A century on from the end of World War I we acknowledge their service …
Lest we forget.
Gunner Walter Charles Gribble
Born: 10 December 1891 – Northampton. Died: 19 May 1966 Pakenham.
Enlisted: 9 February 1917 aged 25
Served: Western Front
Wally Gribble migrated to Australia in 1912 at 21, obtaining a job as a farm hand on Harry Worship’s property in Pakenham South. Hey was active in the Pakenham South Tennis Club and later became regarded as “one of the best tennis players the district has known”. Wally was perhaps also something of a singer, as he had the honour of singing “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save the King” at a local patriotic function held in August 1915.
Wally enlisted for service with the AIF in February 1917, aged 25. A special social and presentation was held for him at Pakenham South, arranged by Mr and Mrs Arbuthnott. At this, Wally was presented with “a useful token” of the community’s regard for him. Wally gave an “amusing speech” in reply, while Mr Arbuthnott “gave an eloquent and stirring speech, exhorting our young men to do their duty to their Flag and Country, and his interesting words were listened to with rapt attention. The proceedings closed with the singing of ‘For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow’ after which Mr and Mrs Arbuthnott served refreshments”.
Wally departed Australia in November 1917 and was taken on strength with the 13th Field Artillery Brigade and posted to Brigade Headquarters. By this time, the AIF was in the thick of the action on the Western Front, pushing the Germans back to their defensive “Hindenburg Line”. Interestingly, in October, Wally, who always had a very forthright character, was found (presumably by the censor?) to have written a letter critical of a superior officer and was subsequently required to forfeit 21 days pay.
With a number of other local soldiers, Wally was formally welcomed home to Pakenham South in November 1919 at a large social attended by 180 people.
In 1920, Wally married May Huckson, a sister of Edgar Huckson, another of Pakenham’s WWI Diggers. He was given 200 acre block of land at Pakenham under the Soldiers’ Settlement Scheme intended for dairying, but he soon found it was prone to flooding, which made much of it next to useless in winter without proper drainage. Wally, May and their family moved to Pakenham East in 1930 where they went in for poultry farming.
On 9 October 1939, just over a month after the outbreak of WWII, Wally enlisted again, serving as a staff sergeant. During this time, Wally served with the Australian Army Service Corps at a food distribution centre. May Gribble was pregnant when Wally enlisted again, and when she went into labour, walked from the family home in James Street to the Pakenham Bush Nursing Hospital to give birth to their youngest child, Margaret.
Wally and May’s son Rae later enlisted for WWII also raising his age to do so. Wally came home in January 1944 to help fight the bushfires which threatened to destroy Pakenham.
After the War, Wally worked for Berwick Shire Council. Apparently, he was assigned to road work. He loved it when that took him down to Pakenham South: Wally sometimes would have up to five morning teas there as old friends always invited him in for a “quick cuppa and a chat”! Wally was active in the local RSL. He was also a keen gardener and “noted horticulturalist”, having “considerable success at district shows”.
This is an extract from Patrick Ferry’s book A Century After The Guns Fell Silent – Remembering the Pakenham District’s WWI Diggers 1914-18.
For more details on this and other profiles in the book, head to the website www.pakenhamww1.com