Walter Harry WILSDON DCM

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WILSDON, Walter Harry

Service Numbers: 2706, Commissioned Officer
Enlisted: 31 December 1914, Oaklands, 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
Occupation: Farm labourer
Died: Killed In Action During The Raid On Celtic Wood, Celtic Wood, Broodseinde, 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, SN 2706, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance, Oaklands, South Australia
23 Jun 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Private, SN 2706, 4th Light Horse Field Ambulance,

embarkation_roll: roll_number: 22 embarkation_place: embarkation_ship: embarkation_ship_number: public_note:  See service record - not listed in embarkation roll

Embarked A30 HMAT BORDA 23 June 1915 per service record
11 Mar 1916: Transferred AIF WW1, Private, 3rd Field Ambulance, Tel el Kebir Egypt pre-embarkation for France
23 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Private, SN 2706, 3rd Field Ambulance, Battle for Pozières
18 Aug 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Commissioned Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Third Ypres
8 Oct 1917: Involvement AIF WW1, Second Lieutenant, SN Commissioned Officer, 10th Infantry Battalion, Raid on Celtic Wood

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

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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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 regerding 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 for marked across the envelope was ‘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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