Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Walter Ashcroft and the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Victoria

Walter Ashcroft and his brothers were from Coburg. You can read more about them here

Walter was a remarkable man. Before the war he was a gymnast and weight-lifting champion who originally came to Australia from Liverpool to train for the Olympics. The rest of his family soon followed and took up residence in Coburg.

Two of his brothers died during the war and Walter returned a double amputee. However, he did not let this 'disability' stop him. He started his own bootmaking and repair shop. 

Image courtesy Jean Taylor

His training as an elite athlete stood him in good stead and he had a strong will. It was not long before he could hold his artificial limbs in place just using his muscles. He learned to ride a motorbike and later had a car with hand controls - there was no stopping him.

In 1921, he and a friend, Charlie H. Stevens co-founded the Limbless Soldiers Association and he spent much of his life supporting other men who had lost limbs in combat.

Image P02011.002, Courtesy Australian War Memorial. This group portrait features the first life members of the Limbless Soldiers Association of Victoria. Left to right: Reginald Samuel Amies, Norman Ralph McClure, Walter Benjamin Ashcroft, Charles (Charlie) Henry Stevens, E. Brownhill MBE. (Donors D. Sparkes & G. Stewart)

Members of the Limbless Soldiers' Association of Victoria meeting Dame Nellie Melba in November 1924. Walter Ashcroft is on the far right. Image courtesy Jean Taylor.

After the war Walter married another strong personality, Eva Templeton, whose brothers also served in the war. 

During World War One, Eva's mother Maria Templeton was the President of the local Soldiers' Mothers' Association, a role Eva fulfilled during the Second World War when her own son Edward was serving.

Maria Templeton (nee Unkles) on her 70th birthday with her children William, Eva (Ashcroft), Hugh, Wallace and Keith. Image courtesy Jean Taylor.

Thanks to Walter Ashcroft's daughter Jean for the images and family information.


  1. Very good story. He just moved on even though he lost his legs. Reminds of a WW1 double amputee in England. he lost his legs at the Somme. The chap went to become a successful barber in Yorkshire. He even played cricket. In one game, the fast bowler knocked out one of his legs. Apparently a few spectators fainted. In WW2, the chap was dragged out of rubble of a pub he was in when the Luftwaffe bombs struck. The rescuers noticed the missing legs with concern. he assured the them, "it's okay lads, I didn't have any when I got here." I think Walter would've liked this chap's company.

  2. What a great story, Colin. I think you're right. He and Walter Ashcroft would have got on well.

  3. Great blog, Cheryl. Thank you. When's your next piece?