Sir Hubert Edmund Walker,
(Sapper, Royal Marine Engineers; Lieutenant, Royal Engineers;
Director of Public Works, Nigeria)
Lieutenant Colonel Edward De Santis, ©2008
Hubert Edmund Walker was born on the 31st of May 1891 at 1 Carlton Villas, King's Heath, King's Norton, in the County of Worcester. He was the son of Edmund Walker, a commission agent, and Lizzie Ordish Walker (formerly Hall). He entered Bromsgrove School at Bromsgrove, Worcestershire in 1904. During the period that he attended Bromsgrove School his family resided at 82 Bournbrooke Road in Selly Oak, Birmingham. While at Bromsgrove, Walker became an engineering student.
In December of 1907 Walker left school. He departed before graduation in order to serve an apprenticeship with A.W. Cross and H.E. Stilgoe, both prominent engineers of the period, and members of the Institution of Civil Engineers. Walker underwent five years of practical training with these gentlemen before starting his first job as an engineering assistant in the office of the City Engineer, Birmingham.
When the Great War started in 1914 Walker enlisted as a Sapper in the Royal Marine Engineers (Regimental Number Deal 582/S). From the Royal Marine Depot at Deal, in Kent, Sapper Walker proceeded to Gallipoli with the divisional engineers of the Royal Naval Division. He departed from England on the 1st of March 1915 and landed at Cape Helles where he took part in the action there on the 25th and 26th of April 1915. Walker was also present at the action at Krithia on the 4th of June 1915. His unit did valuable work in the construction and maintenance of the piers on the peninsula, and in all the preparations for the evacuation from Gallipoli. In addition, Walker was employed on a survey of British and French positions in Gallipoli.
After the withdrawal of the Royal Naval Division from Gallipoli, Walker accompanied it to France, arriving at Marseilles in May of 1916. Shortly after its arrival, the Royal Naval Division was re-designated the 63rd (R.N.) Division, and the divisional engineers were transferred to the Royal Engineers. Sapper Walker took part in the Battle of Ancre with the 63rd Divisional Engineers during the period of the 13th to the 18th of November 1916.
Early in 1917 Walker was transferred out of the 63rd Division and assigned, for a short time, to a Royal Engineer Field Survey Company. On the 29th of June 1917 Walker was commissioned a Temporary Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. He served for the remainder of the war with two Tunnelling Companies, the 174th and 252nd, and was employed primarily on mine rescue work. While with these companies he saw action in the following battles:
|3-17 May 1917|
|20 Nov - 3 Dec 1917|
|21-23 Mar 1917|
|24-25 Mar 1918|
|28 Mar 1918|
|5 Apr 1918|
|21-23 Aug 1918|
|31 Aug - 3 Sep 1918|
|12 Sep 1918|
|18 Sep 1918|
Canal du Nord
|27 Sep - 1 Oct 1918|
|8- 9 Oct 1918|
|17-25 Oct 1918|
|4 Nov 1918|
During his service on the Western Front Walker was severely gassed. As a result, in later life he always spoke in a subdued voice.
On the 29th of December 1918 Walker was promoted to Temporary Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. He was demobilized soon after his promotion, but retained his commission. For his service in the Great War he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.
The year 1919 was the beginning of Walker's long and distinguished civil career. It took shape in Nigeria, where he was to spend almost thirty years. A big expansion in communications was in the offing in Nigeria in 1919 when he left England to start work as an Assistant Engineer in the Nigerian Public Works Department. In this same year he was elected to corporate membership in the Institution of Civil Engineers.
For the first five years in Nigeria Walker was engaged on the construction of 70 miles of new road through tropical forests. He also spent much time designing and constructing road bridges in undeveloped sections of the country. In July of 1920 he relinquished his Army commission.
In the summer of 1924 Walker returned to England on leave. On the 19th of July he married Dorothy Gladys Turley at the parish church in Beoley, Worcester.
Back in Nigeria, the years from 1924 to 1928 were spent at the Public Works Department Headquarters in Lagos, under C.L. Fox, FICE, the Director of Public Works. Walker was responsible for organizing the supply of materials and stores for other than routine projects, to the value of about one million pounds a year. He was also responsible for redesigning and organizing workshops and sawmills to produce a greatly expanded turnout of furniture and timber.
