WILLIAMS, Walter Wilfred
(Service number 3/119A)

First Rank Private Last Rank Private


Date 25 April 1894 Place of Birth Alexandra South, Central Otago

Enlistment Information

Date 15 August 1915 Age 21 years
Address at Enlistment 7 Jackson Street, Timaru
Occupation House painter
Previous Military Experience
Marital Status Single
Next of Kin Fred WILLIAMS, 7 Jackson Street, Timaru
Religion Church of England
Medical Information Height 5 feet 7 inches. Weight 126 lbs. Chest measurement 33-35 inches. Complexion fair. Eyes grey. Hair brown. Sight and hearing both normal. Colour vision good. Limbs well formed. Full and perfect movement of joints. Chest well formed. Heart and lungs normal. Teeth good. Free from hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids, inveterate or contagious skin disease. Not vaccinated. Good bodily and mental health. No slight defects.

Military Service

Served with NZ Armed Forces Served in Army
Military District

Embarkation Information

Body on Embarkation Main Body
Unit, Squadron, or Ship Medical Corps
Date 16 October 1914
Transport Maunganui
Embarked From Wellington Destination Suez, Egypt
Other Units Served With
Last Unit Served With Auckland Mounted Rifles - Medical Corps

Military Awards

Campaigns Egyptian; Balkan (Gallipoli)
Service Medals 1914-15 Star; British War Medal; Victory Medal
Military Awards

Award Circumstances and Date

No information

Prisoner of War Information

Date of Capture
Where Captured and by Whom
Actions Prior to Capture
PoW Serial Number
PoW Camps
Days Interned
Liberation Date


Date 3 July 1916 Reason No longer physically fit for War Service.

Hospitals, Wounds, Diseases and Illnesses

29 April 1915 - admitted to M.F.A. Hosptal, Zeitoun; discharged 1 May 1915. 7 August 1915 - admitted to St David’s Hospital, Malta, from Anzac - ear trouble; 12 August admitted from H.S. “Salta” - Otitis Media; 15 August transferred to Mudros - 21% disability; 11 September 1915 admitted to 1st Southern General Hospital, Birmingham, England (Cable 22 Sep 1915). 29 January 1916 - to return to New Zealand (“Arawa”) - invalided home – sick, effects of concussion – hearing affected.

Post-war Occupations

Masseur; painter & decorator


Date 21 September 1967 Age 72 years
Place of Death Auckland
Memorial or Cemetery Purewa Crematorium, Auckland
Memorial Reference
New Zealand Memorials

Biographical Notes

Walter Wilfred Williams, who was born on 25 April 1894 at Alexandra South, Central Otago, was the sixth surviving son of Frederick (Fred) and Bridget (or Mabel) Cecilia (née Cleary) Williams of Jackson Street, Timaru, was born on 17 September 1890 at Alexandra. Frederick Williams was born Frederick William Shelmerdine in Manchester, Lancashire, England, and was at home with his family in 1861. F. W. Shelmerdine arrived at Lyttelton on 27 May 1871. As of 1873 he was playing cricket for the Kaiapoi Club and subsequently for Leithfield. In 1878 at Alexandra, Otago, New Zealand, Fredrick Williams married Bridget C. Cleary. Thereafter, Frederick was known as Frederick (or Fred) Williams and his wife as Cecilia. In the deciding fixture between Clyde and Blacks, played in early March 1886, ‘Mr Fred Williams fairly excelled all previous efforts in the field, he being quite at home in the slips, a place that he has filled with honor for some years past, and 1 think he is justly entitled to be designated as the “king of slips”.’ He was, at the time, a wool-washer at Springvale. In 1887 Fred applied for a slaughterhouse licence. He also took a leading part in entertainment for local causes – operetta, solos. While operating a wool-scouring establishment at Springvale near Alexandra, Mr Fred Williams secured the New Zealand agency for Wolesly’s Patent Sheep Shearing Machine, “a gentleman whose well known energy and tact so eminently fit him to fill the position”. He exhibited four very fine specimens – locks, pieces, belly pieces, and combing fleece – at the New Zealand and South Seas Exhibition in Dunedin 1889-90. He was also secretary of the Vincent County Horticultural Society, and he was worked hard to bring about successful shows. He also served a term as president of the Alexandra Debating Society.

