Courtesy of Margaret Richards
Gunner Walter Charles Gribble
Pakenham & District War Memorial & Pakenham South War Memorial
Born: 10 December 1891 - Northampton, Northamptonshire England
Enlisted: 9 February 1917 aged 25
Unit: Field Artillery Brigade, 27th Reinforcement (SERN: 34967)
Served: Western Front
Died: 19 May 1966 - Pakenham, Victoria
Also known as “Wally”, Walter was born in England, the son of James Gribble, a shoe maker in Northampton and his wife Selina (sometimes written “Sabina”). Wally was baptised at St Edmund’s Northampton on 30 December 1891 (1). According to the 1911 Census of England and Wales, Wally was a boot cutter living in Kettering Northamptonshire (2). He migrated to Australia in 1912 at the age of 21, obtaining a job as a farm hand on Harry Worship’s property in Pakenham South (3). Prior to WWI, Wally was active in the Pakenham South tennis club. Indeed, Wally later became regarded as “one of the best tennis players the district has known” (4). Wally was perhaps also something of a singer, as he had the honour of singing “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save the King” at a local patriotic function held in August 1915 (5).
Wally enlisted for service with the AIF in February 1917, aged 25. He had previously been exempted from military service (6). He was assigned to the 27th Field Artillery Reinforcements as a gunner (7). A special social and presentation was held for him at Pakenham South, arranged by Mr and Mrs Arbuthnott. At this, Wally was presented with “a useful token” of the community’s regard for him. Wally gave an “amusing speech” in reply, while Mr Arbuthnott: “gave an eloquent and stirring speech, exhorting our young men to do their duty to their Flag and Country, and his interesting words were listened to with rapt attention. The proceedings closed with the singing of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ after which Mr and Mrs Arbuthnott served refreshments” (8).
Wally departed Australia in November 1917 on the HMAT Port Sydney, travelling to England via Egypt and Italy. After training in England, he arrived in France in July 1918. There, he was taken on strength with the 13th Field Artillery Brigade and posted to Brigade Headquarters. By this time, the AIF was in the thick of the action on the Western Front, pushing the Germans back to their defensive “Hindenburg Line”. Interestingly, in October, Wally, who always had a very forthright character, was found (presumably by the censor?) to have written a letter critical of a superior officer and was subsequently required to forfeit 21 days pay (9). Following the end of the War, Wally was given some leave in England in February 1919, when he perhaps visited family and friends back in Northampton. He then spent a couple more months with his unit in France, before returning to Australia via England. In late August 1919, it was reported in the local press that several soldiers were to shortly return home, including Tom Maher, Jack Fennell, Gar Stevens, Walter Gribble and one of the Black brothers from Pakenham Upper (10). He was discharged from the Army in Melbourne on 25 September 1919 (11). With a number of other local soldiers, Wally was formally welcomed home to Pakenham South in November 1919 at a large social attended by 180 people. At this, he was presented with a special gold medallion commemorating his war service (12).
In 1920, Wally married Alexandra Annie May (“May”) Huckson, a sister of Edgar Huckson, another of Pakenham’s WWI Diggers. Meanwhile, in October 1919, he had applied for a 200 acre block of land at Pakenham under the Soldiers’ Settlement Scheme. He intended to use the land for dairying. Wally took possession of the farm in July 1920, but soon found it was prone to flooding, which made much of it next to useless in winter without proper drainage. Wally, May and their family moved to Pakenham East in 1930 where they went in for poultry farming (12). Wally surrendered the lease on the Pakenham South farm the following year (13). On 9 October 1939, just over a month after the outbreak of WWII, Wally enlisted again, serving as a staff sergeant (V81168) in the 3rd Military District (Victoria) until February 1944 (14). During this time, Wally served with the Australian Army Service Corps at a food distribution centre. May Gribble was pregnant when Wally enlisted again, and when she went into labour, walked from the family home in James St to the Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital to give birth to their youngest child, Margaret (15). Wally and May’s son Rae later enlisted for WWII also (VX60238) raising his age to do so (16). Wally came home in January 1944 to help fight the bushfires which threatened to destroy Pakenham (17).
After the War, Wally worked for Berwick Shire Council (18). Apparently, he was assigned to road work. He loved it when that took him down to Pakenham South: Wally sometimes would have up to five morning teas there as old friends always invited him in for a “quick cuppa and a chat”! Wally was active in the local RSL. He was also a keen gardener and “noted horticulturalist”, having “considerable success at district shows” (19). Wally died suddenly at the Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital on 19 May 1966. He had undergone an operation and appeared to be recovering well but suddenly collapsed and died (20). In his obituary, the Pakenham Gazette said of Wally: “As a man, Wally Gribble was one of the best - always cheery and helpful, with a high sense of all that is best in life. He was one whom many were proud to call a friend and he will be sadly missed” (21).
The assistance of Wally’s daughter Margaret Richards and grandson Craig Fedderson is gratefully acknowledged.
(1) Ancestry.com.au - Northampton, St Edmund, Parish Register 1891 - 1896
(2) Ancestry.com.au - 1911 England Census
(3) (4) (10) (18) (19) & (21) PG 27/5/1966, p. 14
(5) SBMJ 2/9/1915, p. 3
(6) DA 23/11/1916, p. 2
(7) (9) & (11) NAA B2455 GRIBBLE W C
(8) SBMJ 5/4/1917, p. 2
(10) PG 29/8/1919 p. 2
(12) PG 21/11/1919 p. 2
(13) PROV VPS 5714/P0 Unit 859 File 802/12
(14) WWII nominal roll: www.ww2roll.gov.au
(15) (16) & (17) Information provided by Margaret Richards
(20) PG 20/5/1966, p. 1