Walter "Wally" Peeler, VC, BEM (9 August 1887 – 23 May 1968) was an Australian recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry "in the face of the enemy" that can be awarded to members of the British and Commonwealth armed forces.
He was decorated following his actions during the Battle of Broodseinde in October 1917.
Then a lance corporal in the Australian Imperial Force, he repeatedly took the lead in the 37th Battalion's advance on well-defended German positions, destroying four machine gun posts and killing more than 30 German soldiers during the battle.
Born in Castlemaine, Victoria, Peeler worked at various jobs in his home town and in the Melbourne area before enlisting in the Australian Imperial Force in February 1916.
Posted to the 3rd Pioneer Battalion, he arrived on the Western Front during November.
In June 1917, his battalion participated in the assault on Messines ridge, where he was lightly wounded.
Eight days after his Victoria Cross action, Peeler was severely wounded in his right arm and spent the next seven months recuperating in the United Kingdom.
Following the armistice with Germany, he was discharged from service with the rank of sergeant in December 1918.
Peeler re-settled with his family in Victoria, and was appointed the inaugural custodian of Melbourne's Shrine of Remembrance in 1934.
In May 1940, Peeler enlisted for service in the Second World War, understating his age by fourteen years to avoid the upper age limit imposed on volunteers.
He was posted to the 2/2nd Pioneer Battalion and initially saw action in the Syria-Lebanon Campaign.
However, with the entry of Japan into the war, his unit was one of the first sent to the Netherlands East Indies in early 1942.
Originally destined for Sumatra it was diverted to Java and after disembarking assisted in the Dutch defence of the island.
When Dutch resistance collapsed in March, allied forces in Java signed a formal surrender with British, Australian and American troops becoming prisoners of war.
After three-and-a-half years as prisoner of war, Peeler was freed in August 1945 and returned to Australia in October, resuming his duties at the Shrine of Remembrance.
He retired in 1964 and, aged 80, died at his home in South Caulfield on 23 May 1968.