From 1901 Mr Fred Williams was engaged with gold dredging. “Mr Fred Williams has been appointed master of the Blue Duck Company’s dredge, Matakanui, and being a competent and experienced man, the company are to be congratulated on securing his services.” He was appointed a country delegate to the Otago Cricket Association. His eldest son, Frederick Harold Williams, known as Harold, was selected in the country team to play town at Carisbrook, Dunedin, in March 1905. Fred Williams was still a dredge master in mid-1910. It was in August that the news broke that Mr Fred Williams had secured the appointment of manager of O’Meegan’s Hotel at Timaru and was to take up his new position on 1st September. He was presented with a travelling rug on behalf of the members of St Aidan’s Church and a purse of sovereigns from the Councillors and residents of the borough. Mrs Williams and her daughter, Florence, were also fittingly farewelled. “The departing lady had by her generous disposition, kindness of heart, and undoubted hospitality endeared herself to the whole community of the district; and young and old alike were recipients of that good lady's benevolence. . . . . To charity she gave freely, to the sick she attended cheerfully, and in fact she was a comfort to all, for her cheerfulness betokened happiness even to those who happened to be in a despondent mood. And it must not be forgotten that all the womanly qualities possessed by Mrs Williams were equally shared by her daughter, who also had rendered appreciative services to church, people, and the town generally. . . . . Mrs Williams feelingly responded, thanking her friends for their kind words and handsome present. . . . . Miss Williams was also the recipient of a handsome brooch from the lady members of the congregation of St. Aidan’s Church.”

So, until the 1910 they lived at or near Alexandra, where eight sons and two daughters were born, the younger daughter and a son dying in infancy. Mr Fred Williams had been engaged in the dredging industry, moving to Timaru on the termination of the “boom”. “The youngest son of Mr Fred Williams, of Alexandra, had a very narrow escape from drowning last week. The little fellow, who is under two years of age, had got through a gate which had been accidentally left open, and fell off a culvert into the water race. An elder brother, who happened to be passing, chanced to see him, and rescued him; another minute and it would have been too late.” [Dunstan Times, 21 August 1896] This was two-year-old Walter, his younger brother Vincent having not been born.

Walter, along with siblings, was educated at Alexandra Public School. Their youngest brother, Vincent, finished his schooling at Timaru Main School. Walter left school at the age of fifteenth to go out to work, but not before he had experienced success. Young Walter Williams was one of the Infant room children who gave recitations at the school break-up in December 1902, and he received a prize for second equal place for recitation in the Infant Department. In 1907 his prize was for second place in Standard V. After a musical programme by the children, a pleasant afternoon concluded with the singing of the National Anthem. And in 1908 he was successful in gaining his Proficiency Certificate and was named dux of the school, having finished top of the Standard VI class. But his education did not end there and then. In October 1912 at the Timaru Technical School, W. W. Williams was awarded certificates for Bookkeeping and English, and in October 1913 he passed Commercial English, 1st Class, and Commercial Arithmetic, 2nd Class. The 1913 Timaru Technical School roll book lists a Walter Wilfred Williams of Woolcombe Street. Aged 18, his occupation was given as “painters apprentice”.He had gained a “Senior Free Place” for three years at the Timaru Technical School where “he has studied in the junior classes since his family’s removal to Timaru”. War, unfortunately, interrupted his studies.

