Unravelling the story behind great-grandfather’s service
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.
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.