Rank: Lieutenant Colonel
Walter Pearless was born in East Grinstead, Sussex, England in 1854.
He gained a pass to the University of Cambridge at the age of 15 in December 1869. He continued his education at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London and then emigrated to Australia. Soon after he arrived in Victoria he married Marianne Lessels Raikes. They would eventually have a total of eight children – four girls and four boys.
In 1884 Walter, Marianne and their children moved to New Zealand where Walter set up a practice in Wakefield. In 1885 Walter was appointed Surgeon-Major of the Waimea Rifles, a volunteer organisation for training territorial soldiers. On 1 March 1911 he was appointed Principal Medical Officer to the Canterbury Military District.
He was 60 when he enlisted on 17 August 1914 and turned 61 on 19 March 1915, just over a month before the landing at Gallipoli. As part of the Main Body, Surgeon Lieutenant-Colonel Pearless embarked on 16 October 1914 and after a short time in Egypt found himself bound for the Dardanelles.
Walter Relf Pearless was reported to be the oldest man to land on the Gallipoli Peninsular on 25 April 1915. Landing at an area that would later be called Anzac Cove he quickly established a Field Station at the base of ‘Walker’s Ridge'. The casualties were serious. Walter’s battalion suffered 20 killed, 89 wounded and 101 missing on the first day.
After a disastrous attack at Krithia in which 25% of New Zealand’s forces were killed or wounded, Walter was evacuated to hospital in Alexandria in Egypt.
On 5 August Walter learned he had been mentioned in despatches – a great honour. The appalling conditions at Gallipoli did not discriminate and at the end of August Walter was suffering from enteritis and debility.
By the start of 1916 Walter had recovered sufficiently to travel. A little over a month later he boarded the SS Tahiti as the Consulting Surgeon. The Tahiti was carrying soldiers being repatriated to New Zealand. On his arriving home in March he was granted 42 days leave.
He embarked again for overseas duty on 1 May. His trip took him to Suez and then onto Britain aboard the Hospital Transport ship Ivernis. He worked in a number of camps and hospitals in England.
Walter transferred to Etaples, the huge British training camp on the French coast but his health began to deteriorate again. Finally on 18 October he found himself back in Britain getting ready to return to New Zealand – as it turned out for the last time.
He set sail on the SS Arawa on 10 January 1918 and set about re-establishing his medical practice.
Walter died 23 December 1924 at the age of 70. His funeral was held with full military honours and was one of the largest seen in Wakefield.