Walter Wilfred Williams enlisted on the outbreak of war – on 15 August 1914 at Timaru. He was already serving with the 5th Mounted Field Ambulance. He was just twenty years old, a house painter residing at home in Timaru. Single and of Church of England allegiance, he nominated Fred Williams, 7 Jackson Street, Timaru, as next-of-kin; that is, his father. He stood at 5 feet 7 inches, weighed 126 pounds, and had a chest measurement of 33-35 inches. His complexion was fair, his eyes grey and his hair brown. Both his sight and hearing were normal, his colour vision good. His limbs and chest were well formed, his heart and lungs normal, and his teeth good. He was free of hernia, varicocele, varicose veins, haemorrhoids and inveterate or contagious skin disease; he had no slight defects. He was in good bodily and mental health. On 15 August 1914 he was posted as a bugler to the Ambulance Corps.

On 17 August 1914 as a member of the 6th Mounted Field Ambulance he left for the concentration camp at Christchurch, after a very enthusiastic send-off, being wished God speed and a safe return, and the playing of the National Anthem. Private Walter Wilfred Williams embarked with the Medical Body of the Main Body, departing from Wellington for Suez, Egypt, on 16 October 1914 per the “Maunganui”. After serving at sea, he reached Egypt on 4 December 1914.

Admitted to the M.F.A. Hospital at Zeitoun on 29 April 1915, he was discharged on 1 May and embarked for the Dardanelles on 12 May. He was transferred to duty at Anzac Cove on 3 August 1915. Four days later he was admitted to St David’s Hospital at Malta, with ear trouble. A few days after, he was admitted from the Hospital Ship “Salta”, suffering from Otitis Media. Private W. W. Williams of the Medical Corps was listed as slightly sick. After a few more days he was transferred to Mudros, experiencing 21% disability. On 11 September 1915 he was admitted to the First Southern General Hospital, at Birmingham, England. As of 29 January 1916, he was struck off strength and was to return to New Zealand (“Arawa”). Private W. W. Williams was invalided home from England by the “Arawa”, which was due at Wellington on 7 March. His father received advice to this effect in mid-February. The “Arawa” actually arrived on 15th and the second express from Christchurch on 17th brought Private Williams to Timaru. He was met by the Mayor and members of the Reception Committee. After being welcomed home, he was conveyed to his home in Jackson Street. Walter was suffering from sickness and also from the effects of concussion, his hearing being affected. His intended address was initially Timaru, but this was changed, firstly to H. Brothers, Frankton, and then to Major Whyte, Claudelands, Hamilton.

He was discharged on 3 July 1916, being no longer physically fit for War Service. For service in Egypt and at Gallipoli with the Mounted Field Ambulance, he was awarded the 1914-1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. Walter Wilfred Williams married May Blanche Brothers on 27 June 1918 at the Methodist Church, Hamilton. At this time, his occupation was masseur. In the 1920s Walter and May moved to Auckland and he went back to his trade as a painter and decorator. Walter Wilfred Williams died on 21 September 1967 at Auckland, aged 73 years. He was cremated at Purewa, his ashes being scattered. He bequeathed all his property, both real and personal, to his wife, May Blanche Williams, provided she survived him by one calendar month. He also appointed her sole executrix and trustee. Should his wife not have survived him, he appointed two friends as executors and beneficiaries. His Will had been drawn up in 1957. May did survive him, dying in January 1979. She was cremated, her ashes being interred at North Shore Memorial Park.

Walter’s father, Frederick Williams, died in 1933 and was buried with their older daughter, Florrie, who died at Timaru in 1915. When Mrs Cecilia Williams of Timaru signed her very precise Will in December 1937, a year before she was to die, she left her Timaru property to her eldest son, Frederick Harold Williams (Harold) absolutely. Harold had been away from New Zealand for many years and had served with the British forces in the war. The residue was to be bequeathed to her surviving children (except Harold) in equal shares, the share of any who had died go to lawful issue. Reginald was the only adult son to predecease Cecilia.

