Wally’s big right arm pulled the man’s head hard onto where his left fist should have been. The offender’s nose gave a crack heard by all those in the beachside Mordialloc picture theatre. This week is the centenary of the start of Wally’s service to standing up for your beliefs.
Wally Turner was a powerful young man. A potent 12 stone and 5’11”, the 23-year-old was a boxing champion among the tough timber camps of Tasmania. He had a build welcomed by any combat battalion in the First World War. Instead he chose to serve his mates, king, and country, as a stretcher bearer. No fighting or shooting there. On 13 September 1915, one hundred years ago this Sunday, he landed at Gallipoli beginning a remarkable journey of loyalty under fire.
One year later in the trenches of France, the boxer who didn’t want to fight won a Distinguished Conduct Medal. That’s second only to the Victoria Cross. With bullets flying and artillery shells exploding around him, Private Turner carried in double his share of wounded. He cleared an area an amazing 1000 yards beyond his normal limit. His physical and mental strength was phenomenal.
Just months later, Wally was promoted from private to his officer’s commission at Cambridge University. There he won a silver cup as boxing champion. He chose to lead the battalion made up of the same men he had carried to safety.
On 13 September 1917, exactly two years after landing at Gallipoli, Wally prepared to lead his men over the top on the road to St Quentin. As he raised his arm, it was savagely cut down by machine gun fire.
“Too many good men have given their lives for the likes of you,” Wally said to the man who wouldn’t stand for the national anthem. The man’s nose was shattered by the stump of the missing left arm. Wally passed away in 1949 not long after the commotion in the theatre. His legacy of standing for his convictions remains in his descendants today.
You can read Wally’s story in my new book due at the end of this year. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest and receive a discount voucher when the book is released.