Walter Harry (Harry) WILSDON DCM

WILSDON, Walter Harry

Service Numbers: 2706, Commissioned Officer
Enlisted: 31 December 1914, Unit: Australian Army Medical Corps, Oaklands Camp. South Australia
Last Rank: Second Lieutenant
Last Unit: 10th Infantry Battalion
Born: Caltowie, South Australia, 18 February 1893
Home Town: Caltowie, Northern Areas, South Australia
Schooling: Caltowie Public School, Gladstone High School South Australia
Occupation: Farm labourer
Died: Killed In Action, Celtic Wood, Belgium, 9 October 1917, aged 24 years
Cemetery: No known grave - "Known Unto God"
Memorials: Adelaide National War Memorial, Caltowie Cemetery Methodist Church WW1 Memorial, Caltowie District WW1 Roll of Honour, Caltowie Public School WW1 Roll of Honor, Caltowie Soldiers Memorial Hall, Gladstone High School WW1 Roll of Honor, Jamestown Caltowie Honour Roll, Menin Gate Memorial (Commonwealth Memorial to the Missing of the Ypres Salient)
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World War 1 Service

31 Dec 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Private, 2706, Unit: Australian Army Medical Corps, Oaklands Camp. South Australia
16 Apr 1915: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance
23 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, 2706, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance, HMAT Borda, Adelaide
7 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 3rd Field Ambulance
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, 2706, 3rd Field Ambulance, Battle for Pozières
8 Aug 1916: Promoted AIF WW1, Lance Corporal, 3rd Field Ambulance
22 Sep 1916: Honoured Distinguished Conduct Medal, Battle for Pozières , “For conspicuous gallantry in action when he assisted to carry in many wounded men from an pen area heavily swept by shell fire.”
3 Aug 1917: Promoted AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, 10th Infantry Battalion, Commissioned Officer
20 Sep 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, Commissioned Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
9 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, Commissioned Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion

Citation for Distinguished Conduct Medal

From his service Record

DCM Authorised by General Birdwood 18 August 1916

"For conspicuous gallantry in action when he assisted to carry in many wounded men from an open area swept by shell fire"

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Biography contributed by Robert Kearney

Raid on Celtic Wood

Second Lieutenant Harry Wilsdon DCM who received his award for distinguished acts of courage at Pozières was identified as a raid officer in the CO’s report regarding the raid on Celtic Wood. Without a surviving witness to his fate, he was recorded missing on the Field Return however, the fining of the Court of Inquiry convened on 16 May 1918 was that he had been killed in action on 9 October 1917.

The notes in his service record show the Court’s finding was confirmed in a cable from AIF HQ London on 25 May as well as by mail on 27 May 1918.

It appears from a returned letter received by a relative on 14 February 1918, he was presumed killed even before the Court of Inquiry had marked across the envelope ‘KIA’.[i]

Lieutenant Laurie’s witness statement in Wilsdon’s Red Cross file confirms Wilsdon and his platoon were on Laurie’s left during the raid advance. 

Also in Wilsdon’s Red Cross file is a statement by raid NCO Corporal Rigney MM who when interviewed in 1918 said he was on a raid with Wilsdon on 9 October and when the signal to withdraw was given they were ‘practically surrounded by the enemy’ and had to fight their way back. ‘Lt Wilsdon did not return to the trenches. ...’

A letter dated 30 August 1918 in Wilsdon’s Red Cross file written to the Red Cross on behalf of unwounded raider, Private Scobie also confirms Wilsdon was on the raid. ‘He [Scobie] tells me that he saw Lieut. W.H. Wilsdon the last time on the 9th October 1917. They all went over the top together, but he cannot say whether he was killed, wounded, or taken prisoner...’ 

This statement in Wilsdon’s Red Cross file made in January 1919 by Private Jacobs is hearsay and he was probably trying to be helpful by telling the truth as he remembered it being told to him in 1917.

 ‘At Broodseinde Ridge on night 9th October 1917 during a raid (a demonstration to draw enemy’s fire) About 100 men went over in this raid, but only half a dozen got back. The others were killed or drowned. Lieut Wilsdon was killed. All of the officers were seen to be killed. The men who returned told me this.’

Some of what Jacobs said about the raid is true, and given he would not have had access to the CO’s post raid report, it is clear that one or more of the unwounded men told him their recollections of the events. Whenever soldiers repeat another soldier’s version of an event, the facts always become clouded and it is for this reason all soldiers were and still are advised not to take notice of ‘furphies.’[1] 

To avoid reports based on hearsay such as the one above, all witness statements were checked for credibility against service records. 



[1] Australian slang derived from soldiers in the Great War telling tall stories and or spreading rumours while waiting for resupply at the water carts manufactured in Australia by Furphy &Sons.

 


[i]National Archives of Australia, B 2455, Wilsdon Walter Harry / 8855352, viewed 2 May 2012.

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Biography contributed by Sue Smith

Walter Harry Wilsdon, known as Harry, was born on 18th February 1893 at Caltowie, South Australia, the eldest of 7 children born to his parents Charles and Amy Wilsdon. He had 3 younger brothers…John, who served in WW1, Charles and Donald. His 3 younger sisters were Florence, Lillie and Laura. He was educated at Caltowie Public School and Gladstone High School before going on to work as a farm labourer.

