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Belt, Francis Walter (1862–1938)

by Robert Hyslop

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

Francis Walter Belt (1862-1938), naval commander and lawyer, was born on 30 April 1862 at Adelaide, fourth son of William Charles Belt, barrister, and his wife Penelope Avice Anne, née Woolrych. His English-born parents had migrated to South Australia in 1851. Belt was educated at the Collegiate School of St Peter and, after matriculating in 1878, commenced articles of clerkship with his father's firm; he was admitted as a barrister and solicitor in October 1884.

From 1884 Belt frequently travelled in Europe, Asia and America and, like his father, became a skilful big-game hunter. On returning from overseas in 1894, he accompanied the W. A. Horn scientific expedition to Central Australia and according to Horn, his brother-in-law, made a useful contribution as a collector and taxidermist. Charles Winnecke, the second-in-command, named Mounts Francis, Edward and William in the MacDonnell Ranges after Belt and his brothers. He resumed legal practice and on his father's death in February 1899 took over the firm in partnership with his brother William. Later that year he went hunting big-game in South Africa and had no sooner returned home when the South African War broke out. Enlisting as a trooper in the 2nd South Australian (Mounted Rifles) contingent, he sailed in January 1900 and saw action at the relief of Prieska, the advances on Johannesburg and Pretoria, and the battle of Diamond Hill; he later served in the Transvaal until March 1901.

In 1908 William Belt died and the firm passed to Francis, who remained in practice until shortly before World War I. On 22 December 1914 he joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Service in England as a lieutenant, next July became a lieutenant-commander in the Royal Naval Division, and until late 1917 served with various naval armoured-car squadrons in Belgium, Russia, Romania and Galicia. In this period he led an expedition into Persia 'in trying circumstances with conspicuous success'; he was later second-in-command of a squadron throughout the Dobrodja and Romanian operations. During this campaign he was wounded and on 11 November 1917, then an acting commander, was awarded the Distinguished Service Order; he was also awarded the Russian orders of St Anne and St Stanislaus. In 1918 he was sent to the United States of America for special naval service.

After the war Belt visited Adelaide, wound up his practice and returned to England. On 3 July 1915 he had married Violet Mary Selina Lucas-Shadwell at St George's Church, Hanover Square, London; they settled at Mill Court, near Alton in Hampshire. There Belt lived the leisurely life of a country gentleman, spending winters at his villa at Toulon, France. A contemporary described him as 'charming, accomplished, cultured and elegant'; his interests ranged from big-game hunting, carriage-driving and horse-breeding to collecting embroideries and fine china. His wife died in 1927 and three years later he married her friend Marie-Thérèse Bricard. She survived him when he died at Montreux, Switzerland, on 21 August 1938. His estate was sworn for probate at £56,029 in England and £98,723 in South Australia.

Select Bibliography

  • C. Winnecke, Journal of the Horn Scientific Exploring Expedition, 1894 (Adel, 1897)
  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingent to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1912)
  • J. M. Brown, ‘The Almonds’ of Walkerville (Adel, 1970)
  • London Gazette, 30 Nov 1917
  • Reveille (Sydney), 1 Dec 1938
  • Observer (Adelaide), 27 Sept 1851, 18 Feb 1899, 12 Mar 1927
  • Collegiate School of St Peter records (Adelaide).

Citation details

Robert Hyslop, 'Belt, Francis Walter (1862–1938)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/belt-francis-walter-5199/text8747, published in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 24 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (MUP), 1979

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