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Killed before receiving medal for bravery

Walter Evans was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry in the field, but did not live to see it presented. PHOTO/WAIRARAPA ARCHIVE

Walter Andrew Evans was from one of the original European families to settle in Masterton.

He was born in 1895 to Maria and Frederick Evans and worked as a farmer on his father’s land in the Upper Plain.

He signed up for service in March of 1916 and became part of the 14th Reinforcements.

He arrived in England in August and proceeded to France in September, joining the Wellington Infantry Regiment.

In November he was wounded in the back and was admitted to the 8th Casualty Clearing Station for treatment.

He had charges laid against him in early 1917, first for neglect of duty while being assigned as a sentry, and then for losing a pair of goggles, for which the army fined him one shilling and sixpence.

Three months later he was again wounded, this time in the leg.

His family and friends back in New Zealand received a shock when the newspaper falsely reported that he had been killed in action.

This was not corrected until the following issue.

After a two-week leave in the United Kingdom, Walter re-joined his battalion and was promoted to lance corporal in June 1918.

In September he showed gallantry in the field and was later awarded the Military Medal.

He would not, however, live to see the award presented to him.

While his battalion was advancing after the capture of the village of Crevecoeur-sur-l’Escaut, Walter was killed in action.

Recognition of his gallantry would appear in the papers in late October, three weeks after his death.

The official entry detailed why he was awarded the medal, and provided a fitting tribute to his actions:

“For conspicuous gallantry and initiative. On the 29th September 1918, near La Vacquerie, while in charge of a Lewis gun section, L/Corporal Evans showed marked gallantry and bold initiative under heavy enemy shell and machine-gun fire, in pushing forward his section to a flank bringing enfilade fire to bear on the crew of four 77mm guns who were firing on our troops over open sights.

“His bold leadership was instrumental in the capture of both guns and the enemy crew.”

– Mark Pacey

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