My Great Uncle Walter Holliday

Walter Holliday was born on 23 December 1891, at home, in Schwanfelder Place, Beeston, Leeds in Yorkshire, England; the eighth of nine children born to William and Mary Ann (nee Ward) Holliday.  He was my paternal grandmother’s younger brother.

At the age of 21, he decided to leave England and come and live with my grandparents in Rockhampton, Queensland. He left London on 25 April 1913 on board the “Otway”, bound – he thought, for a better life.

Although he was a little more than 6 years older than my father, dad always told me that Uncle Walter was more like an older brother, rather than an uncle, and they were very close and always great mates.

After the outbreak of the First World War, on 2 October 1915, Walter joined the Australian Imperial Force – 15th reinforcements – 9th Battalion.  Uncle Walter was a pacifist, so he became a stretcher bearer on the Western Front, rescuing wounded soldiers from the field of battle.


Walter Holliday’s service record from the National Archives of Australia


On 22 October 1917, at Ypres, while rescuing a wounded soldier from the trenches, they were caught by a German shell.  The other stretcher bearer and the wounded soldier were killed, and Walter sustained serious injuries.

According to his Military Service Record, they were able to remove shrapnel from his chest in a field hospital, but on the same day, his right leg was amputated below the knee.  On 26 October 1917, a further part of his leg was re-amputated at the general field hospital in Boulogne, Belgium.

In December 1917, he was shipped back to England to recuperate.  Once recovered enough, he went to visit his mother in Beeston.  While there, he met his future wife, Elsie Mabel Morris, whose parents lived only a few doors away in the same street.

Walter and Elsie married on 12 April 1920 in the family parish church, St Mary’s Beeston.  The only child to the marriage, Elsie Mary Holliday, was born on 30 April 1921.  Elsie went on to marry Jack Hill in 1940 and had six children.


Elsie Mary, Walter & Elsie Mabel Holliday



Elsie & Walter Holliday with daughter, Elsie


In 1952, Walter and Elsie decided they were going to migrate to Australia.  They left London on 20 March1952, on the “Oronsay”, bound for family in Rockhampton.  Aunty Elsie found the tropical climate of Rockhampton too much, and after only 18 months they returned to England, arriving in London on 12 October 1953, on board the “Orcades”.


Four generations of women:
Elsie Mary Hill, Elsie Mabel Holliday holding Andrea French, and Patricia Muirhead


Walter & Elsie with two of their great grandchildren


They never returned to Australia.  Uncle Walter died at 77 years of age, at home, on 15 May 1969.

Aunty Elsie died on 3 March 2005, her 104th birthday, in a nursing home in Idle in Bradford, England.


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