In 1929 Walker shouldered large responsibilities in the Northern Provinces of Nigeria, where from 1929 to 1934 he held the position of Superintendent of Native Administration Works (a post similar in duties and rewards to that of Assistant Director of Public Works). In this capacity he supervised Public Works officers seconded to the Native Administration. These officers included 10 Engineers and 17 Inspectors. He also advised the Lieutenant Governor of the Northern Provinces on projects proposed by the Native Administration, and on the training of African artisans. His routine work included construction of new roads and bridges, hospitals, schools, and the organization of workshops, at an average expenditure of 300,000 pounds per annum. During this period, in 1933, Walker was elected as a Senior Grade Member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.
In 1935 Walker was appointed Deputy Director of Public Works in Nigeria. This same year he was awarded the Jubilee Medal (King George V). On the 11th of May 1937 the London Gazette announced his appointment as an Additional Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. During 1937 he was also awarded the medal in honour of the Coronation of King George VI.
During World War II Walker's main task as Deputy Director of Public Works lay in directing the war effort of the Department. This effort was chiefly concentrated on the construction of a chain of airfields to allow aircraft reinforcements and materials to be flown from Accra to the Middle East, via Lagos, Kano, and Maiduguri, and on to military camps and installations. For his excellent work in this regard Walker was promoted to be an Additional Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the Birthday Honours List of 1942 (London Gazette dated the 11th of June 1942).
In 1944 Walker was appointed Director of Public Works, Nigeria. With this position came a seat on the Executive and Legislative Councils of Nigeria. He was also made Controller of Civil Aviation, Nigeria. In early 1945 he wrote a book entitled "Aerodromes; Plans and Other Particulars as at I September 1944". This book was published by the Nigerian Department of Civil Aviation.
In 1946 Walker became the Chairman of the West African Airways Corporation, a post he held for eight years. During this same year he wrote "Housing Schemes in West, East and South Africa; Report and Plans", published as a technical paper by the Nigerian Public Works Department.
For his excellent service as Director of Public Works, and especially for his outstanding contribution to the war effort, Hubert Edmund Walker, CBE was made a Knight Bachelor (London Gazette dated the 1st of January 1947).
For the reorganization of the Nigerian Public Works Department, much was owed to Sir Hubert. After nearly thirty years of exacting work in a testing climate, he retired from his post as Director of Public Works in 1948. He also gave up his work as Director of Civil Aviation and his position as Adviser on the recruitment of Engineers in West Africa, a position that he had held for many years. In the year of his retirement he wrote a paper, published by the Institution of Civil Engineers, entitled "Problems of Labour and Materials in West Africa".
While few of the projects he carried out in Nigeria could be described as major engineering works, the totals are of some magnitude. Sir Hubert was responsible for the construction of large numbers of schools, hospitals, and office buildings. Numerous workshops were equipped with power plants and European mechanics. His projects included the maintenance of some 2000 miles of main roads and the construction of many major bridges.
Sir Hubert returned to England from Nigeria after his retirement. He and Lady Dorothy moved into rooms in a flat known as Pine Grange on Bath Road in Bournemouth, Dorset. Sir Hubert immediately threw his energies into furthering the interests of the Institution of Civil Engineers. In 1949 he became a member of the Council of the Institution, and held that post until 1952. In April of 1950 he published a paper in Chartered Civil Engineer entitled "The Colonial Engineering Service". He had much to do with planning ICE Conferences and took a keen interest in the Institution's Benevolent Fund, serving or the Committee of Management during the period from 1952 to 1965, for two periods of three years each. In 1952, Sir Hubert's paper entitled "Our Roads" was published in Lagos by the Public Relations Department, Nigeria.
In 1954 Sir Hubert accepted a post with the Colonial Office as Adviser on Engineering Appointments. He held this post until 1958. That same year he relinquished his Chairmanship of the West African Airways Corporation. He was also, for quite some time, a member of the Alfred Yarrow Bequest Committee of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He also served on the Governing Body of the South-East London Technical College. In 1955 Sir Hubert again became a member of the Council of the ICE, and held this position until 1958. In March of 1955 he published his paper "HM Overseas Civil Service - Engineering Branch" in Chartered Civil Engineer.
