Un­rav­el­ling the story be­hind great-grand­fa­ther’s ser­vice

Isis Town and Country - - News - By CRYS­TAL JONES

KANIVA is a small town in Vic­to­ria near the South Aus­tralian bor­der and, ac­cord­ing to Kaniva na­tive Larissa Wat­son – who has called Childers home for two years, the two places have a lot in com­mon.

Kaniva, like Childers, is a small agri­cul­ture-based town with a rich lo­cal history.

A spe­cial part of Kaniva’s history is be­ing in­ves­ti­gated by the now-Childers woman who in­tends to make sure her great-grand­fa­ther’s mem­ory lives on.

Ge­orge Thomas Wal­lis was born on May 24, 1889.

Like many peo­ple in the Kaniva and Childers com­mu­ni­ties, he be­came a farmer but in 1914, at the age of 26, post­poned life on the land to an­swer the call to war.

“He’s al­most like the lost per­son in the fam­ily,” Mrs Wat­son said.

“My fa­ther and un­cles never met him.”

It was when Mrs Wat­son vis­ited her grand­mother last Septem­ber that the mys­tery of Ge­orge Wal­lis started to un­ravel.

“My grand­mother pulled out all these medals,” she said.

Among the fam­ily’s trea­sured me­men­tos were items Mr Wal­lis had crafted from ar­tillery shells and me­tal dur­ing his time abroad.

Mr Wal­lis served in France and Bel­gium in the First World War with the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force Ar­tillery Unit’s 7th Ar­tillery Brigade.

“He was haul­ing around the big canons, the 18 pounders,” Mrs Wat­son said.

The war was not with­out suf­fer­ing for the young coun­try man, who was badly wounded in the head by shell fire and had to be evac­u­ated.

“(When he re­turned) he still had shrap­nel in his body,” Mrs Wat­son said.

“He spent months in hos­pi­tal for be­ing gassed.”

Once he re­gained his health, Mr Wal­lis plucked up his courage and headed back to the bat­tle­field un­til the war came to an end in 1918.

When he came home, Mr Wal­lis mar­ried and had four sons.

Sadly, while he sur­vived the war, it was his in­juries that fi­nally caused his death at the age of 61.

“My (great) grand­fa­ther was very stub­born but very fair,” Mrs Wat­son said.

“Who­ever spoke of him, spoke of him very highly.

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here so I just want to re­mem­ber him.”

Mrs Wat­son said so far Mr Wal­lis was the only ser­vice­man in her fam­ily, but that could be about to change.

“My son now wants to join the forces,” she said.

Larissa Wat­son Great­grand­daugh­ter (When he re­turned) he still had shrap­nel in his body. He spent months in hos­pi­tal for be­ing gassed.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

HISTORY: Ge­orge Thomas Wal­lis served in France and Bel­gium in the First World War with the Aus­tralian Im­pe­rial Force Ar­tillery Unit’s 7th Ar­tillery Brigade.

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