SERVICE NO: 4426
YEAR OF BIRTH: 1893
PLACE OF BIRTH: Noradjuha
DATE OF ENLISTMENT: 2 February 1916
PLACE OF ENLISTMENT: Yarram
AGE AT ENLISTMENT: 22
UNIT: 22nd Battalion, 11th Reinforcements
EMBARKED: 29 March 1916
TROOPSHIP: HMAT RMS Orontes
FATE: Killed in Action – 3 May 1917 – Bullecourt, France
Walter Filmer was the youngest son of Oliver Filmer and Rose Emma Stanford and was born in Noradjuha south-west of Horsham in 1893. His parents had lived in the district for around nine years. In 1898, the Filmers moved to Byaduk where Oliver farmed. Within two years, Walter’s father was dead after a bad buggy accident on 2 January 1900. Walter was only six and a student at Byaduk State School. He attended the Byaduk Methodist Church Sunday School and a junior member of the church. When he was sixteen, Walter was playing football for Byaduk. He then went on to train as a teacher with his first appointment was at Hamilton State School from around 1911.
Walter spent a year with the senior cadets before joining the Hamilton branch of the 71st Australian Infantry Regiment, reaching the rank of Lieutenant. He was also interested in nature, and the Hamilton Spectator reported on Walter visiting the paper’s office on 8 November 1911 with an Emperor Gum moth. It was the seventh moth he had raised that year. In April 1914, Walter heard he of his transfer to the Alberton School in Gippsland. Before he departed, Walter was given a send off by the 71st Regiment’s H Company.
Once at Alberton, Walter played football for the Alberton West Football Club. By the end of 1914, Walter was headteacher at the Womerah State School in the Tarra Valley, north of Alberton. WW1 had begun and Walter intended to enlist but he fractured his shoulder while playing football so he continued on with his teaching position. He was still a Lieutenant with the local militia and he offered to instruct riflemen and others in preparation for enlistment. On 5 December 1914, Walter delivered a lecture to the Yarram and District Teachers’ Association entitled “Nature Studies in State Schools”. The following football season, Walter played with the Gelliondale Football Club. Walter was very busy but he still found time to meet his true love, proposing to Gippsland girl Myrtle Bertina Alford.
At the start of 1916 school year, Walter enlisted at Yarram on 2 February. The people of Womerah gave him a send-off and it was obvious Walter was held in high regard. It was said he was deserving of a much bigger school and was the best teacher they’d had at Womerah. It also disappointed the children to see him go. A story was told of how those in need of medical help just had to say “Send for Mr Filmer” and he would then go off “over the hills” in search of the bush nurse.
Walter headed home to Byaduk for final leave in mid-March and was given a send-off in the Byaduk Hall with another local close to departure, William Harper. But soon it was time for last goodbyes to Myrtle and his mother Rose. Before departing, Walter said, ‘I go forward to duty in the strength of His might, and with the help of a mother’s love.’
On 29 March 1916, Walter left Australia with the 22nd Battalion, 11th Reinforcements.
After time training in England at Salisbury Plains, Walter left for France on 5 September 1916. He was then transported to Belgium before marching into 2nd Division Headquarters at Reninghelst, Belgium a few days later before joining his battalion at Ypres, Belgium on 20 September. In October 1916, Walter was selected to go to officers’ school and promoted to 2nd Lieutenant on 16 December 1916 at Flesselles, France and Lieutenant on 31 January 1917 at Ribemont, France. Falling sick with mumps on 19 February 1917, Walter was hospitalised, rejoining the battalion on 9 March 1917 at Shelter Wood.
Around April, Walter took ten days leave and visited the Hamilton Academy in Hamilton, Scotland. The Hamilton State School and the Academy had exchanged flags during the time Walter was at the state school. He found the Hamilton State School flag proudly displayed at the Hamilton Academy. Walter observed the teaching methods and viewed the facilities of the Academy. The children were excited to meet a representative from the school on the other side of the world, and Walter passed on his regards from the committee, staff and pupils of Hamilton State School. While he enjoyed his visit to Scotland, it led him to realise the many things in Australia of which to be proud.
With leave over, Walter was back to the reality of war. At 7:00 pm on 2 May 1917, the 22nd Battalion moved forward to prepare for the 2nd Battle of Bullecourt with an attack on the Hindenburg Line. By 3:25 am on 3 May, the battalion was in position and the attack began at 3:45 am. Walter was killed in action at some time during 3 May 1917 at Bullecourt. As it was at the height of battle, he was not buried and his body never recovered.
Rose Filmer heard the news of Walter’s death by the end of May. It was a sad time for the people of Byaduk with news coming through of another favourite son, Lieutenant Simon Fraser, killed on 11 May 1917, also at Bullecourt. And it was not just the Filmer family or the people of Byaduk feeling the loss. At Womerah too, there was much grief. The children of the Womerah School sent photographs to Rose of Walter while he was at the school. In Hamilton, Scotland the news of Walter’s death brought sadness especially as his death came so soon after his visit. Mr P.M.Kirkpatrick, the Town Clerk of Hamilton, Scotland wrote to the Town Clerk of Hamilton, Victoria expressing his sympathies.
Then there was Myrtle, Walter’s grieving fiancé. On the first anniversary of Walter’s death, Myrtle and her family placed an “In Memoriam” notice in The Argus.
It was also on the first anniversary of Walter’s death, an eerie coincidence occurred. William Thomas Harper who was sent off from Byaduk at the same gathering as Walter was killed on 3 May 1918 at Strazeele in Northern France.
Around 1920, Walter’s mother Rose Filmer moved to Geelong and lived with her daughters at 301 Malop Street. Another daughter Hazel lived at nearby Mannerim. Rose died in 1927 aged seventy-three. It was that same year Myrtle Alford, ten years after Walter’s death, married Otto Becker.
A tree was planted for Walter along Hamilton’s Anzac Avenue and his name is on the Byaduk Soldier’s Memorial and the Byaduk Methodist Church Honour Roll, the Byaduk State School Honour Roll, and a tree was planted for him along Byaduk’s Avenue of Honour.