll of Honour (Panel 1)
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World War 1 Service

11 Sep 1914: Involvement Able Seaman, 45, Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, German New Guinea, --- :awm_ww1_roll_of_honour_import: awm_service_number: 45 awm_unit: Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force awm_rank: Able Seaman awm_died_date: 1914-09-11

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Enlisted and served under alias  - John Courtney

Biography contributed by Dianne Black

Twenty-nine-year-old Able Seaman John Courtney fell during the little known first Australian battle of the war and the first amphibious assault on 11th September 1914 at the village of Bita Paka on the island of New Britain.

John Courtney, whose birth name was John Edward Walker, was a navy reservist attached to the Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force. 

The Naval and Military Expeditionary Force, included several warships and about 500 men, was ordered to capture the German wireless station at Bita Paka in what was then German New Guinea.The station was defended by eight German troops and 60 Melanesians.

Six men from the Australian side were killed during the battle including medical officer Captain Brian Pockley, from Sydney, and Able Seaman Billy Williams, of Melbourne. John Courtney/ John Edward Walker was the first Australian to die in an Australian uniform in World War 1. One report from the Admiral Patey’s flagship HMAS Australia off Rabaul dated September 26 states that Courtney was shot ‘about the same time as Lieutenant-Commander Elwell. Shot through the chest, probably heart and also base of skull. Died before being brought down to shore was buried near where he fell, in a grave beside that of Lieutenant-Commander Elwell’. Courtney changed his name to his Godmother’s surname so he could join the Merchant Navy early in the 20th century.

John was initially laid to rest at Kabakaul, his remains were later reinterred at the Rabaul European Cemetery and later moved to the Bitapaka War Cemetery.