Walter BANNING MM

Badge Number: 7912
7912

BANNING, Walter

Service Number: 274
Enlisted: 25 September 1914, Morphettville, South Australia
Last Rank: Sergeant
Last Unit: 32nd Infantry Battalion
Born: London, England, 1 August 1866
Home Town: Plympton, City of West Torrens, South Australia
Schooling: Not yet discovered
Occupation: Groom/Professional soldier
Died: Cerebral Thrombosis, Adelaide, South Australia, 23 June 1948, aged 81 years
Cemetery: AIF Cemetery, West Terrace Cemetery, Adelaide
Buried Kendrew Oval Row No 19, Site 21
Memorials: Edwardstown Roll of Honor WW1, Macclesfield ANZAC Memorial Gardens
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World War 1 Service

25 Sep 1914: Enlisted AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 274, Morphettville, South Australia
18 Nov 1915: Embarked AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 274, 32nd Infantry Battalion, HMAT Geelong, Adelaide
18 Nov 1915: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 274, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Enlistment/Embarkation WW1
19 Jul 1916: Involvement AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 274, 32nd Infantry Battalion, Fromelles (Fleurbaix)
1 Aug 1917: Discharged AIF WW1, Sergeant, SN 274, 32nd Infantry Battalion

Awarded the Military Medal for actions at Fromelles

"At Petillon (an area near Fromelles), on 19th/20th July 1916, Sergeant Banning was conspicuous in his zealous performance of his duties. He made several journeys into No Man's Land to bring in wounded, and was himself wounded on the third occasion wounded . He declined to have his wound dressed and went on with his work collecting the wounded."
Brig Tivey Comd 8th Brigade.

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Biography

Information sourced from "Second to None" by Roger Freeman / members service record.  He is not listed on the Embarkation Roll.

 

Walter Banning was 48 years and one month old when he enlisted on the 25th September 1914.  He was married to Mary Banning and they lived off  William Road at Plympton.  Walter cited his vocation as a 'groom' - a term used to describe a person who looked after horses. 

However, Walter brought another kind of vocational skill set and experience to the recruiters - he had been a professional soldier for 14 years in the British Army and had seen 'hard service' during that time in India and South Africa.

Walter Banning was one of the longest serving soldiers to enlist in the AIF and certainly in the 32nd Battalion. He had served with the British Army for fourteen years, including service in India, with the 60th Battalion Kings Royal Rifles at Lushai in 1889-92 and at the Relief of Chitral (in modern day Afghanistan in 1895. In South Africa during the Boer War, he was awarded the Queen's South African Medal (QSA) with bars 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'Transvaal', 'Relief of Ladysmith', Tugela Heights and Laing's Nek.  He was also awarded the King's South Africa Medal with bars South Africa 1901 and South Africa 1902. He was to add to the list.

His records indicate that Walter Banning was initially assigned to the Australian Stationary Hospital and then to the Base Light Horse,  4th Reinforcements of the 27th Battalion during the course of 1915 - still in Adelaide.  He was in training at Cheltenahm Camp (which was based on the Racecourse of the same name).  He had a couple of minor disciplinary infractions following a complaint levelled by another NCO and a Medical Officer.  He subsequently transferred to the 32nd Battalion, initially to D Company.

It appears that he was embarked with the 32nd Battalion on the HMAT Geelong A2 on 11 November although he is not listed on the Roll.  There is an annotation on his service record that simply says "Embarkation queried'. 

He clearly did get in the ship; in December 1915 he was appointed Pioneer Sergeant.  The Assault Pioneers were a Platoon within the Infantry Battalion who were trained in techniques to breach obstacles during an assault, prepare defensive positions   - particularly Command Posts for Battalion headquarters, and the like.  Walter Banning's background would have made him ideal for the role.

The Battalion arrived in the Middle East and consolidated with more reinforcement drafts and was then incorporated into the 5th Division.  Iit embarked for France in April 1916.

The 5th Division was the last of the AIF Divisions to cycle through "The Nursery" sector near Fleurbaix.  These days the area is more closely associated with another town - Fromelles.  In 1916, Fromelles was behind German lines.  It was the scene of a disastrous attack by the 5th Division and the British 61st Division.  See the campaign entry for Fromelles (/explore/campaigns/2)

Very few decorations were awarded as a result of the fighting on 19/20 July 1916.  Possibly because the result was a humiliation, very little was published about the battle.   Walter Banning was one of the few to receive official recognition - he was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in recovering wounded, making several trips into No Man's Land to do so.  He was slightly wounded in the course of these activities but remained on duty.

After Fromelles, the 32nd Battalion was severely depleted.  It was progressively reinforced and spent the balance of 1916 mainly in the Somme valley.  Walter Banning was wounded by shrapnel on 1 November 1916 during the Battalion’s time in the line at Crest Trench near Montauban.  He was evacuated via the 3rd Auxiliary Hospital, then to the UK where he was to the Edmonton Military Hospital.

After recuperation he returned to duty via the big personnel depot at Perham Downs. He was not to return to the Battalion however. He spent three months at No 2 Command Depot at Weymouth and in May 1917 was designated for return to Australia having been assessed as medically unfit.  He returned on the HMAT Runic, and was discharged on 1 August 1917, at Keswick Barracks on a military pension.

Walter and Mary had the following children (listed on his pension documents)

Queenie Ellen Banning

Edward Stuart Banning

Winifred Ada Banning

Elizabeth Emma Banning

William Thomas Banning

Jessie Alice Banning

It is presumed that because of the documented effort to ensure he was presented with his Military Medal, and the fact that he was one of the  few to be back in Australia to receive it, that there would have been some publicity surrounding the presentation.

Walter Banning died in June 1948, just short of his 82nd birthday

Medals:  British Indian and South African service medals

             Military Medal

            1914/15 Star,  British War Medal, Victory Medal

 

Steve Larkins December 2014

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