In 1960 Sir Hubert presented a report on the review of the Institution of Civil Engineers' joint training scheme with the Federation of Civil Engineering Contractors. During this period he was also a member of the Engineer's Guild, of which he was Vice-President at the time of his death.
Sir Hubert published his last paper in June of 1962 entitled "The Role of Air Transport in Developing Countries". His final years were spent in retirement and recreation. He was a member of the East India and Sports Clubs, and enjoyed both fishing and golf. His last years were spent with his wife at Chalgrove Cottage, 9 Marine Drive, Rottingdean, Brighton, Sussex.
Sir Hubert died peacefully at his home in Rottingdean on the 29th of December 1969 at the age of 78. He apparently was suffering from heart disease. Sir Hubert was survived only by his wife, as the Walkers had no children. Services were held for him at The Downs Crematorium, Bear Road, Brighton, on Friday, the 2nd of January 1970. Even in death it was his desire that no flowers be sent to his funeral service, but rather that desired donations be sent to the Engineers Benevolent Fund of the Institution of Civil Engineers. His name was inscribed on his parent's gravestone in the churchyard of the Castle Church, Stafford.
Sir Hubert Edmund ("Johnnie") Walker was remembered by his fellow engineers with affection for his understanding and willingness to help with their problems when they were young men and working in the West African bush - often in undeveloped country with few tools. He had a quiet sense of humour, an extraordinary memory, and a great eye for detail.
Lady Dorothy, or "Dorfie" as she was known to friends, survived her beloved husband by almost four years. She died on the 4th of November 1973 at their house in Rottingdean.
1. Who's Who, 1968-69.
2. Who Was Who, 1961-70.
3. The Monthly Army List, November 1917.
4. The Monthly Army List, November 1918.
5. The Monthly Army List, July 1920.
6. London Gazette, 11 May 1937.
7. London Gazette, 11 June 1942.
8. London Gazette, 1 January 1947.
9. The "Times", 30 December 1969.
10. "The Daily Telegraph", 30 December 1969.
11. Obituary, The Institution of Civil Engineers, 1969.
12. Letter (LRL 400/1), Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 25 April 1983.
13. Colonial Office List, 1949.
14. Letter, The Bromsgrovian Club, 29 April 1983.
15. Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth for Hubert Edmund Walker. General Register Office, London,
22 April 1983.
16. Certified Copy of an Entry of Marriage between Hubert Edmund Walker and Dorothy Gladys
Turley. General Register Office, London, 22 April 1983.
17. Certified Copy of an Entry of Death for Hubert Edmund Walker. General Register Office, London,
25 April 1983.
18. Abstract of Will of Sir Hubert Edmund Walker. Principal Probate Registry, Somerset House,
19. Abstract of Will of Lady Dorothy Gladys Walker. Principal Probate Registry, Somerset House,
The author wishes to thank the following individuals and organizations for their cooperation in supplying research data for this book:
1. Mr. George A. Harris, Esq., CVO, MBE, Assistant Secretary,
Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood.
2. Mr. Allan Woodliffe, Pontypridd, South Wales.
3. Mr. Matthew G. Little, Royal Marines Museum.
4. Major J.T. Hancock, Royal Engineer Corps Library.
5. Colonel F.E. Peel, The Institution of Royal Engineers.
6. Mr. W.A. Morris, Archivist, The Institution of Civil Engineers.
7. Mrs. Peggy Ferrini, Reference Section, British Information Services, New York.
8. Miss E. Anne Monks, Library and Records Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
9. Mr. Alan White, Registrar, The Bromsgrovian Club.
10. The Revd. Nick Earle, M.A., Headmaster, Bromsgrove School.
11. Mr. I.A. Amusu, Senior Information Officer, Nigeria Information Service, Washington, DC.
12. E. Beckingham, Manager, Public Relations, Head Post Office, Bournemouth and Poole.
13. Leslie Evans, Bournemouth, Dorset.
14. Ieanyi Osili, Coordinating Director Federal Highways, Federal Ministry of Works, Nigeria.
15. Mr. Alan Rolfe, London.
16. P.H. Wallace, Secretary, The East India Club.
17. Kathleen Churcher, Bournemouth, Dorset.