Allan Walters

Informal head-and-shoulders portrait of mustachioed man in dark uniform
Overhead view of three single-engined biplanes in flight
World War II

Air Vice Marshal Allan Leslie Walters, CB, CBE, AFC (2 November 1905 – 19 October 1968) was a senior commander in the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF). Born in Victoria and raised in Western Australia, he graduated from the Royal Military College, Duntroon, before transferring to the RAAF in 1928. He was considered one of the service's leading flying instructors and aerobatic pilots between the wars, and was appointed to his first squadron command in 1937. Over the course of World War II, Walters led No. 1 (General Reconnaissance) Squadron in Singapore, No. 1 (Fighter) Wing in Darwin, Northern Territory, No. 72 Wing in Dutch New Guinea, and Northern Command in Papua New Guinea. He was decorated with the Air Force Cross in 1941 for his work with No. 1 Squadron, and mentioned in despatches in 1944 for his service with No. 72 Wing.

Walters was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1946 for his service with Northern Command. Already marked out for senior roles in the post-war RAAF, his positions during the 1950s included Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Southern Area Command, AOC RAAF Overseas Headquarters in London, Head of the Australian Joint Services Staff in Washington, D.C., AOC Home Command, Air Member for Personnel, and AOC Support Command. He was promoted acting air vice marshal in 1952 (substantive in 1954), and appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1956. Popularly known as "Wally", he was twice a candidate for Chief of the Air Staff, and twice passed over. He retired from the RAAF in 1962 and made his home in Melbourne, where he died in 1968 at the age of sixty-two.

Allan Leslie Walters was born on 2 November 1905 in Ascot Vale, Victoria, to schoolteacher Ferdinand Walters and his wife Edith. The family soon moved to Perth, Western Australia, and Allan completed his education at Perth Modern School, where he joined the cadets. After leaving school and spending eight months in the militia, he entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, in February 1924. At Duntroon he specialised in field artillery, and excelled at athletics. Graduating as a lieutenant in December 1927, he transferred to the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) on 1 February 1928. Walters' preferred career path in the military was engineering, and it was only when he failed to gain selection for this field after his graduation that he applied to transfer to the Air Force, which, having no cadet college of its own, had arranged with Duntroon to take one of its artillery specialists each year for secondment as a pilot. He commenced his course at RAAF Point Cook, Victoria, in mid-1928, and graduated as a flying officer in March 1929. Walters showed an aptitude for instruction, and after further training was graded an 'A1' flight instructor, a rare distinction. Posted to No. 3 Squadron at RAAF Station Richmond, New South Wales, operating Westland Wapitis, he also made a name for himself performing aerobatics at air shows throughout the country. Walters put this particular talent to use in pursuit of his wife-to-be, Jean Manning, stunt flying above All Saints Church, North Parramatta, where her father was rector. Reverend Manning married the couple there on 30 June 1930; their daughter Robin was born in Richmond.

Walters was granted a permanent commission in the Air Force in 1930. On 5 January 1931, by now promoted flight lieutenant, he won a trophy in an air obstacle race at the Cootamundra Air Pageant. In May the following year, he took out the NSW Air Derby and Evening News Cup. He temporarily commanded No. 3 Squadron during October 1933, in the absence of Squadron Leader Bill Bostock. At the time, the commanding officer of No. 3 Squadron also held command of RAAF Station Richmond. Walters was posted to Britain in 1936 to attend the Royal Air Force Staff College, Andover, and was promoted to squadron leader in March 1937, while still overseas. He also undertook a naval reconnaissance course at RAF Manston. Returning to Australia in May, he took command of No. 22 Squadron in June, flying Hawker Demons and Avro Ansons out of Richmond until February 1938.

Between 6 and 23 February 1938, Walters piloted the first overseas flight in an aeroplane designed and built in Australia when he flew the Chief of the Air Staff, Air Vice Marshal Richard Williams, to Singapore in a Tugan Gannet. He returned to Richmond in May 1938 to lead No. 3 Squadron, operating Demons, and again took part in aerobatic displays. On 25 October 1938, his Demon crashed in scrub at Tumbi Umbi, New South Wales, when the engine failed shortly after taking off for Richmond, but he was not injured. Completing his Richmond appointment in May 1939, Walters transferred to Melbourne as Director of Staff Duties at RAAF Headquarters. Later that month, he joined Group Captain Henry Wrigley as an expert assessor on the panel of an inquiry into a recent series of three Anson accidents; the full report handed down in October found human error the likely explanation for at least one crash and that training on the type followed the syllabus laid down, but that pilots needed more practical experience in dealing with potential in-flight incidents.

This page was last edited on 16 March 2018, at 08:56.
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

Related Topics

Recently Viewed