Walter Howard


About Walter

  • Name
  • Initials
  • Surname
  • Date of Birth
    4 October 1894
  • Birth town
    Mackay, Queensland, Australia
  • Resided town
    Rogers Street, Mackay, Queensland, Australia
  • Commemorated
    Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
  • Nationality
  • Place of death
  • Date of death
    12 October 1917
  • Married
  • Occupation
    Shop Assistant

Service Information

  • Army - Australian Imperial Force

  • Service Number
  • Rank


Walter Howard was born on 4 October 1894 in Mackay, Queensland, Australia to parents Robert and Jane.  The family lived in Rogers Street and he had three older brothers, Albert (1891), George (1885) and William Forsyth (1888).

Walter, a shop assistant, was 21 years old when he and his brother William enlisted at Rockhampton, Queensland on 20 March 1916.  They both joined the 5th Reinforcement, 47th Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force. Walter stood 5ft 8in tall, with a 35” chest, weighed 9st and had blue eyes and fair hair.  He had previously served for three years with the 27th Australian Light Horse in Mackay.  On 19 September 1916, Walter and William left Brisbane on HMAT A49 Seang Chong arriving in Plymouth, England on 9 December 1916.  Shortly after arrival he was admitted to Fargo Military Hospital, Salisbury with ‘otitis media’ a middle ear infection later diagnosed as nerve deafness.  He was discharged to Codford Camp on 15 February 1917, and spent several months in various training units.

Walter visited the WUTAC tea room on Peterborough East Station and signed the visitors’ book on 24 February 1917.  He wrote “Many thanks for the way the Ladies of the Soldiers & Sailors Rest Rooms treated me while I called on 24/2/1917”

Following his recovery from mumps, which left him deaf in his left ear, Walter was declared fit for overseas training on 22 August 1917.  He joined the 47th Battalion in Belgium on 22 September only to be killed in action on 12 October near Zonnebeke as part of the Battle of Passchendaele.

The following, received with grateful thanks, is an extract from research carried out by students of Mackay North State High School’s “Lest We Forget” Project:

“Walter was listed as missing and was later deemed killed by an Army Court of Enquiry held in March 1918.  The exact circumstances surrounding Walter’s death are unknown, however the Battalion diary notes that its HQ was heavily shelled, and “nearly all signallers, runners & scouts (became) casualties, this upsetting all arrangements for communication forward.  24 men killed by this shellfire and valuable lives lost, that will be hard to replace.”   It is possible that Walter was one of these men killed.  Although listed as missing, his service records indicate he was buried, “1000 yards S W of Passhendaele and 1000 yards N E of Zonnebeke.”  Like most battlefield burials in this area, this grave was lost and Walter has no known grave.  In a letter from the Army asking the family if they had heard any news of Walter’s fate, his father Robert wrote, “I have heard nothing further … since I got the news he was missing from the Mayor of the town.  I will be pleased to have any information about him hoping to have good news of him soon.”   In a sad postscript, his father Robert died one month after he wrote this letter, meaning that Jane Howard lost one of her sons and her husband in the space of six months.  Today, Walter is commemorated on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres.”

Mackay North State High School’s “Lest We Forget” Project is an ongoing project of commemoration undertaken by Senior History students at the school and revolves around overseas pilgrimages to the battlefields, cemeteries and memorials where Australians have fought and died.  They also undertook a local history study of Mackay streets which were named in honour of fallen Mackay soldiers.  One such street was Howard Street, named for Walter.  Walter was commemorated at a special group service at the Menin Gate Memorial.  The students also delivered a eulogy which read: “More than a name on a wall, more than a name on a street …. There is no knowledge of what happened to Walter on his last day except that he was buried 1000 yards south west of Passchendale and 1000 yards north east of Zonnebeke. Walter, although we will never know what happened to you or where you rest today, I believe that because of your deafness you were in the headquarters when it was shelled. I believe that you and your 23 cobbers lie side by side in the graves of Tyne Cot.  I believe you’re one of the many unknown soldiers who rest in this cemetery.  You have captivated and consumed me in many ways I cannot explain, and I promise to return to you. Till we meet again dear cobber.  ♥”

Walter was awarded the 1914/15 Star, British War and Victory Medals.  All three of his brothers returned home after the war.

A piece from from the Visit Flanders Brochure on the BATTLE OF PASSCHENDAELE: 31 JULY – 10 NOVEMBER 1917 states “At the end of July it began to rain heavily and when the offensive was launched on 31 July, the attacking troops could hardly drag themselves and their equipment forward through the thick mud. A series of major and minor attacks, often with brief intervals in-between, followed in quick succession. Sometimes the Allies achieved local successes, but the campaign as a whole did not go according to plan. The German defences remained largely intact. The village of Passchendaele – which should have fallen in August – was finally captured by the Canadians on 6 November. After 100 days, the British had advanced just 8 kilometres while over 500,000 Commonwealth soldiers had been killed, wounded or were missing. The Germans also suffered heavy losses in men and material, losses that they were unable to replace.”

“Today the view from Tyne Cot looks over peaceful fields and farms, but in October 1917 in this countryside 6,405 Australians were killed in action or died of wounds and a further 19,194 were wounded. This makes October 1917 the worst single month of the war for the AIF. It is hard to imagine this place as it was then, a desolation of mud, wind and rain in which men strove to bring forward guns and supplies and from which they tried to retrieve the wounded.”

Photograph of Private Walter Howard with kind permission of Mackay North State High School.

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