His brother, Reginald Eric Williams, also served with the New Zealand forces in World War One; while his eldest brother, Frederick Harold Williams known as Harold, who had been out of the country for many years, served with the Royal Engineers; and another brother, Edgar Harry Lewis Williams, initially joined the Navy before enlisting with the Connaught Rangers (Ireland). A list of ex-pupils of Alexandra District High School who enlisted in the Great War was published in November 1920. Among those listed were six Williams brothers – Walter and Reginald E. who served with the New Zealand forces, Harold who served with the British forces and Edgar with the Irish, and also Roland and Vincent for whom no service records have been found, but who may have served with other forces. Roland appears not to be in New Zealand in 1914 and 1919, while Vincent appears not to be here in 1919, being too young for the 1914 electoral roll. Cecil Bertie Williams, his second oldest brother, a foreman of works and a married man with a family, was listed in the Second Reserves.

Walter Williams wrote home several interesting, detailed, down-to-earth and insightful letters, excerpts being printed in the Timaru Herald.

[Timaru Herald, 9 February 1915] In December 1914 from Cairo he wrote: “Our mail has arrived [at Cairo] and all the boys look as happy as sandboys; in every tent they are all busy writing. We are all very well and happy and getting as hard as nails. Sergt Tait got the “Timaru Herald” and it was simply decent to see it again, the last couple of days it has been simply paradise for us. . . . . December 23rd. - We have been out on the march all day, the distance we covered was about 20 miles, and we never felt better than at the finish. It was a scorcher of a day and they set us a hot pace with only three spells for the distance; . . . . . This part of the town [old Cairo] is practically in ruins, and the sights we saw there were awful. The amount of disease, and sores covering half the face, were a sickening sight, whilst the filth and stink in the narrow streets is enough to make the strongest want to heave. However, we enjoyed the whole march and en route got a very good hearing. . . . . . To-night Colonel Thomas received a cablegram from Mrs Guinness wishing us Christmas greetings from all our families in Timaru; he sent one from the ambulance boys of Timaru the previous evening. I intended sending one to you at home, but thought it rather expensive, and the Colonel assured us that his cable would appear in both of the Timaru papers. We had a grand Christmas dinner. Our sergeants and sergeant-majors acted as waiters, one to each tent, and they treated us right royally; they also had in take orders from the private with the big crime sheet. . . . . I hope you have spent as happy a Christmas as we have. . . . . . At the pyramids yesterday one of the Lancashire artillery men fell from halfway up the big pyramid and was killed outright. . . . . . .”

[Timaru Herald, 21 June 1915] Writing again from Cairo, “Our boys made their landing at the Dardanelles all right, and got it hot if all reports are true. . . . . . We have also heard that the Canterbury infantry regiments were badly cut up, and that both Major Grant (of Timaru), and Colonel Stewart have been killed. Several ambulance trains have already arrived here with mostly Australian wounded, who have been sent to the various military hospitals in Cairo. . . . . . . This morning a memorial service was held in camp to those who fell in the Dardanelles’ actions. I suppose they will be doing likewise all over Australasia today. It will be both a sad and a proud time for you all there. I had a day in hospital last week from a touch of the sun, but am well and fit again. . . . . .” There follows comment on the Gaba Tepe fight and the casualties. “At this one hospital alone they have operated on over 600 already, the operating theatre being kept going day and night with relays of doctors and nurses. That is only minutes’ walk from where I am writing this. . . . . . May 5th — This will be my last letter from this camp as to-day orders came through that we leave here for the Dardanelles on Saturday or Sunday next, . . . . . . The wounded in the hospitals bring us tales of fearful atrocities perpetrated on their wounded comrades, many of those in hospital only escaping by feigning death ‘till all was quiet, and then getting away as best they could to a place of safety. . . . . . Do not be surprised if you do not hear from me for some little time, as we shall not have much time for writing I expect. I am very well and fit, and feel equal to the task we shall have to face in few days’ time. If the worst should happen to me 1 am sure you will not grieve unnecessarily, but be thankful that the family was well represented, and that one gave his life for the cause that I know if you were able you would willingly give yours for. Now do not worry, but try to be patient and cheerful ‘till again you hear from me.”

