World War I Honours and Awards Website

Captain E Lloyd Davies MC - Buckingham Palace   

Award at Buckingham Palace

Walter Hubert DOWNING MM


Date of birth10 December 1893
PlacePortland, Victoria, Australia
ParentsJohn and Cecilia (nee Hopkins) Downing 
Date of death30 October 1965
PlaceHeidelberg, Victoria, Australia
Scotch Year(s)1907 to 1911

Service record and post-war life

Walter was a 21-year-old law student at Melbourne University when he enlisted on 30 September 1915. He had earlier been rejected six times (!) on the grounds of inadequate chest measurement. His height of 5 feet 3 ¼ inches (162 cm) would not have allowed him to enlist before June 1915 when the minimum was lowered from 5 feet 6 inches to 5 feet 2. The Scotch Collegian noted that he was accepted after ‘having undergone a course of physical development.’ After three months in a depot at Bendigo he was allotted to reinforcements to the 7th Battalion. He arrived in Egypt on 28 February 1916.

On 1 April 1916 Walter joined the newly-formed 57th Battalion. Two days later he was hospitalised with an elbow injury. not rejoining his unit until 17 May. He fought at Fromelles and on 21 July 1916, the day after that calamitous battle, was made a Lance-Corporal. The following month he was promoted to Corporal.

A letter he wrote in 1916 was reproduced in The Scotch Collegian. In it he mentioned the recent deaths of several Old Boys in his brigade: Ernie Forsyth, Martyn Davies and Graham Cox. ‘There is no one whom we regret more than these men,’ he wrote, ‘and none whom the forces could spare less. They were popular everywhere they went, and all of them won and held the liking and respect of all ranks. As always, death took our very best, and the Old Boys here, as well as many others, feel their loss keenly.’ He spoke of Graham ‘Ned’ Cox, who had spent much time with him in the army, dying instantaneously but being thus spared ‘the pain of which we have seen so much’. He mentioned several other Old Boys in his battalion: Lieutenants Jack Laing, Les Elliott and J. Snowball. ‘Bill Turner and Tommy Hall were in “our little affair” of 19th July [Fromelles], he continued, but in another Brigade. We have all had a rough time lately.’

Walter was appointed Lance-Sergeant in April 1917. In May he was sick in hospital for a week with tracheitis. On 31 October he received the Military Medal. The recommendation praised his ‘excellent work’ east of Glencorse Wood, near Ypres, on 25-27 September 1917. When the Company Sergeant-Major and platoon Sergeant became casualties, he was praised for ‘organising and despatching carrying parties under very heavy shell fire.’ Walter was recommended for the award by Brigadier ‘Pompey’ Elliott (see below). On 22 November 1918 he was promoted to Sergeant. He was in hospital sick for five days again in July 1918.

On 25 February 1919, after several weeks’ leave in Italy, Walter returned to Australia. He was the author of 'Digger Dialects: a collection of slang phrases used by the Australian soldiers on active service’, published in 1919 and a series of short accounts of life in the trenches, 'To the Last Ridge', in 1920. He was awarded the Dublin Prize in 1921 by Melbourne University for this publication. He was a Lieutenant-Colonel in the interwar militia.

After the war Walter graduated in law and formed a partnership with Scotch parent Harold Edward ‘Pompey’ Elliott. He married Dorothy Hambleton (d. 1967) in 1929 and they had four sons. He died at Heidelberg in 1965.

Photographs and Documents:


Recommendation for Walter Downing’s Military Medal.


  1. Australian War Memorial – Honours and Awards
  2. Mishura Scotch Database
  3. National Archives of Australia – B2455, DOWNING W H
  4. Scotch Collegian
  5. The AIF Project -

Page last updated: 11 November 2015