Walter Leonard Crossing
Walter Crossing was the Principal at Como Primary for seven years, from 1938 to 1944. For half of this time, during World War 2, he served in the RAAF in Burma and India, rising to the rank of Squadron Leader.
Walter was born in South Australia in 1896, and moved with his family to Western Australia in the early 1900's. He joined the Education Department in 1911 and at the beginning of 1914 was one of the first to enlist in the Army, as a private in the 11th Battalion. In early 1915, after training in Western Australia and Egypt, he landed and fought at Gallipoli, where he was wounded.
After being sent to England to recover, he was discharged from the AIF on the 14th November 1915. He had been recruited to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves as a Sub-Lieutenant, for service with the Royal Naval Air Service in an Armoured Car Division.
An Armoured Car of WWI
The Armoured Car Division was formed in England by and under the command of a Commander Locker-Lampson.
Commander Oliver Stillingfleet Locker-Lampson, CMG, DSO (1880-1954)
Commander Locker-Lampson was a British politician and naval officer. In December 1914 Locker-Lampson received a commission in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Commander. This was largely on the basis of an understanding with the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, that he would personally fund the establishment of an armoured car squadron for the Royal Naval Air Service's Armoured Car Division.
The squadron was soon fighting on the Russian War Front and although known as the Royal Naval Armoured Division in England, it was better known as the Czar's British Squadron.
In December, 1915, they embarked in Liverpool and arrived in a northern Russian port in early January, 1916. They took several months to travel across Russia, including stops in St Petersburg and Moscow (where they were treated like royalty), before their first engagement serving with Russian troops and Cossacks against the Turks in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian Seas. After Romania joined forces with Germany in late 1916, the Division moved to the Romania-Austria front, still alongside the Cossacks and Russian Infantry. It was during this campaign that the Revolution started in Russia which ultimately saw the end of the Royal Family and the takeover of power by the Bolsheviks.
As the campaign continued along with the political power struggle, the discipline among the Russian troops deteriorated with the officers losing control. As a result, the Russians were retreating, and the war zone was a debacle. It was during the retreat, in July 1917, that Lt. Crossing was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his great courage and cool judgment in the Russian trenches at Brzezany. He was also awarded the Order of St. Anne 3rd Class With Swords from the Russians.
Relationships with the Bolsheviks continued to deteriorate, and the squadron was finally withdrawn from Russia in January 1918 to England for re-equipping. During this time, the squadron was transferred from the Navy to the British Army and Captain Crossing was made Adjutant of the Squadron. The unit was sent to the Middle Eastern theatre of war although its next major actions were, ironically, to be fought in Russia as a member of the Duncar Force led by General Lionel Dunsterville, "whose objective it was to prevent the Turks taking over Persia, placing the Empire's oil supply at risk following the disintegration of the Russian forces by the Bolshevik agitators. During this period a small unit known as a number 2 Battery A Squadron Duncars, commanded by Captain Crossing, had the unique experience of being the only British troops to fight for the Cossacks, while most were fighting the Bolshevik-led troops.
During this Persian campaign Captain Crossing was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
The citation read, "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Kisillar on 15th October 1918, He drove his armoured car up to the enemy's line, bringing such a heavy and accurate enfilade fire to bear on the enemy they were forced to withdraw. His car was eventually struck by a shell, which killed three of the crew and wounded him and another man. In spite of his wounds, he carried the man back under heavy fire to his own lines. He has on all occasions displayed great coolness in action ...".
Although the war ended in 1918, the unit did not arrive back in England until March, 1919.
Captain Crossing was discharged in June during his return to Australia. Decorations awarded to him were:
Distinguished Service Order; Distinguished Service Cross;
1914 /15 Star; General Service Medal;
North Persian Medal; Victory Medal;
Mentioned in Despatches.
Order of St. George (4th class); Order of St. Vladimir (4th class);
Order of St. Anne (2nd class); Order of St. Stanislas (2nd class);
Order of St. Anne (3rd class); Order of St. Stanislas (3rd class);
Captain Crossing received his DSO and DSC from King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 15th May, 1919.
Mr Crossing joined the Royal Air Force as a Reserve Officer in 1941 and left Fremantle on the 19th June, 1941 for Malaya. He was appointed Adjutant at the Air Force Squadron at Lashio in Burma with the rank of Flight Lieutenant. Towards the end of the Burma campaign in 1942, having lost some 50 lbs in weight (22 kgs), he was not permitted to return to the front and was appointed Command Welfare Officer for the South East Command and was based in Calcutta with the rank of Squadron Leader.
