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From Bank to Battlefield

Lieutenant Percy Britten Wald

Photo of Lieutenant Percy Britten Wald
 

Percy Britten Wald was a 27-year-old accountant with the Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne when he enlisted on 18 October 1915. Wald was from a banking family: from 1873 his father, James Irvine Wald, held various positions in banking in South Australia, which culminated in the role of Manager of the Bank of New South Wales at Port Adelaide. His older brother, Gavin Flett Wald, who enlisted in 1918, also worked at the Commonwealth Bank and would rise to become the Manager of the Commonwealth Bank at Hobart. Percy Wald himself had been one of the first to enter the service of the Commonwealth Bank in Adelaide and had also worked at Broken Hill and Melbourne by the time of his enlistment.

Wald enlisted in the 43rd Infantry Battalion of the Australian Imperial Force as a Private and steadily rose to the rank of Lieutenant through his hard work and devotion to duty. It was these qualities that resulted in him being awarded the Military Cross in August 1917 for his part in the Battle of Messines. Despite continuous bombardment, numerous casualties and disaster seeming imminent, Wald was able to rally his men and lead them through the barrage in a successful assault on the enemy's position. Throughout the night he worked to continually encourage and support his exhausted men so that when daylight came the Company was in a well-consolidated position and prepared to withstand the counterattack.

For the rest of his active service, Wald remained with the 43rd Infantry Battalion. He spent 1917 in the trenches around Flanders, fighting not only in the Battle of Messines but also in the Third Battle of Ypres in October 1917. The latter straddled the border between France and Belgium and included the well-known battlefields of Ypres, Polygon Wood, Broodseinde, Poelcappelle and Passchendaele.

In the final months of the war, Wald was transferred for duty with the Commonwealth Bank in London, remaining there until the end of the war. On his return to Australia in May 1919, Wald resumed his position at the Commonwealth Bank and married Dorothy Le Messurier. Over the course of his career at the Bank, Wald rose to become the Manager of the Malvern branch in Victoria.

WWI Service Summary 18 October 1915, enlisted in 43rd Infantry Battalion, Australian Imperial Forces
9 June 1916, embarked HMAT Afric A19, Adelaide
28 August 1917, awarded Military Cross
5 August 1919, decommissioned from service
Rank Lieutenant
Service Number 980
Age at enlistment 27 years
Role at Bank Accountant

Source: National Archives of Australia

'Bank Notes Article Adelaide Diggers'
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Adelaide Diggers.

The returned soldiers of Adelaide staff treated themselves to a dinner at the Rubeo Cafe on Tuesday evening, 11th November, to celebrate the anniversary of “Armistice Day.” Our manager occupied the chair, and after everything provided (and it was “somme” dinner) had been justice to, proposed the toast of “The King.” The next toast, that of “Our Absent Friends,” was submitted by Mr. R.S. Dawborn, and supported by Mr. R.H. Laffan. “The Day We Celebrate” was entrusted to Mr. P.B. Wald.

The remainder of the evening was devoted to the relating of experiences abroad. Mr. P.B. Wald set the ball rolling, and after he had finished we wondered that he was not still serving time in the clink. Mr. R.A Watts followed with a brief description of his travels, and concluded with the relating of an argument he had had with the M.Ps. (not members of Parliament) in London over a small piece of paper called a Military pass, in which the latter won easily. Mr. C. Lucas was next, and he gave an account of his experiences at Pozieres, where he was wounded, and his subsequent movements; in conclusion he asked permission to submit another toast – “Our Nurses.”

Source: Bank Notes magazine – December 1919, page 5

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