The O'Leary Collection—Medals of The Royal Canadian Regiment

A305 / 400305 Private Andrew Walker

33rd Canadian Overseas Battalion
1st Canadian Infantry Battalion

By: Capt (ret'd) Michael M. O'Leary, CD, The RCR

Andrew Walker was born in Glasgow, Scotland, on 16 Apr 1884. His parents were John and Jessie Knox Walker.

Details of Walker's emigration to North America have not been confirmed. By the time he enlisted at Windsor, Ontario, in 1915 he may have been living and working in or near that city. Alternatively, he may have emigrated to the United States and Windsor was a convenient crossing point to enter Canada with the intention of enlisting in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (C.E.F.).

Walker attested for service in the C.E.F. with the 33rd Overseas Battalion at Windsor, Ontario, on 12 Jan 1915. A 30-year-old labourer, Walker was described on his attestation paper as 5 feet 8 1/2-inches tall, with a 39-inch chest, a fresh complexion, blue eyes, and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England. Walker identified his father, Mr. John Walker, living at "50 over 1" Dumbdie (sic) Road, Edinburgh, Scotland, as his next of kin. His service records also noted that, if needed, notifications should also be sent to Mrs. Jessie MacKay, 169 Campbell Ave., Toronto, Ont. (their relationship was not specified).

The 33rd Overseas Battalion, C.E.F., authorized on 7 Nov 1914, was an infantry battalion recruited and mobilized in London, Ontario. Two Reinforcing Drafts recruited by the unit sailed on 17 Jul and 17 Aug 1915 and the unit itself, still almost 1000 strong, embarked for Great Britain on 1 Apr 1916 aboard the S.S. Lapland.

On attesting with the 33rd Battalion, Walker was given the regimental number 305, this would later change to A305 and, after the unit was assigned a C.E.F. service number block, to 400305.

Walker was transferred to the 33rd Battalion's Machine Gun Section on 23 Apr 1915. Less than two months later, on 15 Jun 1915, he left the 33rd Battalion "under sealed orders" as a soldier of the "1st Reinforcing Draft," formed to provide trained soldiers as reinforcements for unit already at the front The draft sailed for England from Montreal aboard the S.S. Scandinavian on 17 Jul 1915.

On arriving in England on 27 Jun 1915, Walker was taken on the strength of the 12th Reserve Battalion at Shorncliffe and assigned to that unit's No. 2 Company. It was almost two months later that Walker was drafted to join the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion in France on 23 Aug 1915.

Walker joined the 1st Battalion in the field on 29 Aug 1915. On that date, the battalion was in Brigade Reserve at a location known as the "Piggeries" (Sheet 28 S.W. U.19.c.2.8) which was about a mile north of Ploegsteert. The battalion's War Diary notes that on this day, a draft of seven officers and 235 other ranks joined as reinforcements.

Walker's first introduction to the front lines came quickly. On 2 Sep 1916, the 1st Battalion relieved the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion in the area of the east end of Ploegsteert Wood.

Over the next seven months, the 1st Battalion would rotate through the front trenches 22 times. When not in the most forward trenches, the unit found itself in Local Support trenches, or in Reserve tasks (at Brigade, Divisional or Corps level). The cycle of front line trenches, support trenches, reserves, marching, and training was the life of an infantry battalion on the Western Front. Few tours of the front lines were without casualties, with each rotation being about four days between relief operations, and even when out of the most forward trenches, the reach of enemy artillery could take its toll.

For one of those front line tours, the War Diary of the 1st Cdn. Inf. Bn. details the unit entering the forward trenches on the night of 23/24 April 1916 and the dispositions of the companies.

"Fine cool day. Church parade 10 a.m. Muster parade 2.00 p.m. Battalion paraded for trenches 7.00 p.m. to relief of 8th Canadian Battalion. Relief completed 1.15 a.m. Quiet night.

"Fine and warm. 1st Battalion in trenches: C Coy. trench 46 and Square Wood; A Coy. trench 46 (left) trench 47 and right half trench 48; D Coy. left half trench 48, trenches 49, 50, 51 and supports. B Coy in support Armagh Wood. Location of trenched Mount Sorrel, Bn.H.Q. Sheet 28 I.30.a.7.2 1/2. 5th Canadian Battalion on our right relieved to-night by 2nd Canadian Bn. 5th C.M.Rs. on our left. Rather heavy bombardment on our right.

"Fine and warm. E Wind. Gas Alert 9.30 a.m. Usual amount of shelling. Aeroplane activity."

Pte Andrew Walker was wounded in action on 25 Apr 1916 at Mount Sorrel. Suffering a "G.S.W." (gun shot wound, a general term that could refer to injured inflicted by bullets, shrapnel balls, or shell splinters) of the left hip, he was admitted to No. 10 Casualty Clearing Station (C.C.S.).

Walker moved rearward in the medical evacuation system over the following days. He was transferred by No. 23 Ambulance Train on 26 Apr 1916 and the following day admitted to No. 4 General Hospital at Camiers. On 3 May 1916, he was admitted to the Convalescent Depot at Etaples.

Walker's name appeared in the Casualty List published in the 8 May 1916 edition of The London Advertiser. His name in the list is included as: "A305 Andrew Walker, kin in Scotland."

Walker enjoyed a brief rest at the Convalescent Depot but was soon on his way back to his unit. On 13 May 1916, he proceeded from the Canadian Base Depot (C.B.D.) to rejoin the 1st Battalion. It would not be until 4 Jun 1916 that he was back into the ranks of the Battalion as it again moved into the front lines.