His duties were to organise and maintain the services necessary to the maintenance of good morale of the Force with the help of many people (including the Governor of Bengal, R. G. Casey, who later became Australia's Governor-General). He organised many activities throughout India and Burma including canteens in Calcutta, mobile canteens for the bomber and fighter stations, leave and rest centres, cinemas (13 in all), concert party tours and radio programs to the operational stations. For this work Squadron Leader Crossing was again Mentioned in Despatches, in January 1945.
Whilst in India, Squadron Leader Crossing transferred to the RAAF. With a deterioration in his health, he returned to Australia in late 1944 and was discharged.
Resuming his career with the Education Department, Crossing went on to become an outstanding Principal. In those days every teacher (including Principals) was annually assessed and given a teaching mark out of 90. For the last ten years of his career until his retirement in 1958, Walter Crossing enjoyed a mark of 89, which was the highest one could receive. No-one ever received 90, and to receive such a mark over this lengthy period was virtually unheard of.
Walter Crossing served his country in two world wars. He showed outstanding courage and leadership during the first war and became one of Australia's highest decorated officers, after having initially enlisted as a private. In 1941, his age (46 years) limited him to administrative activities but again he displayed his leadership qualities in devotion to duty, which in later life had a significant effect on his health.
From the copy of an address delivered at an ANZAC Day Service at Northampton (where he was headmaster) in 1934, one can sense his patriotism and loyalty to King and Country. His tradition was carried on by his four sons who all served in the fighting forces in World War 2. His family and their descendants have every reason to be proud of him.
We should remember him today as a brave and modest man who gave great service to his country during both World Wars, and as a dedicated and outstanding teacher and Principal.
CROSSING'S MEDALS - BRITISH
Distinguished Service Order (D.S.O.)
(Level 2 Gallantry Award)
The D.S.O. was instituted by Royal Warrant on 6th September 1886. The only higher gallantry award is the Victoria Cross.
T./Captain Walter Leonard Crossing, D.S.C. M.M.G. Corps. (MESOPOTAMIA)
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty at Kisiliar on 15th of October 1918. He drove his armoured car up to the enemy's lines, bringing such a heavy and accurate enfilade fire to bear on the enemy that they were forced to withdraw. His car was eventually struck by a shell, which killed three of the crew and wounded him and another man. In spite of his wounds he carried the man back under heavy fire to our own lines. He has on all occasions displayed great coolness in action.
Distinguished Service Cross (D.S.C.)
(Level 3 Gallantry Award)
Instituted 15th June 1901 as the Conspicuous Service Cross and renamed in October 1914 the Distinguished Service Cross.
The D.S.C. was awarded to naval officers below the rank of Lieutenant Commander for gallantry in the presence of the enemy.
Lieutenant Walter Crossing R.N.V.R
Did duty in the Russian trenches opposite Brzezany and during the retreat in cars, showing great courage and cool judgment
Mentioned in Despatches (M.I.D.)
“Mentioned in Despatches” is not an award of a medal, but as a commendation of an act of gallantry it is included in this listing.
To be “Mentioned in Despatches” is when an individual is mentioned by name and commended for gallantry or service.
CROSSING'S MEDALS - RUSSIAN
The Order of St. George(4th Class)
Imperial Russia's highest exclusively military order, was instituted in 1769 and came to be considered among the most prestigious military awards in the world. The order was awarded to officers and generals for special gallantry, such as personally leading his troops in rout of a superior enemy force, or capturing a fortress, etc. Before membership in the Order could be granted, a candidate's case had to be investigated by a council composed of Knights of the Order.
1st Class worn on sash across chest, with star 2nd Class worn at neck, with star 3rd Class worn at neck, w/o star 4th Class worn as badge on chest.
The order came in four classes, awarded sequentially for individual acts of gallantry. The highest classes were rarely awarded
The Order of St.Vladimir (4th Class)
There were four classes. If awarded for deeds in arms, crossed swords were placed between the cross arms. To be included in the Order of St. Vladimir (of any class) also granted the recipient hereditary noble rank. A person would be awarded the order's lowest class for the first heroic act.
The order of St. Vladimir, fourth class, can be seen as the solitary decoration worn by Czar Nicholas II in the photos taken of him during his final days of captivity before he and his family were executed.
The Order of St. Anne(3rd Class, 2nd Class)
This award came in four classes. The top three classes could be awarded with swords for gallantry in action or military merit in times of war.
The 1st class was worn on sash, but with the star on the right breast. The 2nd class was worn at the neck. The 3rd class (shown above) was worn as a breast badge suspended from the order's ribbon.
The Order of St. Stanislaus.(3rd Class, 2nd Class)
The Order came in three classes:
1st: Knight's Grand Cross, worn on sash. Star.
2nd: Commander, worn at the neck.
3rd: Companion, worn on the breast.
Swords were added for a military award in war
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