[Timaru Herald. 16 August 1915] “Private Williams, of the mounted field ambulance, writing on June 9th [1915] to his parents, of Jackson Street, Timaru, says: — Just a card to say all is well with us. We are again shifting to-day, where to we don't know. . . . . . We have seen great sights, and have travelled about a great deal since we left Egypt. My health has never been better, and you have no cause to worry about me. For the past week we have been aboard a Cunard liner bringing 1500 wounded; . . . . . Malta, June 12th. — We arrived here on the 9th, and will have to move on again any day. We are continually on the move, and have never yet been stationary at any one place for more than a few days at a time, . . . . So far we have not been in action, but have witnessed heavy bombardments, and have had the enemy’s rifle fire landing around us. There is very little I can tell you on account of the censorship. Malta is the cleanest and prettiest town I've ever been in, . . . . . . Everybody is well dressed, and it would be a hard job to find a girl who is not only well dressed but also good looking. . . . . . June l5th. — More wounded arrived here yesterday — a few New Zealanders among them. H.M.T. Massilia, Alexandra, June 21st. — Must write this on a succession of cards as it is impossible to obtain any paper aboard, and we can get absolutely no leave to go ashore. We left Malta on Tuesday, and arrived here two days ago, and to-morrow we leave again for the Dardanelles, though it is improbable that we shall land there. We were landed there three weeks ago, but were packed back again straight away, as they have at present all the ambulance they require. All told we have been at the Dardanelles four times. Our past duty has been taking on and attending wounded aboard various boats, and cruising round various small islands in the Dardanelles region. . . . . . One of our officers said the other day: “A pig would turn up its nose at the tucker you boys are getting”, but ‘nuf said. We are all fit and well, and suffering from nothing worse than empty stomachs.”


Auckland War Memorial Museum Cenotaph Database [20 March 2014]; NZ Defence Force Personnel Records (Archives NZ Ref. AABK 18805 W5557 0123058) [12 March 2014]; NZ BDM Indexes (Department of Internal Affairs) [06 May 2016]; School Admission record (Alexandra Branch NZSG); Press, 29 May 1871, 30 August 1915, 12 February 1916, Dunstan Times, 5 March 1886, 6 May 1887, 30 December 1887, 6 January 1888, 24 January 1890, 29 August 1890, 21 August 1896, 5 September 1910, Otago Daily Times, 1 March 1901, 23 August 1901, Evening Star, 4 March 1905, 21 December 1909, Alexandra Herald and Central Otago Gazette, 25 December 1902, 24 December 1904, 10 March 1909, 13 January 1909, 24 August 1910, 19 October 1910, 26 February 1913, 17 November 1920, Timaru Herald, 12 October 1912, 15 October 1913, 18 August 1914, 9 February 1915, 21 June 1915, 16 August 1915, 11 February 1916, 18 March 1916, 21 September 1918, New Zealand Herald, 15 June 1915, 12 February 1916, Dominion, 24 September 1915, Sun, 30 August 1915, 12 February 1916 (Papers Past) [20 March 2014; 14, 16 & 30 August 2014; 02 September 2014; 05 April 2015; 23 November 2015; 22 April 2016; 03 & 06 May 2016; 07 February 2017; 29 May 2017; 04 March 2021; 01 & 03 April 2021; 04 January 2022]; Purewa Cremation record (online; South Canterbury Branch NZSG microfiche collection) [05 September 2014]; Timaru Technical School Admission and Withdrawal rolls (SCRoll website submission from J James, Mountainview High School, 23 March 2015); 1861 England census return ( [27 April 2021]; NZ Electoral Rolls (; Probate record (Archives NZ Archway) [06 January 2021]

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