Walter Peeler grew up on his parents orchard at Barker's
Creek, north of Castlemaine. His family tree included a convict transported from
Lancaster, England, to Hobart in 1828. His occupation by 1908 was a
Walter enlisted in the 1st AIF at Leongatha on 17 February
1916. His trade was listed as 'labourer'. He served (as No. 113) in the Lewis
gun section of the 3rd Pioneer Battalion. He was appointed Lance Corporal on 6
He won his Victoria Cross on 4 October 1917 when he and the
other members of the Lewis Gun section were attached to the 37th Infantry
Battalion for anti-aircraft during the attack on Broodseinde Ridge during the
third phase of the Third Battle of Ypres.
VICTORIA CROSS CITATION
For most conspicuous bravery
when, with a Lewis gun, accompanying the
first wave of the assault he encountered an enemy
party sniping the
advancing troops from a shell
Lance Corporal Peeler immediately rushed the
position, and accounted for
nine of the enemy, and cleared the way for advance.
On two subsequent
occasions, he performed similar acts of valour, and
each time accounted
for a number of the enemy.
During operations, he was directed to a position from
which an enemy
machine-gun was being fired on our troops. He located
and killed the
gunner, and the remainder of the enemy party ran to a
dug-out close by.
From this shelter they were dislodged by a bomb, and
ten of the enemy
ran out. These he disposed of.
This non-commissioned officer actually accounted for
over thirty of the
He displayed an absolute fearlessness in making his
way ahead of the
first wave of the assault, and the fine example which
he set ensured the
success of the attack against the most determined
Rain that afternoon prevented exploitation of the
successful assault and Passchendale did not fall until November when it was
taken by Canadian forces.
Walter Peeler received his VC from King George V at
Buckingham Palace on 9 January 1918. He was one of a group of officers, men and
nurses who were decorated that day.
His service record shows he recived a gunshot wound
to the right cheek on 7 June 1917, and a severe wound to the right forearm on 12
October 1917 which put him in Northampton War Hospital.
He returned to Australia in October 1918 to take part
in a recruiting drive with a number of other VCs, but the war ended a month
later and he was discharged in December.
He joined the Victorian Department of Lands and
worked in the Soldier Settlement branch for six years. He then became an
orchardist at Croydon bfore joining the staff of H. V. McKay Harvester Works at
Sunshine. The firm seemed to prefer VC winners, as L. D. McCarthy VC also worked
When Melbourne's splendid Shrine of Remembrance was
completed in 1934, Walter was appointed Custodian, a position he held--with the
exception of further war service with the 2nd AIF--until he retired in May 1964.
During the post-WW2 period he joined the Corps of Commissionaires in
WORLD WAR TWO
Walter enlisted in the 2nd AIF on 27 May 1940 and was
posted to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion. By 1941 he had risen from Sergeant to
Staff Sergeant, and by 1942 was appointed WO2.
He served in Syria in the middle-east before going to
Java in February 1942 where he became a prisoner of war of the Japanese on 7
March. As part of 'A' Force he was sent with other prisoners to work in Burma.
Recovered from Siam in August 1945, he was returned to Melbourne on 21 October,
and was discharged in December.
In 1956, Walter and a number of other VC winners
visited London for the VC Centenary celebrations. He enjoyed playing cricket,
tennis and had earlier been well-known as a footballer. When he lived and worked
at Sunshine, he was Captain of the East Sunshine Cricket team which won
premierships in 1931 and 1932.
He died on 23 May 1968 and was buried in Brighton
Cemetery. His decorations, awards and medals included:
British Empire Medal
British War Medal
Africa Star (awarded posthumously when Syria was recognised for this