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Tunbridge, Walter Howard (1856–1943)

by Charles Glyn-Daniel

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Walter Howard Tunbridge (1856-1943), architect and soldier, was born on 2 November 1856 at Dover, Kent, England, son of John Nicholas Tunbridge, bricklayer, and his wife Ann, née Denne. Educated at Eythorne, Walter arrived in Australia as an assisted immigrant in 1884 and established an architectural practice at Townsville, Queensland, later that decade. By 1902 the firm Tunbridge & Tunbridge, civil engineers, architects and surveyors, was prominent in North Queensland.

Commissioned in the Mounted Infantry, Queensland Land Forces, in February 1889, Tunbridge was promoted lieutenant in December. His unit was called out to protect non-union labourers during the 1891 shearers' strike and in June 1892 he was promoted captain. Transferring to the Queensland Artillery (Townsville) Garrison Battery with the rank of major in November 1898, he left for South Africa on 1 March 1900 in command of the 3rd (Queensland) Mounted Infantry Contingent. After operations in Rhodesia in April and May, his unit moved to the Transvaal in July and saw action at Elands River and Rhenoster Kop. Early in 1901 it served in the Cape and Orange River colonies. For his services, Tunbridge was appointed C.B., mentioned in dispatches, awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps and made brevet lieutenant-colonel. Returning home, he rejoined his artillery unit and was aide-de-camp to the governor-general (1902-09).

Following his marriage on 7 April 1904 to Leila Emily Brown at All Saints Anglican Church, Brisbane, Tunbridge established a branch of his firm in Melbourne; he practised there until 3 August 1914 when he became censor for the 3rd Military District. Next week he was deputy chief censor and on 17 August was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Imperial Force. Certain line of communications units were required and Tunbridge was given command of the 1st Australian Division Ammunition Park (Mechanical Transport) and commissioned to raise its six officers and 468 men. A supply column was also formed under Lieutenant-Colonel A. Moon. With limited understanding of the use of mechanical transport in the supply services of the Armed Forces, Tunbridge was guided by an article in the New Zealand Military Journal: he inspected and purchased about 200 vehicles, and provided the required workshops and accessories.

He arrived in England with the two units on 15 February 1915. Due to a lack of spare parts, his varied collection of lorries (some of them German) was replaced by standard British models, but his mobile workshops were admired for their ingenuity and retained. Renumbered as part of the British Army (300th and 301st Mechanical Transport Companies, A.S.C., A.A.S.C.), the units were sent to France in July. On 1 August Tunbridge assumed command of a reorganized British V Corps Ammunition Park; the 8th (301st) Company became the 17th Divisional Ammunition Sub-park and the 9th (300th) the division's supply column. With the support of Lieutenant-General Allenby, V Corps commander, Tunbridge used his spare men and vehicles to form a second sub-park which was attached to the 23rd Division.

Remaining with V Corps mainly in the Ypres Salient until the Australian divisions arrived in France, Tunbridge became commanding officer of 1 Anzac Corps Ammunition Park on 25 April 1916. After the battle of the Somme he arranged for the publication of the Rising Sun to help cheer the men facing winter on the front. On the reorganization of supply columns and ammunition parks in January 1917, he was appointed senior mechanical transport officer of 1 Anzac Corps; at the height of the 3rd battle of Ypres in September, his responsibilities were extended to incorporate the whole of the A.I.F. in France.

Promoted colonel on 1 June 1918, Tunbridge transferred to the retired list in January 1920 and returned home; his A.I.F. appointment ended in June. He had worked outstandingly under intense pressure from bad weather, mechanical breakdowns and desperate calls for supplies from the front line. Mentioned in dispatches five times, he was appointed C.M.G. (1917) and C.B.E. (1919), and made a brevet colonel in the Australian Military Forces. He resumed his career as an architect in Melbourne and retired in the mid-1930s. Survived by his wife, son and two daughters, he died at his Hawthorn home on 11 October 1943 and was buried in Box Hill cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Defence Department, Official Records of the Australian Military Contingents to the War in South Africa, P. L. Murray ed (Melb, 1911)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 16, 19 Apr 1901, 31 Dec 1915, 13 June 1916, 1 June, 25, 28 Dec 1917, 3 June, 11 July 1919
  • Argus (Melbourne), 14 Oct 1943
  • card index: personnel, AIF, 1914-18 (Australian War Memorial).

Citation details

Charles Glyn-Daniel, 'Tunbridge, Walter Howard (1856–1943)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/tunbridge-walter-howard-8876/text15587, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 26 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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