b. 30/08/1906 Portsmouth, Hampshire. d. 12/03/1988 Romford, Essex.
DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 20/06/1928 Digby, Lincolnshire.
Walter Arnold (1906-1988), known as Wally, was born on 30th August 1906 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, the youngest of four sons of Alfred and Clara Arnold (nee Blackshaw). His father was an ex-serviceman, who became a general labourer in later life. Little is known of Wally’s life prior to his enlistment as a boy entrant into the RAF in 1923. At the time, he was living in East Grinstead in Surrey, and joined up at RAF Halton.
Wally’s service in the RAF saw him work on many aircraft engines as a fitter including the Mono, Napier, Liberty and Jupiter 6, and rose to the rank of Leading Aircraftsman. His life would change dramatically on 20th June 1928 when serving at Digby Aerodrome in Lincolnshire. Wally was a passenger in a machine which was wrecked upon landing and immediately caught fire. Arnold extricated himself from the burning wreckage and, although fully aware of the grave risk he was taking, re-entered the flames and succeeded in dragging the pilot, who was unconscious and very severely injured, to a position of safety. Arnold sustained burns to his face, neck and hands, and his prompt and courageous action undoubtedly saved the pilot’s life, since the burning petrol spread rapidly and rendered any subsequent approach to the wreckage impossible.
Wally was awarded the Empire Gallantry Medal of the Military Division on 9th November 1928. In September 1934 he married Winifred Mary Pentecost in West Ham, Essex and they went on to have a daughter. His final rank in the RAF was Corporal having been discharged to the Reserve on 29th August 1936. At the time of his leaving the RAF he was living in Leighton, Essex.
Very little is known of his life post RAF. In September 1940, he was automatically entitled to exchange his EGM for the new George Cross. Wally died on 12th March 1988 in Romford, Essex, and was cremated at South Essex Crematorum in Upminster. His medals including the GC, 1953 Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal and 1977 Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal are proudly held by the Arnold family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: OWNED BY HIS FAMILY.
BURIAL PLACE: SOUTH ESSEX CREMATORIUM, UPMINSTER, ESSEX.
Richard Yielding – Image of Walter Arnold GC at the 1968 VCGCA Reunion in London.