The War Diary notes a day of overcast and rain, and enemy fire of all types. The 1st Battalion was under temporary command of the 2nd Canadian Infantry Brigade facing an enemy that had, two days prior, captured the position son Hill 60 and Mount Sorrel:

"Cloudy Battalion in front line — A Coy. X left trench. D Coy. in Leicester Square and Hedge Trench. C Coy in Battersea farm Dugouts. B Coy. In Manor Farm dugouts and Zillebeke Switch. H.Q in Fosseway. 5th Battalion on right, 2nd Battalion on left. Rained towards evening. 7.15 p.m. heavy enemy rifle fire and M.G. fire, followed at 7.20 p.m. by Barrage all sizes from Valley Cottages to Railway Cutting. No enemy infantry attack. At 8.02 p.m. Situation normal. One Colt M.G. destroyed."

On 6 Jun 1916, the 1st Battalion was relieved in the front line trenches and moved into "Local Support", i..e, the Brigade's depth position and the on the 9th of June moved again, into Divisional Reserve. From 9 Jun 1916, the 1st Battalion's War Dairy describes the days leading up to the attack on 13 Jun 1916.

"1st Canadian Battalion in Divisional Reserve at Camp A. G.11c. Now under 1st Can. Inf. Bde.

"Raining. Battalion still at G.11.c. Busy getting equipped.

"Showery all day. Still at G.11.c. Received Operation Order from 3rd Battalion covering attack for June 13th. Moved into support to Mount Sorrel and Hill 60, Headquarters and D Coy, Railway Dugouts. C Coy, Woodcote Farm. B Coy, I.28.b.7.8. to I.29.a.1.9. A Coy, Blauwport Farm. Relieved 26th Battalion. relief complete 10.45 p.m.

"Cloudy. Battalion dispositions as above. Artillery deliberately bombarding enemy's works all day. Intense bombardment from 8.00 p.m. tp 8.30 p.m. Companies commenced moving to assembly trenches 9.30 p.m. Headquarters arrived Battle headquarters 12 midnight. Battalion with the exception of B and D Companies in assembly trenches before preliminary bombardment started 12.45 a.m. 13th. D Coy. in position about 12.55 a.m. and B Coy. 1.10 a.m.

"1.30 a.m. 1st Company 3rd Battalion away to German front line.

"Fine. Battalion at F Camp together with 3rd Battalion. Men all sleeping and are very tired. Orders at 2.00 p.m. to be ready at 3.30 p.m. for busses to take Battalion to Connaught lines by 10.00 p.m. Time changed at 11.00 p.m. Clocks and watches being put to 12 midnight. Capt. Dobson in charge of Battalion."

The War Diary's cryptic entry for 13 Jun 1916 masks an intense day on a Great War battlefield. The 1st Cdn, Inf. Bn. was tasked to "support the 3rd Cdn Inf Bn" which was one of the forward battalions in that day's assault on German lines. The 1st Battalion carried out a variety of tasks, providing tactical and logistic (e.g., grenade carrying party) support to the 3rd Battalion.

With much of its work exposed to enemy fire, the 1st Battalion paid a heavy price for its supporting role in the attack. In the Roll of Honour of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion, 51 members of the unit are recorded with the date of death 13 Jun 1916. Many of these have no graves and are commemorated on the Menin Gate.

On 13 Jun 1916, Pte Andrew Walker was among those reported as wounded. By the time the casualties were counted, he was recorded as "Previously reported Wounded, now Killed in Action."

The initial report of his wounds may have been an eyewitness account, but does not necessarily indicate that he had entered the medical evacuation system. A note on the availability of stretchers in the Report on Operations for the battle, part of the battalion's War Diary, may indicate his fate:

"Stretchers. The supply was inadequate. Wounded men had to be left where they fell for a considerable time, which has a demoralising effect on all who see them."

Walker has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate (Ypres) Memorial in Belgium. There is an entry for him in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery register for the Menin Gate. It reads:

"WALKER, Pte. A., A/305, 1st Bn. (Western Ontario Regt.). 13th June, 1916. Age 32. Son of John and Jessie Knox Walker, of 50, Dumbiedykes Rd., Edinburgh, Scotland."

The Menin Gate bears the names of 204 members of the 1st Canadian Infantry Battalion.

After Walker's death in June 1916, his pay account was not closed at that time and continued to accrue pay until March of 1917. Even after that was stopped, it took considerable time to sort out his pay account. The amount owed to his estate was settled at $282.91, over eight and one-half months' pay and field allowance at the rank of Private. Most of this was paid to Walker's father in February 1918 and the final cheque sent on 28 Mar 1918.

For his service in the C.E.F., Walker was entitled to receive the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory Medal. These were despatched to his father at Edinburgh, on 26 May 1922. John Walker also received the Memorial Plaque and Scroll. Walker's mother, Jessie Knox Walker, received a silver Memorial Cross commemorating her son's sacrifice. The plaque and crosses were despatched in 1920 and 1922.

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The Victory Medal awarded to Andrew Walker and sent to his father in 1922 was acquired for The O'Leary Collection in August 2021. The 1914-15 Star awarded to Walker appeared for sale in a British Medals facebook group in early April 2023. Not having sold through that listing, it later appeared on ebay and was acquired from that platform for The O'Leary Collection. These purchases have achieved a partial reunite of the trio of medals awarded to Walker. The locations of his British War Medal as well as the Memorial Plaque and Memorial Cross remain unknown.

Pro Patria

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