Junee man Bill Walster died a ‘great Australian’

William (Bill) Davison Walster was born at Junee on January 7, 1896, to Arthur (Senior) and Margaret Walster.

His father was a founding partner in the well-known Junee business Cohoe and Walster, later the Pioneer Foundry of A J Walster & Son.

He was educated at Junee Superior Public School and later at Wagga Experimental Farm.

Bill Walster joined the Australian Cadets while at school and as a fifteen years old, was a Senior Cadet, one of two Cadets who represented Junee at the London coronation of King George V, held on 22nd June,1911.

The Australian War Memorial holds a tunic, jacket and other items worn by Bill during that time.

At the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914, Bill rushed to enlist in the AIF and was accepted, but because he was well under age, he was unable to get his father’s permission.

He eventually enlisted on July 31, 1915, was allocated Service No. 3464 and was posted to the 11th Reinforcements, 4th Battalion. His occupation was given as an orchardist.

After brief training, his unit embarked at Sydney on HMAT A 17 “Port Lincoln” on 13th October, bound for Egypt.

Training continued in Egypt and on 16th February, 1916, Bill was transferred to the 53rd Battalion at Tel-el-Kebir.

This unit was one of a number being formed in Egypt incorporating some experienced officers and men from units which had been evacuated, badly decimated,  from Gallipoli in December and which were being reformed and trained.

It would take time to form and properly train battalions which had been formed with only a small nucleus of experience to provide the many battalions required by Britain in France.

Accordingly, Bill Walster, being impatient for action, managed a transfer to the Field Artillery and on 17th March, was taken on strength of the 25th Howitzer Brigade (115 Howitzer Battery).

Gunner Walster arrived in Marseilles, France on June 25, 1916 and on July 3, was posted to 114 Howitzer Battery (14 Artillery Brigade) with which he remained until the end of the War.

The Battery served at various places on the Western Front including Ypres and Passchendaele, at times being withdrawn for rest periods and leave which Bill usually took in England where he had numerous relatives.

While awaiting return to Australia at Codford Camp, Gunner Walster was absent without leave between March 5 and March 10, 1919. His penalty was to forfeit 10 days pay on top of the 5 days pay lost by his absence.

His absence might have had something to do with him courting his future wife who later came out to Australia and married him.

Bill Walster returned to Australia on the transport “Wyreema” on April 14, 1919 and was discharged on July 26.

He served again in World War 2 between May, 1942 and December, 1943 with 17 Battalion, Volunteer Defence Corps.

On his return to civilian life at Junee in 1919, Bill resumed his orchard development, clearing the balance of “Jesmond” on the outskirts of town on Bullocky Hill and planting grape vines, fruit and nut trees.

While he worked in his orchard during the day, he made concrete bricks for his house in the evenings, setting a daily quota.

He was assisted in this by his brother Arthur after he finished his work at the Pioneer Foundry and built a house where he lived for the rest of his life and, with his English wife Margaret (Peg), raised three children and shared many happy times with his grand children and numerous visitors.

Bill Walster produced table grapes and dried sultanas, apples, nuts such as almonds, stone fruits and a major prune growing and drying enterprise and later, eggs at “Jesmond” and continued, on a reduced scale, until his death in 1971.

Many Junee boys of the 1940/1950’s and possibly earlier, including the writer, will recall hot February afternoons after school, filling kerosene tins with fallen prune-plums, ready to be processed into dried prunes.

Bill Walster was active in the Junee RSL Sub-branch and the Junee Bowling Club.

He was a poet with a well known sense of humour and wrote under the nom de plume “Mug Gunner”.

He took the writer to, as a young teenager, my first Anzac Day Dawn Service. Vivid memories remain of shared families’ bonfires (Empire Day) and the immense pleasure Bill Walster experienced with crackers, the bigger the better. His wartime experiences with big guns did not deter him or us from having our fun on Cracker Night”.

William (Bill) Davison Walster passed away at Junee on December 11, 1971, a great Australian.


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