Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Hurtle Frank Walker (1890–1975)

by Eric Sparke

This article was published:

Hurtle Frank Walker (1890-1975), champagne maker and artilleryman, was born on 5 October 1890 at Magill, near Adelaide, one of five children of John Walker, labourer, and his New Zealand-born wife Henrietta, née Ward. His lifetime association with the South Australian wine industry began at the age of 10 when he obtained exemption from Magill Public School to pick grapes. Setting off at dawn on the long walk to the vineyards, with his lunch and a bottle of cold tea in a sugar bag slung over his shoulder, the schoolboy worked a back-breaking, eleven-hour day for 7s. 6d. a week.

At 14 Walker left school to take a job as an errand-boy with Auldana Winery. His duties ranged from escorting the manager's son to school and loading casks of claret on to bullock-waggons to picking olives and working in the wine cellars 'at anything that was going'. As he grew into a tall, sinewy, curly-haired young man, he mastered the fundamentals of the industry so thoroughly that at 21 he was placed in charge of the sparkling-wine cellars. A good athlete (at school he was the only boy able to scale the flagpole), Walker played representative football and tennis and won trophies for long-distance cycling. On 7 September 1915 he enlisted as a private in the Australian Imperial Force; he embarked from Melbourne on 5 January 1916 with the 2nd Reinforcements for the 6th Field Artillery Brigade.

In France Walker served with several artillery formations before joining the 6th Brigade at Belley-sur-Somme on 19 July. He remained with the unit until the war ended, by which time he had been gassed and twice wounded; he had also risen to the rank of sergeant major and become, in the words of the unit war diary, 'the most decorated non-commissioned officer of the Brigade'. His courage and stamina in handling horses, limbers and heavy ordnance amid carnage earned him the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal and Bar.

The D.C.M. had been won in June 1917 at Messines, Belgium, where—under shell-fire and with ammunition exploding—Walker displayed 'the greatest gallantry and initiative' in assisting his battery commander to save the guns and ammunition from a fire. At Hooge, Belgium, in October he gained the M.M. to which a Bar was added for his actions on 18 September 1918 near Le Verguier, France, when shells hit a field artillery team, wounding or killing four horses and pinning the driver beneath the wagon. While a bombardment of high explosive and gas shells continued, Walker extricated the driver and released the surviving horses.

Invalided back to Australia in 1919, he spent six months in a military hospital before returning to the wine industry and helping to establish the Romalo cellars of Australian Wines Pty Ltd. In 1926 he was appointed manager of the company, a position he held until his retirement. On 25 July 1923 at St Paul's Church, Adelaide, he had married Ellen Eliza Grattan of Elliston, South Australia. They were to have two children. A brave and energetic man, with a record of achievement in both the technical and business sides of winemaking, Walker died at Norwood on 23 August 1975, survived by his daughter and son.

Select Bibliography

  • London Gazette, 14 Aug 1917, 1 Feb 1918, 17 June 1919
  • Advertiser (Adelaide), 25 Aug 1975
  • war diary, 6th Field Artillery Brigade, AIF (Australian War Memorial)
  • Jack Ludbrook & Associates, Hurtle Walker of Romalo (typescript, c1965, privately held)
  • private information.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

Eric Sparke, 'Walker, Hurtle Frank (1890–1975)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 18 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (Melbourne University Press), 1990

View the front pages for Volume 12

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


5 October, 1890
Magill, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia


23 August, 1975 (aged 84)
Norwood, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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