 

Harry was a member of the Caltowie Cricket, Lacrosse and Australian Rules Football clubs. He attended the local Methodist Church with his family and taught Sunday School there.

 

Following the outbreak of WW1, Harry enlisted at Oaklands Camp on 31st December 1914. He’s described as being 5ft 10ins tall, with a ruddy complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His service number was 2706 and his rank Private. He underwent his initial training with the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) before being posted in mid-April 1915 as a stretcher bearer to B Section with the 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance at Mitcham Camp. He embarked from Adelaide on 23rd June 1915 on HMAT Borda bound for Egypt. He disembarked at Suez on 22nd July 1915 and proceeded to Heliopolis Camp. He wasn’t sent on to Gallipoli but remained in Egypt for training.

 

In early March 1916 Harry transferred to the 3rd Field Ambulance (3rd FA) at Tel-el-Kebir Camp then embarked for France with this unit from Alexandria on 27th March 1916. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 8th August 1916 and on 22nd September was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal “For conspicuous gallantry in action when he assisted to carry in many wounded men from an pen area heavily swept by shell fire.”

 

Hi actions on the first day of the Battle of Pozieres on 23rd July 1916 were the reason for this award. He and Private Flynn went forward to bring out the wounded men. The congested communication trenches were too hard to get through so they climbed into open country to reach the wounded at the front line. They made many trips to the front line that day, each time under heavy shellfire. On 27th September 1916 General Birdwood presented Harry with his DCM along with Private Flynn and one other man from the 3rd FA.

 

On 30th January 1917 Harry proceeded to the Cadet Training School in England and reported for duty to No. 2 Officers Cadet Battalion at Pembroke College at Cambridge. He was posted to “C” Company. In early August he was Commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant and posted to General Infantry Reinforcements. On 18th August 1917 he proceeded to France via Southampton and disembarked at Le Havre the next day. He was posted to the 10th Battalion “C” Company as a platoon commander and joined them at Bleu on 23rd August 1917. The Battalion moved to Belgium where Harry took part in the battles of Menin Road and Polygon Wood from 20th-25th September 1916. The Battalion moved to Chateau Segard at Ypres on 29th September and then moved to Anzac Ridge at Westhoek on 3rd October 1916. On 4th October 1916 Harry and his battalion played a supporting role during the capture of Broodseinde Ridge which became the deadliest day of Australia’s military history with the loss of 1,279 troops in just one day.

 

On 9th October 1916 the 10th Battalion was ordered to raid Celtic Wood. Harry with “C” Company, was tasked with the raid which commenced at 5.20am on 9th October with 5 Officers and 83 men. Harry was one of the Officers and he and his paerty of raiders was on the front left flank of the line. As they began their advance on Celtic Wood they came under immediate heavy fire from German machine guns. At some point during the raid Harry was killed. He was 24 years old. Of the 88 men who took part in the raid, only 19 men returned unwounded. Three of the Officers were killed and the other 2 were wounded. Harry was the only Officer whose remains were never recovered. The Fate of all men on the raid except for Harry was reported in the October Field Return  

 

Harry’s name is one of the 54,000 names on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Belgium. He is also commemorated on the Adelaide National War Memorial, Caltowie Cemetery Methodist Church WW1 Memorial, Caltowie District WW1 Roll of Honour, Caltowie Public School WW1 Roll of Honour, Caltowie Soldiers Memorial Hall, Gladstone High School WW1 Roll of Honour and Jamestown Caltowie Honour Roll.

 

In the years after Harry’s death, his parents received a Memorial Scroll, Plaque and Royal Letter from the King acknowledging his service and their loss.

 

Walter Harry Wilsdon was awarded for service in WW1 the Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

 

Respectfully submitted by Sue Smith 4th July 2023.

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Biography

WILSDON Walter Harry : Service Number - Lieutenant : Place of Birth - Caltowie SA : Place of Enlistment - Oaklands SA : Next of Kin - (Father) WILSDON Charles William and Mrs Amy  Wilsdon.  

Brother of  62467 John Angus Wilsdon

Enlisted to B Section 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance

Disembarked Marseilles 

Appointed Lance Corporal France 8 August 1916 (Pozieres / Mouquet Farm)

Awarded Distinguished Conduct Medal for actions on 16 August 1916 (Mouquet Farm)

2 Feb 1917  - selected for Officer Training in the UK - 2 Officer Cadet Battalion Cambridge

Commissioned as 2LT 3 August 1917

Embarked for France 18 August 1917

Joined 10th Battalion 21st August 1917

Declared Missing in Action in the Celtic Wood raid 9 October 1917

Subsequently classified Killed in Action

His effects lost at sea on SS Barunga when it was torpedoed.  See Basedow, Fritz Newton, MC

Distinguished Conduct Medal

1914/15 Star 10443

British War Medal 14583

Victory Medal 14526

Commemorative Plaque 357885

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