Military History

The Highest Honour #6 | Walter Brown | Alexander Buckley

By The Cove February 22, 2021


GUNNER WALTER BROWN VC, DCM (1885 - 1942, 56yo)

Walter Ernest Brown was born in Tasmania in 1885 and on leaving school worked as a grocer in both Tasmania and New South Wales.  On 26 July 1915, Brown enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force as an infantryman but, wanting to see more action quickly, transferred into the light horse.

Brown embarked for Egypt in October 1915 where he joined the 1st Light Horse Regiment. He later transferred to the Imperial Camel Corps and in July 1916 transferred to the 20th Battalion reinforcements.  In September 1917 he fought at Passchendaele where he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for attending wounded whilst under heavy fire, and later, after his Sergeant had been disabled, took charge of the section giving a 'fine example of courage and leadership'.

Brown was promoted to Corporal in April 1918 and while fighting at the Villers-Bretonneux sector he was with an advance party which took over some newly captured trenches near Accroche Wood and, on being told that a sniper's post was causing trouble, he located the spot, picked up two Mills bombs and ran towards it under fire. His first bomb fell short, but on reaching the post he knocked one German down with his fist and threatened the others with his remaining grenade; when they surrendered, Brown ordered them back to the Australian lines. He had captured thirteen men, including one officer. For this act he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

In June 1940, by giving his age as 40 instead of 54, Brown enlisted in the 2nd A.I.F. His real age and record were soon discovered, and he was promoted to Lance Sergeant and posted to the 2/15th Field Regiment, but he reverted to Gunner at his own request.  The regiment, part of the ill-fated 8th Division, reached Malaya in August 1941. Brown was last seen on 14 February 1942, the night before the Allied surrender at Singapore. Picking up some grenades he said to his comrades, 'No surrender for me', and walked towards the enemy lines. He was presumed to have died while trying to escape on 28 February.

CORPORAL ALEXANDER BUCKLEY (1891 - 1918, 26yo)

Alexander Henry Buckley was born in New South Wales in 1891 and after being home-schooled worked as a farmer with his father.  On 3 February 1916 he joined the Australian Imperial Force with the 54th Battalion.

In 1916 he served in the Somme and in 1917 fought in the battles of Bullecourt, Polygon Wood and Broodseinde.  That same year he was promoted to temporary Corporal and in 1917 fought in the Battle of Amiens.

On 1 September 1918, Buckley's battalion was involved in an operation aimed at clearing the area between Mont St Quentin and Péronne.  The 54th's mission was to take the ground between Péronne and the River Somme, then move in on Péronne.  Advancing in drizzling rain and under heavy fire, it took the first line of enemy trenches but was held up by a nest of machine-gunners. Accompanied by Corporal Arthur Hall, VC,  Buckley stalked these gunners and rushed the post, shooting four men and taking twenty-two prisoners. The Germans retreated to Péronne, entering the city by a large bridge which they destroyed. The only remaining bridge on the battalion's front was a foot-bridge defended by machine-guns. With three other members of his company, Buckley tried to force his way across under heavy fire but was killed in the attempt. He was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross, the citation for which praised his 'initiative, resource and courage'.

Buckley was buried in the Péronne communal cemetery extension.


Portrait

Biography

The Cove

The home of the Australian Profession of Arms.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.



Add new comment

Cove App

COVE App

Fast access to The Cove anywhere, anytime. Additional feature of receiving notifications for new content.

Reflective Journal

REFLECTIVE JOURNAL

Record your reflections in a structured way to improve your performance.