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Walter Henry Boxer (1893–1927)

by G. R. Vazenry

This article was published:

Walter Henry Boxer (1893-1927), soldier, labourer and clerk, was born on 30 March 1893 at Violet Creek near Hamilton, Victoria, eleventh child of John Boxer, boundary rider, and his wife Maria, née Beaton. He was educated at Wannon State School and the Ballarat School of Mines where he obtained his intermediate certificate.

Until World War I Boxer worked in the Wannon district as a labourer and rabbit-trapper. Concealing the fact that he was an asthmatic, he enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 22 February 1916 and embarked for Egypt with reinforcements for the 57th Battalion. Transferred to the 58th Battalion on 1 September, he sailed for France three weeks later as a stretcher-bearer. He joined his unit at Fleurbaix, then moved to the Somme where, in the winter of 1916-17, the 5th Division held the line around Flers and Gueudecourt. His battalion took part in a raid on Barley Trench, near Warlencourt, on 25 February 1917 and Boxer was severely wounded in the left arm. Evacuated to England, he resumed duty next June and in September served in the battle of Polygon Wood. He was wounded again at Passchendaele on 16 October when the Germans bombarded the valleys behind the lines with shells and mustard gas; he remained on duty and on 5 November was promoted lance corporal.

In the early months of 1918 the 58th Battalion served in the Messines-Wytschaete sector, then returned to the Somme where the Germans had launched their spring offensive. Boxer was awarded the Military Medal for devotion to duty at Aubigny in May and gained a Bar to his medal for gallantry at Ville-sur-Ancre two months later. On the night of 20 June he was slightly wounded in a raid on a trench in the Morlancourt sector. His brigade advanced from Villers-Bretonneux for the decisive battle of 8 August and in the next major engagement, the battle of Péronne, he won the Distinguished Conduct Medal for conspicuous gallantry on 2 September. Under a heavy barrage of high explosive and gas he brought two men to the dressing-station, then went back through the barrage four times and carried more men from the outpost line before being severely wounded by shrapnel. He was evacuated to England and on 13 December was invalided to Australia, where he spent a further eight months in hospital.

After discharge Boxer worked in Melbourne as a clerk and began an accountancy course. He married Isobel Willis on 28 April 1923 at the Presbyterian Manse, Armadale. Survived by his wife and his three-year-old son, he died of tuberculosis at the Repatriation Hospital, Caulfield, on 16 June 1927 and was buried in Kew cemetery with full military honours.

Select Bibliography

  • A. D. Ellis, The Story of the Fifth Australian Division (Lond, 1920)
  • C. E. W. Bean, The A.I.F. in France, 1916-18 (Syd, 1929, 1933, 1937, 1942)
  • London Gazette, 13 Sept, 21 Oct 1918, 18 Feb 1919
  • Argus (Melbourne), 17 June 1927
  • War Diary of the 58th Battalion, A.I.F. (Australian War Memorial)
  • private information.

Citation details

G. R. Vazenry, 'Boxer, Walter Henry (1893–1927)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

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