WW1 Blackie Brothers — Walter Palmer Blackie

Walter Palmer Blackie [1]

Walter Palmer Blackie was the fourth brother to enlist in World War I. He was born in Melbourne, Australia on 11 May 1894.

He enlisted in Christchurch on 23 September 1915 in the 7th Reinforcements infantry as a Lance Corporal and sailed on the Monowai to Wellington together with his brother Bernard. Walter and Bernard embarked for Egypt on 13 November 1915 from Wellington on the ‘Willochra’ and disembarked at Suez on 20 December 1915. [1]

Walter had been a farmer at Greta Vale, near Christchurch and was also in the Territorials as a corporal. He was 5ft 71/2 inches tall with grey eyes and dark hair. He was a member and competition winner of the Scargill Miniature Rifle Shooting Club, near Christchurch, which he continued as a member and competition winner after his return from the war. Miniature Rifle Shooting clubs had been formed to improve members’ shooting accuracy after the poor results suffered by the British in the South African War (1899 – 1902). [2], [3], [4], [5].

Walter transferred as a Private to the Canterbury Infantry Battalion 8th Reinforcements and then to the Machine Gun Corps in January 1916. He set sail to France on 6 April 1916. Shortly after arriving in France, Walter went absent without leave from camp in Marseilles for 7 days from 17 April 1916, 9 days after his father had died on 8 April 1916 – for this he received Field Punishment No. 2, which involved pack drill, menial duties and loss of leave privileges. [6] However, not long after on 12 May 1917 he was promoted to Lance Corporal in the field at the time of the Battle of Arras and Second Battle of the Aisne (16 April – May 1917). [7]

Walter was first wounded in the field in France on 13 September 1916. On 11 September 1916 where the New Zealand gunners were concentrating on preparing gun positions for the advance for the third phase of the First Battle of the Somme – officially known as the Battle of Flers-Courcelette 15 September 1916. Walter rejoined his unit on 24 September 1916 back with the rank of Private. [8]

Walter was again wounded in the left leg in action in France 8 June 1917, the same day that his brother Bernard was killed in action at Messines. At that time, the New Zealand troops were preparing for an attack on Messines in Belgium. At 3.10 a.m. on 7 June 1917 huge mines that had been placed under the German lines by hard-working New Zealand tunnellers exploded. Almost immediately, New Zealand troops of the 2nd and 3rd (Rifle) Brigades left their trenches and advanced towards the ridge in front of them, on which lay the ruins of Messines village. Australian and British troops moved forward on their flanks. All the while the gunners battered the enemy front line, as well as searching for and neutralising German artillery batteries. By the time the New Zealand Division was relieved on 9 June 1916, it had suffered 3700 casualties, including 700 dead. Walter had been very close to his brother Bernard – they had enlisted together, sailed to Egypt together and fought in the same Machine Gun Corp – his brother’s death would have affected him very badly.

Private Walter Palmer Blackie [2]

Walter was transferred to England for hospital care at Brockenhurst Hospital on the Hospital Ship St Andrew and then transferred to the New Zealand Convalescent Hospital at Hornchurch, Essex on 26 June 1917. [9], [10], [11], [12].  While recovering at Hornchurch, Walter was again reprimanded over his conduct. He was admonished for being improperly dressed without his badges on the Commanding Officer’s parade, for failing to mark a Private, and then going 2 days absent without leave from 28-29 July for which he lost two days’ pay. [13] On the 30th August 1917 Walter left Hornchurch to go on leave to report on the 8th September to Grantham where the UK and NZ machine gunners were based. On the 29th September Walter was again admitted to NZ No.2 General Hospital at Walton-on-Thames with a hernia and transferred to Hornchurch for convalescence on 6th December 1917. He was classified as unfit with a double hernia and discharged from war service on 22 March 1918 to report to Torquay. He embarked for New Zealand on the SS Ulimaroa from Liverpool on 1 May 1918.

Walter Palmer Blackie married Hazel Edith Constance Pannett on 10 April 1924 (died 1995). They had four children. Walter died on 31 October 1980 and is buried at Ashburton, Canterbury.

Walter Palmer Blackie headstone in Ashburton cemetery

Remuera Primary School Memorial Gates

He is remembered in the Roll of Honour at the Sydenham Baptist Church in Christchurch [13] and on the gates of Remuera Primary School, Remuera, Auckland.