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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Alderman, Walter William (1874–1935)

by Neil Gow

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

Walter William Alderman (1874-1935), soldier, was born on 17 February 1874 at Hobart Town, son of William Alderman, railway overseer, and his wife Eliza Miller, née Laurence. When he was 6 the family had moved to Melbourne where he was educated privately—probably by his father, an Englishman fluent in seven languages. He became a picture-framer by trade and in 1892 joined a militia unit, the 2nd Victorian Regiment, as a private. In March 1901 he joined the Australian Military Forces and was appointed to the instructional staff. He was a sergeant when he married Rose May Turner at East Melbourne on 16 March 1905. He was commissioned lieutenant in July 1910.

In November 1913 Alderman went to Auckland for exchange duty with the New Zealand Military Forces. His promotion to captain came in July 1914, and when war broke out he joined the New Zealand Expeditionary Force as adjutant of the 1st Auckland Battalion. His unit sailed with the first Australian convoy, and Alderman was wounded at the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April 1915. He rejoined his battalion in August, was promoted major and was in charge of one of the last detachments to leave Anzac Beach on 20 December. For his services in the Gallipoli campaign he was appointed C.M.G. in June 1916.

On the Western Front Alderman, now lieutenant-colonel, was given command of the newly formed 2nd Auckland Battalion which went into the Armentières sector in mid-May 1916. He remained in command during intensive trench warfare until late June when he was evacuated in ill health. In July he was mentioned in dispatches. He spent a year in England, briefly serving at New Zealand headquarters and then commanding and training the reserve battalions. He returned in August 1917 to the 1st Auckland Battalion and led it throughout the third Ypres offensive, then headed a school for non-commissioned officers. In March 1918 he commanded his battalion in the Somme region, later acted as brigade commander, and took part in the final Allied offensive in the Amiens-Hazebrouck area. That year he was twice mentioned in dispatches and in December was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

Alderman's service with the New Zealanders ended on 10 February 1919. He was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the Australian Imperial Force, returned to Australia in June, was discharged in July, and resumed general instructional duties with the Australian Military Forces, quickly regaining his wartime rank. He served in various staff appointments in Hobart, becoming district base commandant in 1923, and was then transferred to Sydney as assistant adjutant and quartermaster general. His final appointment was to Brisbane where he served as a general staff officer, 11th Mixed Brigade, from 1928 until his retirement on 17 February 1934 with the rank of honorary colonel.

Survived by his wife, two daughters and a son, Alderman died of cancer at his Auchenflower home on 24 December 1935 and was cremated. A man of considerable personal charm but a strict disciplinarian when it came to training soldiers, he had excelled at instructional work. The historian of the Auckland Regiment commented on his 'genius for organization' and considered him 'unmatched in the N.Z.E.F.' as a training officer.

Select Bibliography

  • F. Waite, The New Zealanders at Gallipoli (Wellington, New Zealand, 1921)
  • H. Stewart, The New Zealand Division, 1916-1919 (Well, 1921)
  • S. S. Allen, 2/Auckland, 1918 (Auckland, 1922)
  • O. E. Burton, The Auckland Regiment (Well, 1922)
  • London Gazette, 3 June, 11 July 1916, 28 May, 27, 31 Dec 1918
  • Reveille (Sydney), Dec 1932, Oct 1936
  • Mercury (Hobart), 3 June 1916
  • Brisbane Courier, 26 Dec 1935
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 26 Dec 1935.

Citation details

Neil Gow, 'Alderman, Walter William (1874–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 31 October 2020.

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

View the front pages for Volume 7

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